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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Poor Tommy Yates (Brian Presley), one of the heroes of the Iraq war
drama Home of the Brave, has fallen so far after his return home that
the best job he can get is (shudder) working the box office at a movie
theatre. He runs into Vanessa (Jessica Biel), who was hurt in the
attack that killed his best friend, at the movie theatre; they chat
about how hard it has been to adjust. Tommy notes that he sells "stupid
tickets to these stupid movies," but he never goes to see them, because
they "seem so unimportant."
There are no other scenes at Tommy's place of employmenthe could work at any number of low-paying menial jobs. But screenwriter Mark Friedman works in that little piece of commentary to congratulate both himself and the viewer; the film you're watching is not like all those other "stupid movies," you see. It's important. The problem is that Home of the Brave is an execrable film, so poorly made and obvious that it is impossible to take seriously, no matter how earnest and noble the intentions. A bad film is a bad film, whether it concerns serious topics or not.
Most bad films can be blamed squarely on the scriptand this one's a doozybut Home of the Brave is incompetent on every level: bad writing, bad directing, bad music, bad editing, and mostly bad performances. Director Irwin Winkler started out as an accomplished producer, and bore that credit on many good films (Raging Bull and Rocky among them), but he has yet to direct a good film, after many tries (The Net, At First Sight, De-Lovely, Life as a House). There's no focus to this effort; the pacing plods, the performances are all over the place, and there's not a cliché in the war movie book that Winkler doesn't embrace (when Chad Michael Murray buys the farm early in the pictureto my immense reliefWinkler actually has his best buddy Presley run to him in slow motion, screaming "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!").
The screenplay, by first-time screenwriter (and former Harvey Weinstein assistant) Mark Friedman, is astonishingly bad. Its poor quality sneaks up on you, since there's minimal dialogue before the first extended action sequence (though said dialogue does include the news that this Iraq company will be heading home inside of a week, which anyone who has ever seen a cop movie knows is a sure sign of impending death and destruction). But the dialogue is atrocious, the kind of corny, cliché-ridden platitudes that would get a quick rewrite on your average made-for-TV movie (which Home of the Brave, with its plinky piano music and slo-mo flashbacks, often recalls). For example, when he visits his buddy's widow (Christina Ricci, whose tiny role in a film this bad is entirely inexplicable), she asks, "Was he a hero, Tommy?" He replies, "He died defending his country." The whole script is like that.
And everyone gets a big monologue. Poor Jessica Biel actually has one where she tells the story of how she was injuredwhich we saw, in its entirety, in the opening sequence. Her telling adds no insight or additional perspective to the earlier scene; I guess it's there for people who showed up late (helpfully, footage from the scene is shown over her shoulder, as if she's Katie Couric or something). Victoria Rowell, as Samuel L. Jackson's wife, has a long monologue where she lists all of the things she did for their family while he was gone; he's aware of all of them ("I supported you when you enlisted!"), so this entire speech exists purely for our benefit. And so on. Even Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson gets a monologue, and whoa boy was that a bad idea. I know he's a tough guy (since he'll never shut up about how many times he's been shot), so I'm sure he can take the criticism he'll receive for his performance in this film. He's awful, all dead eyes and mumbled dialogue; given moments that require a real actor (like when he accidentally takes out an Iraqi civilian), Jackson's face registers nothing. Whatever you call him, Jackson or Fiddy, he stinks.
Brian Presley, who probably has more screen time than anyone, doesn't fare much better. The bulk of Presley's resume, according to IMDb, is on soap operas; this is his first major film, and with any luck, it will be his last. His line readings are stilted and unconvincing, his attempts at genuine emotion are laughable, and even a good actor would have trouble delivering his final "Dear Mom and Dad" voice-over well.
Samuel L. Jackson is good enough, I guess, but when is he going to get back to making good films? We've given him like ten years of paycheck roles now; it's time for him to stop phoning it in. He basically has to play the same notes that his contemporary Denzel Washington did in Courage Under Fire ten years ago; that was a brilliant, subtle performance, but even more so compared with Jackson's work here (his drunk act is about as nuanced as Foster Brooks'). The surprise of the film is Jessica Biel, who is actually the best thing in it, proving that her solid (but brief) turn in The Illusionist was no fluke. She has a couple of moments so honest, in fact, that they deserve to have been airlifted into a better film.
Believe it or not, I feel like I'm low-balling the sheer ineptitude of Home of the Brave; it really is inexcusably stupid, a mixture of every bad Lifetime drama, filtered through a hot topic to make it seem timely. And that's perhaps what is most reprehensible about the film: it is a ham-fisted, simple-minded, schlocky examination of an important subject. And for that, the people who made it should be ashamed of themselves.
This film is about how soldiers who served in Iraq face life back in
The striking thing is that this film focuses on the emotional impact on the returning soldiers, and the people around them. The dialogs are raw, truthful and at times politically provocative. The portrayal of post traumatic stress disorder is subtle but palpable, and Jessica Biel's performance of a tough woman to hide her pains of losing her hand is astonishingly well acted.
I do not see this as an anti-war vehicle. Rather, it serves as a reminder of how wars affect the soldiers, and then make us think hard whether such a war was necessary in the first place. I am the most impressed by the filmmakers decision on making this movie, as the predominant climate in America is against them.
Irwin Winkler's "Home of the Brave" is much more than "just a movie,"
even if, as such, it's a partially flawed one. It is, without question,
an important, thought- and emotion-provoking film, certain to be
Regardless of its merits, "Home" is brave, worthwhile, even admirable in its pioneering coverage of 150,000 soldiers "over there," and roughly the same number of returnees, who are trying to return in fact, not only in name.
This story of a group of National Guard soldiers from Spokane serving in Iraq and returning home is a schizophrenic experience: you are watching scenes straight out of last night's TV news, and yet feel as if you were back in the 1940s, in the era of "The Best Years of Our Lives" war movies, and the 1970s "Born on the Fourth of July" type Vietnam veteran sagas.
Given the subject, it's to Winkler's credit that "Home of the Brave" (a confusing title choice, considering the many movies with that name) remains firmly neutral about the current debate central to all politics. The film portrays both the support for and the opposition to the war, but favors neither. Winkler (producer for 40 years, including "Rocky" II-VI) sticks with characters in the context of the war, not making mouthpieces of them for or against a cause.
Mouthpieces, no; cardboard figures, some. Writing (by Mark Friedman) and acting are fair-to-problematic. The overemotional writing and excessively melodramatic acting combine to present a drama of extremes, denying the existence of true majority response to trauma: simple coping. Murder, suicide, insanity do occur in postwar situations, but most people, in my own experience, deal with such problems - more or less successfully - and go on with their lives.
In "Home of the Brave," you find no such "middle of the road," only extremes. After suspenseful (and depressing) Iraqi war scenes, shot in Morocco by Tony Pierce-Roberts, in a remarkably focused way that allows rare visual clarity in the midst of combat confusion, the film shifts to Spokane.
There, we follow - among many others - the lives of a combat surgeon (Samuel L. Jackson), a driver who loses an arm (Jessica Biel), three high-school buddies with intertwining stories (Chad Michael Murray, Brian Presley, and rap star 50 Cent). There are some quiet moments and reality-based situations, but the constant high-voltage !DRAMA! reveals and partially invalidates a manipulative hand pulling the (heart) strings.
I can see why some people kinda hate this movie. It's a drama that could've been made for TV. It shows American soldiers returning back home and not their victims life and/or point of view. But the movie doesn't try to make a political statement about the war, it does however try (and achieve to a certain extent imho) to show us the tragic (after)life of a soldier. Yes Flags of our Fathers (C. Eastwood) is a better/superior picture in that respect, but that doesn't mean that Home of the Brave isn't at least good! While there is no full attack on/against the war (excuse the pun), certain moments do criticize the events. What really made this movie watchable for me, were the actors. The main actors did a good job conveying their trauma, fear and rage. While that might not be enough for many people, I did like what I saw. I liked the movie and the discussions here show that it affects people (even if it is in a bad way) and they keep talking about it. Although some conversations go to far, this only adds to the attraction/appealing of the movie ... whether you like it or not!
I am a film student and tonight Producer Rob Cowan came to our campus
to show the first advanced screening of this film. Naturally, many
students took advantage of this hoping to see a decent, entertaining
film... HOWEVER, There aren't adequate words to describe how awful this
film is. I knew going into it that this film was probably not going to
be some engaging, powerful war drama, but still something to leave
audiences satisfied. The reasons why this movie was awful 1. The acting
is preposterous, not one character (Samuel L., Jessica Biel, 50 Cent
(Obviously)) was well acted in any manner. 2. It is one of the most
poorly written I have ever been privy too. Feeding off of the topical
debates over the war in iraq, the script is ridden with clichés and
feels like a Lifetime Movie gone wrong. 3. The directing to say the
least is an absolute disgrace. This film is horribly structured and a
complete headache as a result 4. 50 Cent. Going in, I was ready to give
him the benefit of the doubt and judge his acting abilities fairly
without any prior stigmas. Sadly, The minute he opened his mouth he
erased all doubt that he has absolutely no place in this film
Typically, I am not a big fan of completely trashing a film. I believe that my opinion is my own and it is wrong to spread that on others. With that being said, I can say that this is the one film that I have no problem doing so. If in the event you would like to judge for yourself, don't say I didn't warn you when your cursing out the Movie Theatre manager for not giving you a refund.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am glad that I had the opportunity to go to an advanced screening of
this film. It was a good show overall.
Some folks have complained about overacting, but people coping with trauma/post trauma in real life overact. They do not not behave like society expects in that little box that is deemed 'normal.' It also allowed for the movie to not have a tidy Hollywood ending where everyone lives happily ever after. I felt that the characters were much more believable that way.
Samuel L. Jackson's performance was particularly strong when his character arrived late to thanksgiving dinner with his guests. Victoria Rowell was a solid counterbalance to his character throughout the entire piece as well. It would have been nice to see the roles by 50 Cent and Brian Presley switched as it would have gone against typecasting.
The biggest weakness I felt the film had was such a strong reliance on flashbacks, but they make sense for the way that the story is structured.
I also found it humorous that a Judith Krantz or was it a Susan Brown book is in a doctor's office where medical reference books should be. This appears later in the movie.
This film does not try to tackle whether the Iraqi war is right or wrong. It only asks the question as it shows viewers the aftermath of its impact on an individual level.
In fact I expected to see another patriotic movie about "the heroic, liberating" battles of the American army in Iraq, but I was surprised. I think the movie is extraordinary because of the aspect in which the war is revealed. Not about the victory or lose of battle on the field but losing the battle with yourself with your fears and traumas you cannot overcome for life. I think maybe this film is misunderstood to a significant extent by most people who had never been in the army, because they can never be aware of the shock and stress on the battlefield and the anti-social effect upon you when you are in the army and you don't think about daily problems, but you only struggle to survive and the only hope that keeps you going is one day to get home, see your family, friends, relatives. In the battlefield when your only dream and hope is to get home, you make it perfect and ideal in your dreams, and of course the next is step is the disappointment and depression when you get back and see that instead of sympathy for your suffers you meet hate, instead of gratitude you meet indifference. As in life people forget quick, everyone are forgotten, as all your friends you left in the desert. Maybe that is the strong point of the movie - the clearly universal human reveal of what war brings along and that the romantic and heroic is left behind the hatred and desperation. You are called no war hero - but war criminal. It is also not only government, institutions and army guilty about the war, but all society because it elected and supported this government. Some of my colleagues and some boys I don't know from our brigade, that never came home, and for all young men that never lived to see their home again I rate this movie 10. I think they deserve respect as humans, that went to fight for a cause, that they did not choose to fight for. Better fight for something than live for nothing. The history shall judge if their sacrifice was in vain.
If you are an OIF VET, you must see this movie. If you have never been in combat, you may want to skip it. I watched this with my significant other and it was the best 2 hours of our life. I am very proud of my service and those I served with. The movie is incredibly accurate and was worth the wait. If you're expecting a shoot 'em up film, skip it and consider enlisting in the military. If you want to know what battle is really like; the disorganization, the confusion, the odd moments, this movie is it. I can't say enough about the actors. Even recalling the trauma events is dead on. The girl in the movie was dead on. You don't recall it like a film, it's bits and broken pieces with important details gone and odd small clips (like a lollipop) that stick. THANK YOU FOR MAKING THIS FILM. IF YOU'RE A VET, SEE THE FILM AND FIND A VET CENTER.
The War Inside, November 6, 2007 By Grady Harp (Los Angeles, CA United
States) - See all my reviews (TOP 10 REVIEWER) (REAL NAME) HOME OF THE
BRAVE is one of those films that is difficult to critique: the message
of how war permanently alters the minds and bodies of soldiers and
their families is a meaningful one and one about which we need to be
reminded. Irwin Winkler has made some good films (DeLovely, Life as a
House, Guilty by Suspicion), but in this film he seems to be working
against the script by Mark Friedman which has a tendency to
oversimplify emotions and thus loses its impact.
The film begins in Iraq where each of the main characters is at least tangentially connected. Dr. Will Marsh (Samuel L. Jackson) is in a truck driven by Vanessa (Jessica Biel) and accompanied by soldiers Tommy (Brian Presley) and Jamal (50 Cent AKA Curtis Jackson) when a roadside bomb explodes, maiming the hand of Vanessa, killing Tommy's best friend, making Jamal witness unnecessary civilian deaths, and placing Will in an impotent position as a doctor. Flash forward to Spokane, Washington where each of these four wounded people try to piece their lives together in a world that loathes the Iraq war (not at all unlike the treatment of soldiers returning from the unpopular Vietnam debacle), trying to make sense of it all.
The problem with the good idea for a movie lies in the too traditional plot lines. The actors (especially Presley and Biel) give it their all, but credibility enters and the smoke rises and we are left with a misplaced patriotism. The message is strong: the delivery of it is shaky. Grady Harp
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
HotB is about three soldiers returning back from a tour in the ongoing
war in Iraq and their adjustment issues. In the leads: Samuel Jackson
as army surgeon Will Marsh, who feels guilty about his powerlessness to
save people and about having become desensitized to their suffering;
Jessica Biel as supply runt Vanessa Price, who got her right hand blown
off by a roadside bomb, triggered by a kid with a cellphone; Brian
Presley as soldier Tommy Yates, who lost his best friend just days
before the scheduled return home as a result of the same ambush that
occasioned Vanessa's injury.
That ambush of what amounts to a humanitarian supply convoy is what loosely connects the characters; as Marsh is the first to tend to Vanessa and she briefly catches a glimpse of Yates as well, before everything goes to the dogs of war.
The first segment, in Iraq, portrays some of the pressures of being a soldier, at all levels and in all functions; always having to be on guard, because anything else will kill you. The operative term is 'always'; unrelenting tension and stress, sometimes apparently qualifying as mild, but it never leaves you. For there are people around who hate you and will kill you whenever they can. There are also those who don't hate you and who may even be glad you're there and doing what you're doing, but it's in the nature of things that they will not go out with the same fervor and try to protect you; nor will they speak out in your defense with the same vigor as your opponents. This is, after all, the nature of these things.
So, these three come homeplus a few other, more peripheral, figuresand, unlike is the case in other 'soldiers returning home' movies, nothing much actually happens. Which is part of the problem. For the normality of the life of those they are charged to defendfor whatever reason and motivationis stifling with its normality and the complete lack of appreciation of their situation by those they return home to. So Marsh walks into a home where his son is disgusted not only at the war, but also at his father being a part of it; plus he has trouble sleeping, because he had gotten so used to not getting much sleep. Vanessa has to deal with being a solo divorced mum whose relationship with former boyfriend, Ray (James McDonald), went to the dogs some time ago, and who has to deal with being a one-handed cripple, who can't accept help even from friendly strangers like Cary (Jeffrey Nordling). Tommy has to deal with his father, who's a good guy but a bit dense and simple; a former buddy who's gone mentally AWOL for a number of reasons, and whose rage focuses on his former girlfriend who isn't interested in him anymore; as well as Tommy's own nagging guilt feelings at leaving his fellow soldiers behind to fight, while his own life's become 'safe'in a manner of speaking.
The problems at home would have appeared trivial in comparison to those these three faced while in the warzone. But they're not, because all problems and their magnitude are relative. Still, all of them have this notion that they don't fit, all for apparently different reasonsthey all are the same.
Irwin Winkler's direction and the script focuses on the ways in which it might be possible to overcome those problems; the manner in which those exposed to the brutalities of war may be redeemed and become, if not 'normal', but at least 'adapted' to life outside a warzone again. In the process the movie is careful to lay open the mood in the US with regards to the Iraq war; both sides of it, and with equal and evenhanded fairness. In the process it avoids making what amounts to a judgment, because that's not what what this movie is all about. It has much more the air of Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down, which also focused on soldiers, rather than politics; all the time acknowledging that there were political issues, but they were at another level and sometimes had to be put asidewith the notable exception of a certain, entirely justified, cynicism toward all politicians; as well as all those who basically don't end up having to put themselves in harm's wayexcept maybe in an election, which hardly compares.
The solutions offered by the film are fairly simple, and they have to do with love, understanding, consideration and appreciation; not just as carried out by the professional machinery of organized 'rehabilitation', but by the only ones who can do this in a sustained way: family, friends, neighbors and so on, in an ever-widening circle. And this isn't happening, by and large, though the movie suggests that it might. Sometimes. For the lucky ones. Because, as far as the fate of returned soldiers these days are concerned, all three main protagonists in HotB qualify as 'fortunate'. One would wish that it were more than a few.
The editing of this film is interesting and fits with the need to follow the fates of three separate lives without too much discontinuity as the focus shifts from one person to another and another and back again. It's also difficult to tell the passage of time, but once one gets used to it, it flows easily enough. The moving shots in the warzone contrast with the many static ones 'at home'. Short scenes alternate with long ones in deft timing. The pacing is thoughtful and measured. At the end there are more questions unanswered than at the beginning. Which is as it should be.
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