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Laramie Movie Scope:
Men of Honor

A true story of amazing courage and fortitude

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 10, 2001 -- "Men of Honor" is based on the true story of Charles Brashear, the first African-American who reached the rank of Master Chief Diver in the U.S. Navy. Despite, that, it manages to manipulative and melodramatic. The story reminds me of the movie "Rudy."

Brashear, played by Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr., is an incredibly persistent man, like Rudy, who overcomes terrible obstacles to achieve his goals. There is just no quit in this guy. The son a poor sharecropper, he enlists in the Navy following World War II, just after President Harry Truman desegregated the military. There was still plenty of racism in the Navy, however.

Brashear challenged the rules, which, incredibly stated that blacks and whites could not swim in the same ocean together. His commanding officer, Captain Pullman (Powers Boothe of "U Turn"), was impressed with Brashear's swimming ability and eventually endorsed his application into diving school. There, he met his nemisis, the racist Master Chief Diver Leslie W. "Billy" Sunday, a man of incredible courage who first inspired Brashear to become a diver.

Sunday and his commanding officer, Mr. Pappy (Hal Holbrook of "Waking the Dead"), were both determined to make sure that Brashear failed to pass the diving school tests. Of course Brashear prevailed, because if he didn't, we wouldn't have a movie. Ahead of him, there are even tougher tests and the fate of Sunday and Brashear continue to be intertwined throughout the film. The relationship between Sunday and Brashear is interesting as it evolves and it certainly doesn't hurt having two outstanding actors in these roles. One small supporting role is crucial, however, that of Brashear's father, Mac, played by Carl Lumbly. It's a wonderful performance. He tells his son not to end up like him and to never come back to the shack where he grew up.

Brashear's father's words are what drive Brashear on as he defeats obstacle after obstacle. His father's picture is never far away and every time he looks at it he remembers. It is the eternal truth of fathers: that they always want their sons to have the advantages they never had. Every barrier that Brashear broke down was a victory for his father as well as himself. There are some romances in the movie, but they are only peripheral to the real story.

The story is entertaining, but it is overly manipulative and melodramatic. In the end, it is a tear-jerker. The adventure and the inspiration would have been enough, but it is overdone into almost a soap opera. The factual story is made almost unbelievable by the overuse of Hollywood cinematic clichés and formulas. It's too bad. It could have been something special with a cleaner, leaner approach. It rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2001 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)