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Men of Honor(2000)
One of those rare films that grabs you by the gut and never lets go, Men of Honor was inspired by the life of Carl Brasher, an African American who dared to dream of becoming a U.S. Navy Master Diver. Despite a bigoted training officer and a tragic shipboard accident, Carl never gives up and achieves the impossible in an incredible finish that will leave you cheering.
For more about Men of Honor and the Men of Honor Blu-ray release, see Men of Honor Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 6, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Robert De Niro, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Charlize Theron, Aunjanue Ellis, Hal Holbrook, Michael Rapaport
Director: George Tillman, Jr.
» See full cast & crew
Men of Honor Blu-ray Review
An honorable early Blu-ray release from Fox.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 6, 2010
Don't quit on me.
Inspirational tales aren't strangers to Hollywood; based on fact but sometimes amped up for dramatic effect and to ensure a tearjerking final triumph for its hero after overcoming the odds, these poignant and touching pictures have found a place within the hearts of souls of many a moviegoers as a means of escape from the doldrums, pains, and other realities of the real world and as a source of encouragement to achieve greater heights through the strengths of spirit and determination at any cost. Repetitive almost to a fault and as predictable as the sunrise, it would seem the genre couldn't sustain itself once the moviegoing public figured out that the formula holds true with just about every single picture of the kind, but year after year filmmakers and screenwriters happen across another can't-miss tale of the triumph of the spirit to turn into the next heartwarming motion picture, and audiences continue to flock to each every offering. The staying power of the Inspirational Drama has become almost the stuff of legend, and as the real world -- as it has, as it does, as it always will -- moves with its own ups and downs and ebbs and flows, movies like 2000's Men of Honor offer an escape from the realities of life; the picture, like life, has its own series of setbacks and dangers, but the guaranteed happy ending serves as something of a reprieve from the uncertainty of life, and the genre, perhaps above all others, proves its worth time and again even in the face of cinema sins that would otherwise ruin lesser films of little-to-no emotional value.
Carl Brashear (Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jerry Maguire) has always wanted to be a Naval diver; he's worked hard as a farmhand with his father, who encourages Carl to live his dreams and never allow them to slip away. With his father's blessing, Carl enlists in the Navy but finds himself serving as a cook on the U.S.S. Hoist due to the color of his skin, a position that's certainly not placing him in line to realize the "big dreams" he has for his time in this man's Navy. When Carl seizes a chance opportunity to demonstrate his skills as a swimmer and diver, he's granted a promotion to work above deck and, ultimately, he earns the opportunity to attend Diving school where he must not only demonstrate his skills and determination but overcome classmates that, almost to a man, set out to humiliate Carl and sabotage his career because of the color of his skin. Further complicating matters is Carl's prejudiced instructor, William "Billy" Sunday (Robert De Niro, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein), who is in cahoots with the school's bigoted C.O. (Hal Halbrook) to ruin Carl's career. Carl proves a resilient student, fighting to bring up his grades with the help of his girlfriend Jo (Aunjanue Ellis) while combating the tensions that accompany every step he takes. Can Carl overcome his obstacles, or will he allow those that shun his skills, heart, and honor because of the color of his skin to get the best of him and ruin his dreams?
As noted earlier, Men of Honor follows a very simple formula: take a character with everything against him and, through the course of the movie, allow him to succeed against all odds, in this case not only overcoming the supposed stigma and perceived lesser abilities that came with the color of his skin but also another setback later in the film that jeopardizes all he's worked for. At its core, however, Men of Honor offers an examination of the follies of racism, the picture proving that a man's soul, determination, and honor are anything but skin deep; there's a depth to the film and its lead character that emphasizes not only perseverance and strength of spirit but the greater human condition where skin color is but a feature of a covering that protects that from within which truly makes a man. Here, race is the central factor that serves as the springboard for what is the picture's ultimate means to the end of creating an uplifting tale; in Rudy it was a character's small stature; in The Natural it was an advanced age; in The Pursuit of Happyness it was poverty. Men of Honor's message is noble and clear, but it's ultimately not vastly superior nor drastically inferior to any other of its kind; it follows formula precisely but still proves a meaningful and emotional picture that starts out a bit slow but eventually makes for a stirring tale of heroism and success against incredibly difficult odds.
Unfortunately, the formula approach here proves something of a minor hindrance to the picture's overall level of excellence; while the intent, meaning, and purpose are true, there's just not much going on outside the point-A-to-point-B-to-point-C routine to elevate the picture from "good" to "great." The outcome of every single plot point -- both major and minor -- are readily predictable; a few things come as a surprise to those that don't come into the movie with a foreknowledge of the major events in Carl Brashear's life, but even then the eventual resultant actions and outcomes of those episodes, once they are introduced to the story, are never once in question. Nevertheless, the picture's finale proves something of an honest tearjerking experience, despite the never-in-doubt outcome and thanks in large part to the performances of Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Rober De Niro. They pull out all the stops, Gooding capturing the raw emotion of the moment and De Niro solidifying it with a stout, honest performance that cements his character into a true hero as a man who has overcome his prejudices when he finally sees that character is defined not by the color of his skin but instead by a deeper and more complex infrastructure that's shared by all men, regardless of physical appearance. Brashear's story proves doubly rewarding for its emphasis on overcoming more than one would-be debilitating circumstance; his courage and determination are only heightened thanks to the picture's ability to never lose touch with the issue of racism as he further struggles to overcome another almost equally-challenging setback. Director George Tillman Jr.'s picture is fairly simple in construction, never taking any chances, but the power of the story and the performances of his leads elevates Men of Honor to a height it shares with some of the better pictures of its kind.
Men of Honor Blu-ray, Video Quality
Men of Honor dives onto Blu-ray with a well-rounded 1080p transfer, housed within a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Though the image is often plagued by some obvious speckles and pops and moderate-to-heavy banding in underwater scenes, Fox's Blu-ray transfer otherwise proves a solid visual experience, despite its antiquated MPEG-2 encode. The transfer often reveals well above-average detailing, particularly on the various faces where pores, blood, sweat, and lines take on a highly realistic texturing. Additionally, viewers will often be amazed at the intricacies visible on the diving equipment, uniform patches and adornments, and building façades. Men of Honor isn't the most vibrant picture out there; it's no The Young Victoria for sure, but the copper-colored diving helmets, tan and white naval uniforms, green grasses, and the like all make for what is a fairly natural and pleasant color scheme, each proving to be nicely rendered on this Blu-ray. Blacks are solid, flesh tones appear accurate, and the image is almost consistently sharp, though it sometimes looks a bit excessively so, giving a few scenes a slight digital-like sheen; however such issues never prove much of a detriment to the high definition viewing experience. Finally, Fox's Blu-ray transfer of Men of Honor retains a layer of grain that's heavier in some scenes than it is in others, but it consistently lends to the image a quality film-like appearance, adding the finishing touches to what is, on the whole, an above-average Blu-ray transfer.
Men of Honor Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Men of Honor surfaces onto Blu-ray with a well-integrated DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Proficient in every area, the track supports the movie very well, whether in the more adventurous and dangerous action-style scenes or the many dialogue-intense dramatic segments. There's certainly no lack of aggressiveness with this one when the film requires a potent audio output; water splashes and spills effortlessly about the listening area with both power and clarity, while underwater scenes nicely recreate the sense of depth and pressure as water seems to surround the listener. Additionally, the track packs a potent low end; it's not as tight and natural as the more impressive of lossless tracks, but explosions and the shifting of a sunken vessel send heavy reverberations through the soundstage. Men of Honor's track also delivers strong atmospherics; a constant buzzing of crickets in chapter four nicely fills the soundstage, while a bar scene in chapter nine offers the clanking of glasses, the light din of country music, and smacking pool balls in the background. Also sporting consistently intelligible and crisp dialogue reproduction, Men of Honor offers a balanced and fine-tuned lossless listening experience.
Men of Honor Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Fox's Blu-ray release of Men of Honor splashes up a commentary track and several additional minor goodies. The commentary track features Director George Tillman, Jr., Actor Cuba Gooding, Jr., Producer Robert Teitel, and Writer Scott Marshall Smith. For a group commentary, this one is surprisingly tight, interesting, and well-constructed. The participants all demonstrate a genuine appreciation for the material and the story of Carl Brashear and speak on the quality and camaraderie of the cast. They also divulge some secrets from the set, discuss the themes of the story, and provide plenty of additional insights. This is a high-quality commentary that offers a nice flow and plenty of relevant information. Fans will want to give this one a listen. Also included is a pop-up trivia track that covers real-life facts and information from the film; the Men of Honor theatrical trailer (1080p, 2:26); and additional 1080p trailers for Flight of the Phoenix, Courage Under Fire, The Omen 666, and X-Men: The Last Stand.
Men of Honor Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Men of Honor isn't the greatest of the crop of Inspirational pictures, but it's a solid effort despite an absolutely transparent plot, but then again, if it were to play out any other way, it wouldn't be an uplifting tale or stay true to the real-life events that make it a relevant and important story to tell. The genre is by its very nature and definition a victim of absolute predictability, but such films also have going for them an intrinsic value that supersedes what is otherwise a cardinal Hollywood sin, and that's their ability to inspire. Men of Honor does just that; its message is valid and relevant and its intentions are true. Structurally, however, the picture never deviates from a most basic production both in front of and behind the camera. Nevertheless, fans of Inspirational cinema will find plenty to enjoy here, and they'll want to have a box of tissues handy for the picture's expected but no less powerful, gripping, and moving finale. An early release in the life of the Blu-ray format, Men of Honor looks and sounds better than many discs being released today. Despite the MPEG-2 encode and the constraints of a BD-25 disc, Fox's visual presentation is solid, and at times even gorgeous. Likewise, the lossless DTS track impresses, but the disc does lack a thorough supplemental package. Nevertheless, Men of Honor -- particularly if purchased at an aggressive sale price -- is a film and a Blu-ray disc worth adding to the collection. Recommended.
Men of Honor: Other Editions
Blu-ray bundles with Men of Honor (2 bundles)
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