Volume 94, Issue 42
Tuesday, November 14, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Men of honour shows you the money
Gazette File Photo
Men of Honor
Starring: Robert De Niro, Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Directed By: George Tillman, Jr.
By Chad Finkelstein
And the winner for Best Picture of the Year is ... not Men of Honor though not for lack of trying.
Although the underdog-triumphs-over-adversity theme, accompanied by an emotionally charged soundtrack, is a valiant attempt for Oscar gold, too much of it takes away from enjoying of the movie.
In this case, the previews are a bit misleading. It looks like the plot should be about Carl Brashear (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) and his journey to become a Navy diver, despite the racism that tries to suffocate him along the way.
However, the training segment takes up about half of the movie so viewers are surprised when an entire new story formulates for the next hour. This is not to say that Men of Honor is boring. Rather, it drags right from the beginning.
Brashear has so much pride and determination instilled in him by his overworked and broken-hearted father that he is incapable of even perceiving failure. His iron will helps him get noticed as the fastest swimmer on the U.S.S. Hoist, where he is stationed. The only problem is the colour of his skin, which relegates him to work in the kitchen by default.
When he convinces one captain of his strong, unwavering character and skills, his dream comes true and he is enrolled in diving school. What follows is some of the most intense training for one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, at the gruelling and unsympathetic hands of Master Chief Billy Sunday (Robert de Niro). As if his tyrannical tutelage isn't enough, the vehement racism from the other hopeful trainees is an even bigger obstacle that only spurs Brashear on.
Men of Honor lives up to its name, trying to push virtue down the viewer's throat. Director George Tillman Jr. choreographs some impressive underwater action, where the best parts of the movie occur. They are constantly synchronized with a majestic musical score that seems to exponentially heighten in emotion with each achievement.
However, one can only endure so much bravado. The sustaining of such grandiose imagery and idealization comes at the expense of story. That is, when nobody's diving, the narrative gets a bit inconsistent and unimaginative, sometimes feeling like its skipping over details. As well, plot intricacies are introduced but never really elaborated.
As Brashear, Gooding, Jr. does his best Denzel Washington impression as the righteous survivor whose merit and good will are enough to sustain the most vicious of setbacks. Flaring his nostrils twice for every syllable he utters, Gooding is trying a bit too hard for the Oscar, shaking and twitching as if every sentence was some glorious revelation that must be heard. Though he is actually well-cast in the part, his overacting is as distracting here as it is in his other movies.
It's De Niro that makes the movie, though. Strutting through each scene, camouflaged as a chameleon in his role. When he says "honour," you believe him.
Men of Honor is a nice try, but it doesn't rise to the lofty heights it tries to set for itself.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000