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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Men of Honor
Men of Honor
Fox // PG
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Chuck Arrington | posted March 25, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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MEN OF HONOR

Synopsis:

WOW!!! Is about all I can say about Men of Honor. Men of Honor is the true story of a little known American hero, Carl Brashear, Master Diver, United States Navy. Carl enlisted in the Navy in the 1940's when segregation and racism where the accepted norm of the day. It became painfully evident when Carl and the other Black enlistees were made to wait until the White enlistees took the bus which was, headed for their stint in basic training and then a commission aboard the USS Hoist stationed in the South Pacific. Where the White men were treated as "Sons of the Country", the Black men where referred to as "boy" at every turn. The absurdity reached a greater level when shipboard swimming was designated not by rank but by race. Resigned to the life of a cook or another "backseat" position onboard, it seemed that Carl's dreams of making his father proud were being put on hold for an undisclosed period of time.

It was on the "White" designated swim day that Carl, took his first steps into the extraordinary. Defying the catcalls, racial slurs and shoves and slugs of fellow enlisted men, Carl dove into the Pacific Ocean for a refreshing dip to cool himself off. This met with further derision and when he out swam the man sent to collect him, a stint in the brig was his reward. The Captain of the vessel was not a full idiot however in that, he recognized Carl's talents in the open ocean. Carl could not only swim well, he was fast too! Not to put too fine a point on it but Carl was the fastest swimmer aboard the Hoist. Recognizing his talents, the Captain of the Boat made Carl an emergent swimmer but made him continue to stay and work with the stewards on board ship. The recognition of Carl's calling became evident when a Navy Copter crashed in the ocean not far from the Hoist. The "Master Diver" was called on Deck to retrieve the pilot and Co-pilot from the downed wreckage.

When he saw Master Diver "Billy Sunday" arrive from the depths of the Ocean in full diving rig, he knew immediately, that's what his life was destined for. Now we are still in the 1940's and open racism was readily accepted. When he broached the subject to his Captain in regards to a letter of recommendation, the Captain advised Carl that, the Dive School would never take any "Colored" seaman. Nonetheless, Carl pressed on and got the recommendation from the Captain and gained entrance to the Dive School. It was there that Master Diver Billy Sunday was in charge of turning these Seaman into Navy Divers. A hard taskmaster and a ruthless training officer, Sunday had it in for Carl from day one. The anger, disgust and hatred soon turned to admiration as he noticed Carl's resilience in the face of total opposition. The defining moment came however when Carl, went to the aide of a fellow Dive student and rescued the "White" diver when that diver's "spotter" turned tail and left him there to die.

Carl received no citation or commendation for the act of heroism he selflessly performed, rather it was given to the coward, who fled in the face of "presumed death". A lesser man would have crumbled under the pressures and given way to the rage that was always just beneath the surface. Carl however is no ordinary man. Suffice it to say, he successfully completed the Dive School and was returned many years later, to the Hoist as a Navy Diver. It was there when his heroism cost him dearly. In saving two crewmen from what could have proven to be fatal injuries, Carls' left leg was nearly severed and his diving career was apparently ended. Again, Carl is not an ordinary man and he refused to retire not having achieved his goal of Master Diver, the highest rank an enlisted man could attain. Fighting back from a devastating injury and with the aid of an unexpected ally, Carl took his resolve and clawed his way back through legal wrangling with the Navy to regain that which he wanted the most. Men of Honor is a powerfully moving film that is easily the best film of 2000 and the best release of 2001 to date!

Audio/Video:

The audio for the film is presented in a very rich and very active DD5.1 platform that keeps the soundstage in almost constant motion throughout the whole of the film. The dialogue is clear and easily understood, the directional movement from the fronts/rears is very impressive and creates an atmosphere that adds another level of intensity to an already intense film. The sub is put to great use and will definitely rock your HT. The Video is presented in a beautiful anamorphic widescreen transfer that has no transfer errors that I could detect. The blacks were deep and rich and the colors were all rich and well saturated. Additionally, the underwater scenes where largely clear but exhibited a murky quality in their appearance. This "murkiness" added a level of believability in that the waters they were in where not those of a pool and required the "look and feel" of the open ocean for the sake of realism.

Menus:

I usually don't comment on the menus unless they are exceptional in their presentation of the film's themes. The menus for Men of Honor are all wonderfully animated. They open with dialogue from Cuba Gooding Jr. and give way to an ocean scene where the options are available as they float upon the waves. Once a selection is made, the screen while still playing the score from the film dissolves into a stunningly clear image of diving bubbles. The next set of menus flow again as if they were on the sea and the film's score continues to play. Very nicely done indeed.

Extras:

Again, the word, WOW ! Comes to mind in the way of incredible extras with an awesome attention to detail and respect for the sheer magnitude of the man, Carl Brasher.

Director's Commentary:

Director, George Tillman, Jr., Cuba Gooding, Jr, Producer Robert Teitel and Writer Scott Smith, all contribute to what amounts to a great commentary track that's a hoot to listen to. You can tell that firstly, these men loved the story and wanted it to get the best treatment possible and secondly, they had a great deal of fun making this picture. Of most import to the assembled contributors was Carl Brashear's reaction to the images on screen. In particular, the opening scenes of Carl's home were so on target with Carl's recollection that he became emotional at the sight of it all during a preliminary screening. The commentary track provides great insights on the Director's intent vs. the visual representation and the Actor's impetus for playing the roles as they did. Also included are the influences that the actors had on the director in making his selections. Of note was the selection of gifted and definitely underrated actor, Carl Lumbley. Carl played Carl's dad in the film and delivered such an incredible and heart-felt performance that his presence is felt throughout the whole of the movie even though his actual screen time was 5-10 minutes max. Great Commentary track that's as engaging as the film itself.

Deleted Scenes:

There are a total of eleven (11) deleted scenes, twelve (12) if you count the alternative ending. Five (5) of them are totally new scenes that were not in the final cut of the film and the remaining six (6) were extended existing scenes with variations on dialogue. A Commentary Track by George Tillman, Jr. accompanies all of the scenes. The primary reason they were cut was for time. Tillman's vision was a three hour and twenty minute version of the film. Obviously for timing constraints, these scenes were excised. Truthfully, I would have preferred them as part of the film. They answer questions not answered theatrically and provide different perspectives on other aspects of Carls' experiences in Diving School, his marriage and his quest for suitable stations for diving. Every single deleted scene was good. They are all presented in widescreen and DD2.0. The quality of the images ranges from good to fair. Since they were excised there was no need to finish them in a polished state. Without these scenes, the film clocks in at 2 hours and 2 minutes.

The Making of Men of Honor:

This "making of" is roughly 20-25 minutes in length and covers all the aspects involved in making the film. It includes Behind-The-Scenes information and interviews with consultants for the film as well as Actors, Robert Deniro, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Hal Holbrook, David Keith and Charlize Theron. One of the nicer elements of this particular segment deals with the way in which all these people came together with the director and producers to collaborate on the feel of the film and the presentation that they wanted to make. The best parts however were Carl Brashear's interview segments and his opinions on his life and the making of the film. He's an incredibly humble man and deserving of the title Hero even if he thinks he does'nt deserve it.

Master Chief: A Tribute to Carl Brashear:

Roughly 10-15 minutes in length, this segment covers the life of Carl Brashear and features the man himself. It's an awesome look at the real life issues he dealt with and his continued resilience in the face of bigotry, racism and hatred. The attempts to rob Carl of his manhood all failed and he stands head and shoulders above all the circumstances and ideologies that sought to hold him back. This segment alone is a priceless addition to an already awesome presentation.

Animatic-Storyboard Segment:

Chapter 13 is the source of this animatic. The search and retrieve mission that resulted in the loss of Carl's leg is contained here in primarily animated storyboards. A roughly rendered submarine involving Carl's retreival of the "nuke" is included to complete the imagery. The animatics were so good that they ended up being the actual scenes in the movie. It features a running commentary by Tillman and some test dialogue for the scenes.

Music Promo for the Soundtrack for Men of Honor:

Very brief (less than a minute) the film's signature song "Win" by Brian McKnight is showcased in this promotional for the availability of the film's soundtrack for purchase.

Music Video: "Win" by Brian McKnight

Self-explanatory. The video for the song "Win" is performed by Brian McKnight and runs roughly 4 minutes and 30 seconds. It's a very beautifully shot video and definitely fits the tone of the film.

Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots:

Two trailers are included as well as two TV spots. All of them contain the same information with changes in the order of scenes and the prominent dialogue being the only differences. The Theatrical trailers are presented in Widescreen and DD5.1 while; the TV spots are presented in widescreen and DD2.0.

Overall:

This son of a share cropper, who left school with a 7th grade education, Turned the Navy upside down by refusing to be broken, even when his body was. Honor. It's more than just a word or a lilting phrase that you can bandy about when referring to Carl Brashear. It's the way he has led his life from the very start and the way he continues to live his life to this day. No matter what was done to him, his spirit was never squashed and his determination never swayed. Every time, he was put upon and treated less than the man he was/is, he used it as a stepping-stone to secure the title, respect and place in Military history he earned with every drop of his blood sweat and tears. Carl Brashear became the first amputee placed on active duty…ever and he became the first African-American to ever receive the title of Master Diver in the United States Navy. Carl Brashear is full of the stuff, legends are made of. He is a testament to the courage, determination and righteousness real men seek to embody. A true American hero, Carl Brashear will forever be a true Man of Honor! Collector's Series

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