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George Tillman Jr.
Cuba Gooding Jr., Robert De Niro, Michael Rapaport
Writing Credits:
Scott Marshall Smith

The story of Carl Brashear, the first African-American US Navy Diver, and the man who trained him.

Box Office:
$32 million.
Opening Weekend
$13,339,465 on 2092 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 128 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 1/23/2007

• Audio Commentary with Director George Tillman Jr., Actor Cuba Gooding Jr., Writer Scott Marshall Smith, and Producer Robert Teitel
• Trivia Track
• Trailers


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Men of Honor [Blu-Ray] (2000)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 16, 2020)

When I screened the extras to Remember the Titans, I heard that film’s screenwriter state that Hollywood only does one “inspirational” flick per year. I’m not sure why he felt that way, as we definitely find many more movies that could qualify as part of that genre.

Case in point: Men Of Honor, another “fighting the odds” picture that hit screens a mere six weeks after the debut of Titans.

The two films also shared a strong racial element, as both depicted past struggles faced by black characters. (Titans takes place in 1971, while Honor spans about three decades starting in the Forties.)

However, they offer different approaches to the themes. Titans provides a fairly flashy and slick production that focuses on large-scale integration. The struggle of a black man to gain acceptance plays a part but isn’t the main focus.

On the other hand, Honor pays little attention to relations between black and white. It prefers to concentrate on the attempts of one man to overcome the odds.

As depicted in the film, Carl Brashear (Cuba Gooding Jr.) grew up as the son of a poor sharecropper, but he aspired to do something more with his life. Encouraged by his father, Carl joins the Navy.

Buoyed by the sight of Master Chief Billy Sunday (Robert De Niro) in action, he quickly attempts to become a diver. However, this being the Fifties, no other blacks have attained such lofty military status, and he faces a supremely difficult fight, one made even more difficult since Sunday - who no longer can dive due to a health condition - acts as his instructor.

Most of Honor focuses on Brashear’s experiences in camp, but it continues past that point. Brashear’s entire goal is to become a Master Chief, which apparently is the highest rank an enlisted man can hold in the Navy. The movie goes along with him as he works toward this title.

Overall, Honors seems like something of a mixed bag. As an inspirational tale, it workes fairly well, but a number of missteps make it less effective than it could be.

For one, the film starts in 1966 and then shows snippets of Brashear’s life in flashbacks. The major flaw with this technique is that it effectively kills any suspense we might experience during Brashear’s time in training camp.

Within the movie’s first five minutes we learn that he indeed becomes a diver. As such, although it’s interesting to see the obstacles he faced during that period, the outcome is never in doubt.

Admittedly, many films proceed toward a predictable goal, but it’s still strange to find one that openly tells us our hero will succeed before we even know he’s our hero.

That becomes storytelling flaw number one, and the second relates to the sterling depiction of Brashear himself. Although we occasionally see some signs that his myopic focus on his goal negatively affects those around him - as was the case with Jim Garrison in JFK - most of the problems get quickly swept away as we view a near-deification of the main character.

Frankly, as depicted in Honor, Brashear simply seems too perfect. The role lacks nuance and subtlety as he appears to be almost cartoonishly heroic. Clearly his life wasn’t as simple as shown here, but we see very little of the impact his personal decisions made.

As an actor, I generally like Gooding, but he seems to become sterile when placed against strong performers. His work in Instinct opposite Anthony Hopkins appeared flat and lifeless, and some of the same problems occur during Honor.

Granted, it’s hard to bring too much dimension to Brashear since he’s shown as such an ultraman, but I still think Gooding comes across as too cheerfully benign and without the appropriate intensity.

In regard to De Niro, he manages his troubled character’s many moments of intensity with the expected aplomb, but woof - that accent! De Niro has great difficulty adequately maintaining a Southern drawl, and at times his affectations seems to come straight from Hee Haw.

I also find the number of shots in which he lights his pipe to become incredibly excessive and distracting. There must be at least 20 of these images in the film, and it seems very odd. Couldn’t De Niro figure out anything else to do with his hands?

Honor suffers from the extremely simplistic nature of its moralizing. This is a film almost literally drawn as black and white.

Although Sunday earns an actual character arc, the others who oppose Brashear feel like nothing more than cartoon villains. I half expect to see some of them twirl their mustaches and cackle maniacally.

That tone culminates in one of the most over-the-top displays of visual intimidation I’ve seen lately. (Warning - possible spoiler in the next paragraph!)

At one point, Brashear must prove he can walk in the Navy’s newest dive suit, one that weighs about 100 pounds more than prior gear. As it’s wheeled into a room, we get only fleeting glimpses of the outfit, all of which make it look ominous and scary. When they finally reveal it, I thought we’d see Hannibal Lector strapped into the rig.

(By the way, I’d love to know why the Navy replaced their old suit with a new one that was about 33 percent heavier. Wouldn’t one think that progress would be marked with equipment that was less cumbersome?)

At the heart of Men Of Honor comes a fine, real-life story of a forceful man who indeed overcame enormous odds to achieve his goals. At times, the film shows this material effectively, and I’m occasionally able to get into the tale and become invested in it.

However, the film suffers from poor pacing and a tone that makes the piece excessively monochromatic. As a whole, Men Of Honor provides a moderately compelling experience, but it doesn’t turn into one that I find to be terribly successful.

The Disc Grades: Picture C/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Men of Honor appears in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. A release from Blu-ray’s early days, the transfer showed its age.

In particular, sharpness suffered. While close-ups looked fine, wider shots took on a soft feel much of the time.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, but I noticed light edge haloes at times. Print flaws remained absent, but some digital noise appeared.

Colors went with a semi-brownish impression much of the time, as the film opted for a “nostalgic” feel. The colors could lean a little ruddy, but they seemed acceptable to good.

Blacks tended to seem a little too dense, and shadows were decent, if not terribly clear. Expect the smattering of underwater scenes to seem murkier than they should. That said, the softness became the biggest concern here, and that left this as a mediocre image.

I felt more pleased with the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, which provided a solid sonic experience. The movie offered a nicely engaging and involving soundfield at virtually all times.

For the most part, Honor brought a quiet character drama, and during much of the film the audio reflected that nature. The mix showed nice ambiance and created a gentle but convincing atmosphere at those times, with realistic environmental sounds that stemmed mainly from the front speakers.

However, when Honor encountered an “action” scene, the soundfield came to life. This only occurred a few times during the film, but when it happened, the results were impressive.

The mix provided solid use of all five speakers during these scenes, and the track became immersive and active. Actually, the generally quiet nature of Honor may have made the loud scenes more effective. This meant they stood out so strongly against the background of the rest of the film that they slammed me to a greater degree.

Audio quality appeared consistently positive. Dialogue seemed crisp and natural, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility.

Music was bright and clear, and it showed nice dynamic range, as did the effects. Those components always came across as distinct and realistic, and during those louder scenes, they packed a serious punch.

When appropriate, those elements kicked my subwoofer to life with some deep and strong bass, and the scenes in question added power to the presentation. All in all, the soundtrack of Men Of Honor provided a solid listening experience.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD version? The lossless audio showed better range and impact than the lossy DVD track.

As for visuals, the Blu-ray felt better defined, cleaner and more vivid than the DVD. However, these became minor improvements at best, as the Blu-ray felt dated and in need of an upgrade.

Some of the DVD’s extras repeat here, and we get an audio commentary from director George Tillman Jr., actor Cuba Gooding Jr., writer Scott Marshall Smith, and producer Robert Teitel. All four men were recorded together for this screen-specific track.

Although they occasionally speak over each other, for the most part the format works well as it helps make the commentary more lively and engaging.

Although the tone occasionally favors too much “happy talk” in which the participants do little more than praise others, as a whole I find the track to be fun and compelling. The four men have a nice chemistry, and no one really seems to dominate, so everybody gets to make a strong contribution.

A variety of technical points and production details are explored, and the whole thing seems entertaining and fast-moving. It’s a good commentary that I enjoyed.

New to the Blu-ray, we find a Trivia Track. It tells us a little about the film but it mainly concentrates on the life of Carl Brashear as well as aspects of life in the Navy.

This adds up to a surprisingly informative text commentary. We get snippets on a pretty consistent basis throughout the film, and they expand our understanding of the material well.

In addition to the film’s theatrical trailers, we get promos for other Fox movies. We locate ads for Flight of the Phoenix, Courage Under Fire, Omen 666 and X-Men: The Last Stand.

Note that the Blu-ray drops featurettes, deleted scenes and other extras from the DVD. Unfortunately, that was standard operating procedure for Fox’s early Blu-rays.

As a piece of inspirational filmmaking, Men Of Honor indeed offers some solid moments of rousing material. Unfortunately, these are enclosed in a package that too often fails to take good advantage of them, and the movie lacked the subtlety and pacing to make it a consistently compelling experience. The Blu-ray offers very good audio and a few useful bonus features, but it suffers from dated visuals and the disc loses supplements from the DVD. The movie could use an updated release.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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