Breaking Review

John Boyega in BREAKING. Courtesy of Bleecker Street.

According to the United States Interagency Council of Homelessness, the most recent statistics state that there are 38,000 Veterans experiencing Homelessness. The Department of Labor states that in July 2022, the veteran unemployment rate was 2.7%. In a country that lauds its servicemen and women, it does not do a great job in taking care of them once their tour of duty ends. Breaking shows us how the system fails these heroes and the lengths that one man goes through to get what is owed to him.

When we first are introduced to Brian Brown-Easley, magnificently played by John Boyega, he is being forcibly removed from the Veterans Affairs office. We next see him on his phone talking to his daughter and naming Lord of the Ring characters to her. He explains to his daughter that his minutes are about to run out and the call is ended before he can speak to his wife. Brian seems desperate and we find out about his situation as the story progresses.

Brian enters a Wells Fargo bank and makes a withdrawal. While the teller, Rosa, played by Selenis Leyvais, is getting the money ready he writes her a note telling saying that he has a bomb. You would expect an intense moment that we have seen many times in bank hold-up movies, Breaking does not go where you think it would. We don’t see the bank robber yelling at everyone to get down and start screaming out their demands. Brian Brown-Easley was described by his family as a gentle soul. Even though he arrived back from his tour a different person, he was a kind soul to his family and those around him. After handing her the note, Brian politely asks her to have everyone leave the bank and call 911.

When Brian is handing the note to the teller, we see Estel Valerie, played by Nicole Beharie, tell her client to leave the bank now and quietly start telling the other people in the bank to leave. She can tell by Brian’s demeanor and the look on Rosa’s face that something is going down. After everyone had left the bank, Brian is alone inside with Rosa and Estel. He asks Estel to lock the doors and again asks for 911 to be called.

Brian shows great empathy towards the two women who are in the bank with him. He makes sure they are ok and if they need to use the bathroom. In a scene almost reminiscent of Dog Day Afternoon, Brian is making sure that the situation inside does not escalate more than it has to. He tends to keep his cool but when he feels that the police are going to kill him without negotiating he shows them the trigger of the bomb he made to show that he is serious. The reason Brian is holding up the bank is that he is owed money by the VA and wants them to pay him.

Due to a technicality, his payments have been stopped and Brian is on the verge of homelessness unless he gets his payment. While the bank manager is willing to give Brian the money from the bank, he wants the VA to pay him. To Brian, it is the principle that the VA pays him and no one else. While the amount may seem inconsequential to some, this amount can be the difference between being homeless or having a home for Brian.

The negotiator, Eli Bernard, is played by the late Micheal K. Williams and his mighty presence is felt as soon as he appears on the screen. Eli can tell as soon as he arrives on the scene that something is not right. He can tell that the heavy police presence on the scene means they want to end this as soon as possible. Eli tries to calm down the situation but it seems like the minds of those in charge have already been set on how this stand-off should end.

Before Eli gets to talk to Brian, Brian talks to the local news station and tells his story to Lisa Larson. Lisa, played by Connie Britton, has a small role and she helps Brian tell his story and get it out to the public. She listens to him and sympathizes with his struggle and wants people to know why Brian is doing what he is doing. The scenes between Brian, Lisa, and Eli not only help move the story along but give us an insight as to how all of these characters relate in one way or another. Eli shares his stories about marriage and being a Marine with Brian and tells him he wants to make sure he comes out of the bank alive.

The atmosphere created by director Abi Damaris Corbin is one of immense pressure and intensity. Being inside the bank with Brian and the bank workers, you do not know what is going to happen next. You also feel that intensity outside the bank with the SWAT teams waiting for their orders and Eli trying to get Brian out of the bank alive. Moments like this have you at the edge of your seat. Moments like this also make you wonder how many other veterans are going through the same struggle. How many of them have gone to great lengths to get what is owed to them? John Boyega speaks for all of them in this movie and I pray that his voice will be heard by those that can make a change in this broken system.

Boyega gives a stellar performance in Breaking and you feel his pain and the struggle he is going through. At the end of the film, you see that he was a husband/father/soldier that was trying to do what was right for his family, both by marriage and in service. He wants everyone to know how our veterans are treated and that those in power need to do what is right. As a black man, robbing a bank, Brian knows that there will only be one outcome for him. Knowing this makes his conversation with his daughter toward the final minutes of the movie heartbreaking. I hope Boyega/s performance is not forgotten come award season.

Breaking is based on a true story and really puts a mirror on how some of our service men and woman are struggling after they return home from their tour of duty. Brian Brown-Easley’s story is one that should not be forgotten and hopefully, this movie will cause some changes in the VA’s system. Being that this is the final Micheal K. Williams performance it should also not be forgotten. His performance is just superb and the few moments he is on the screen remind us of the remarkable talent he was.

Micheal K Williams in BREAKING. Courtesy of Bleecker Street.

Final Thoughts: Breaking is the type of movie that holds a mirror to America and shows us who we are. While those in power are quick to thank those that served this country, they are the same ones that drag their feet to help these same people. Breaking is powerful, full of great performances, and needs to be seen by everyone. Hopefully, this movie helps make some changes in the Veteran Affairs system. John Boyega and Micheal K Williams are superb in this movie.

Kid-Friendly: There is some language and scenes of violence in the movie. This is a great story for children to see but parents should use their discretion. I would recommend this for ages 14 and up.

Violence: The movie starts with Brian being dragged out of the V.A. office with bruises on his face. We do see flashbacks of Brian’s time on duty but nothing is shown that is too violent.

When Marine Veteran Brian Brown-Easley is denied support from Veterans Affairs, financially desperate and running out of options, he takes a bank and several of its employees hostage, setting the stage for a tense confrontation with the police. Based on the true story.

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