Based on writer/director Elegance Bratton’s experiences as a queer Black man in the Marines boot camp, “The Inspection,” now playing in theatres, avoids the jingoistic tone of so many films set within the military. Instead, it is a painful, cathartic tale of overcoming oppression in order to survive.
When we first meet Ellis French (Jeremy Pope), he’s a queer, 26-year-old Black man, cut loose from his disapproving family. “I will love you till the day that I die,” says his prison guard mother Inez (Gabrielle Union), “but I can’t love what you are.” Her deeply held religious beliefs have led her to reject her son, so much so, she even puts down a newspaper on the couch before he sits. With no home to call his own, he has spent years living rough, in and out of Trenton, New Jersey shelters.
With no money and no family support, he makes the choice to join the Marines and do whatever it takes to create a future for himself in the military. At boot camp Ellis, nicknamed French by the other recruits, is a disciplined candidate, even under pressure from his strict drill sergeant (Bokeem Woodbine) who promises, “I will break you.”
Although French never formally announces his queerness, his sexuality puts a target on his back. At the barracks, despite beatings, bullying and outright bias, he excels, proving to himself, the other jarheads and possibly even his homophobic mother, he has found his niche.
“The Inspection” will likely bear the weight of comparison to “Full Metal Jacket,” but despite the obvious similarities in location and the presence of a harsh drill sergeant, these are two very different films thematically. Bratton’s film is not an anti-war film. Instead, it adopts a neutral stance to most of the questions about the duality of war Stanley Kubrick raised in “Full Metal Jacket,” preferring to concentrate on the more introspective note of one man’s transformation in the face of adversity.
This is a classic against-all-odds story that paints a vivid picture of life inside the boot camp, the dehumanization, the violence, but also brotherhood, in the form of instructor Rosales as played by Raul Castillo. Bratton and cinematographer Lachlan Milne carefully build the world of the boot camp, creating a palette of claustrophobia, brutality and tension that adds layers to the telling of French’s survival story.
Bratton brings a personal touch to the filmmaking that feels therapeutic, the kind of storytelling that can only come from his lived experience. The director is aided by a raw and powerful performance from Pope and an unrelenting Union, whose work helps elevate the occasionally cliched aspects of the story.
Richard joins the NewsTalk 1010 afternoon show The Rush for Booze and Reviews! Today we talk about “Ambulance,” the video game flick “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” and Johnny Depp in “Minamata.” Then we take a sip of the Japanese favourite cocktail the Ginza Mary,.
Richard joins NewsTalk 1010 host David Cooper on the coast-to-coast-to-coast late night “Showgram” to play the game “Did Richard Crouse Like This?” This week we talk about the frenetic Beyhem (look it up) of “Ambulance,” the video game flick “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” and Johnny Depp in “Minamata.”
“Minamata” is a mix-and-match of a few different things. The story of celebrated “Life” photojournalist W. Eugene Smith as he documented the effects of toxic mercury poisoning in Japan is part, biopic and part exposé of corporate malfeasance with just a hint of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” thrown in for color.
The story begins in 1971 in New York. Smith (Johnny Depp) is at the tail end of a legendary career. His reclusive and erratic behavior has eroded his relationship with “Life” editor Robert Hayes (Bill Nighy) and the years as a World War II photographer haunt his memory.
Aileen (Minami), a translator for Fuji film advertisement, suggests he go to Japan to witness and document the effects of mercury pollution in the city of Minamata. For a decade and a half, the locals have suffered a neurological disease caused by mercury poisoning, the result of toxic waste dumped into Minamata Bay by the Chisso chemical plant. Aileen wants the eyes of the world to focus on the problem.
The gruff Smith is initially reluctant, but his growing fondness for Aileen, an assignment from “Life” and his own sense of journalistic integrity change his mind. The resulting trip and story transforms both Smith and the perception of the situation in Minamata.
The long delayed “Minamata”—it premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in February 2020—is an uneven film anchored by a rock-solid performance by Johnny Depp. He humanizes the curt Smith, milking out a redemption arc for the character as he atones for past transgressions by applying his craft to make the world a better place for the people of Minamata. His torment is made clear in a speech about the old belief that a photograph steals the soul of its subject. “What gets left out of the fine print,” he says, “is that it can also take a piece of the photographer’s soul.”
It is mature work, without a trace of Capt. Jack. A flash of Hunter S. Thompson peaks through in Smith’s abuse of methamphetamine, alcohol and general disregard for the niceties of being respectful to one’s editor, but overall, Depp digs deep and brings a rough-hewn mix of charm and compassion.
Depp shines in a movie that travels a well-worn path. Stories of activism vs. corporate malfeasance tend to follow a similar trajectory, and “Minamata” is no different. It hits familiar beats of corporate callousness but offers something new in the stunning recreations of Smith’s photos, specifically “Tomoko in her Bath,” the most famous picture from the portfolio.
“Minamata” takes liberties with historical timelines, but this isn’t a documentary, it is a dramatic recreation of Smith’s call to arms, and as such, delivers a compelling, if familiar, story.
Richard joins CP24 to have a look at new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and theatres. Today we talk about Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum in “The Lost City,” the inspirational dramedy “Run Woman Run” and the poignant “Learn to Swim.”
Richard joins host Jim Richards of the NewsTalk 1010 afternoon show The Rush for Booze and Reviews! Today we talk about Sandra Bullock and Tatum in “The Lost City,” the inspirational dramedy “Run Woman Run” and the poignant “Learn to Swim.” Then, we tell you all about the cocktail named for “Tomb Raider” Angelina Jolie.
Watch Richard review three movies in less time than it takes for Channing Tatum to take off his shirt ! Have a look as he races against the clock to tell you about Sandra Bullock and Tatum in “The Lost City,” the inspirational dramedy “Run Woman Run” and the poignant “Learn to Swim.”
Richard joins NewsTalk 1010 host David Cooper on the coast-to-coast-to-coast late night “Showgram” to play the game “Did Richard Crouse Like This?” This week we talk about Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum in “The Lost City,” the inspirational dramedy “Run Woman Run” and the poignant “Learn to Swim.”
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to theatres including the all-star action adventure “The Lost City,” the inspirational dramedy “Run Woman Run” and the poignant “Learn to Swim.”