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The One-Line Summary: Carl Brashear (Gooding, Jr.) is the black son of a sharecropper in 1948 who joins the United States Navy to be a diver but faces bigotry and prejudice at every turn, but is motivated to fight on by his idol and mentor Master Chief Petty Officer Leslie William “Billy” Sunday (De Niro), who faces his own wrath from superiors that warn him to fail the black cadet or lose his own rank.
The Two-Line Blurb: Directed by George Tillman Jr, this melodramatic film, loosely based on a true story, is an inspiring tale that almost reaches the depths it aims for but is hampered by a few too many characters and situations that hammer the premise too hard and sometimes feels like its trying to check off a list of absolutes that the genre requires. Led by a strong performance by Cuba Gooding Jr., the movie does tell a striking story that is certainly unique and one not often visited upon in Hollywood, making it worth a watch.
The Three-Line Set-up: This moment is all about redemption and begins when Brashear is selected to join the Diving and Salvage School under the instruction of Sunday, though struggles as his 7th-grade education holds him back. He meets and falls for a doctor who helps him study, but faces terrible racism when he’s denied a medal for courage when his act of bravery in saving a fellow diver is ignored and given to a white diver who actually fled the scene. Undaunted, he eventually completes the training and years later is part of the heroic recovery effort to raise an atomic bomb that went down in a plane crash over the Mediterranean Sea, though in a frightful accident while bringing it onto aboard, has his leg mangled by deck rigging that gives way.
The Four-Line Moment: After it becomes clear that amputation is the only way to return to active duty and a normal life, Brashear is fitted for a prosthetic leg and wishes to dive, but once again is faced with discrimination as no person with a lost limb has come back to their post. His friend Sunday, subsequently demoted for his role in seeing Brashear graduate years before, comes to his aid once more and begins the long, hard fight against Naval red tape, ending up in front of a board of inquiry to test the abilities of a handicapped man in the required diving gear. In the standard, weighted atmospheric diving suit, Sunday demands the younger sailer to rise up in the suit and approach the 12 steps toward him. This gripping moment is a cinematic highlight, displaying great human courage and perseverance in the face of incredible odds.
The Five-Word Review: A predictable but inspiring story.
George Tillman Jr.
Scott Marshall Smith
Cuba Gooding Jr., Robert De Niro, Charlize Theron