Men of Honor

November 10th, 2000


Men of Honor

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

Release Year: 2000

Rating: 6.9/10 (43,946 voted)

Critic's Score: 56/100

Director: George Tillman Jr.

Stars: Cuba Gooding Jr., Robert De Niro, Charlize Theron

The story ultimately revolves around two "men of honor"; their relationship, their individual and joint failures and triumphs. Carl Brashear is determined to be the first African American Navy Diver in a time where racism is strife. Leslie Sunday is his embittered trainer, determined to see him fail. Fate, challenges and circumstances eventually draw these two men together in a tale of turbulance and ultimately triumph.

Robert De Niro - Master Chief Billy Sunday
Cuba Gooding Jr. - Chief Carl Brashear
Charlize Theron - Gwen Sunday
Aunjanue Ellis - Jo
Hal Holbrook - 'Mr. Pappy'
Michael Rapaport - GM1 Snowhill
Powers Boothe - Captain Pullman
David Keith - Captain Hartigan
Holt McCallany - MM1 Dylan Rourke
David Conrad - Lt. / Cmdr. / Capt. Hanks
Joshua Leonard - PO2 Timothy Douglas Isert
Carl Lumbly - Mac Brashear
Lonette McKee - Ella Brashear
Glynn Turman - Chief Floyd
Dennis Troutman - Boots

Taglines: History is made by those who break the rules.

Release Date: 10 November 2000

Filming Locations: Cathlamet, Washington, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $32,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $13,339,465 (USA) (12 November 2000) (2092 Screens)

Gross: $48,814,909 (USA) (4 March 2001)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

In the hearing to determine if Senior Chief Brashear can remain a diver, his insignia is gold and Chief Sunday's is red. Chief Sunday has had a record of bad conduct. Gold chevrons are used if an enlisted man has a good conduct record of at least 12 years.

Anachronisms: In the initial scene in the barracks a modern fire extinguisher is seen hanging on the wall in the background. At this time the barracks would have had either a simple water bucket or a more primitive extinguisher.

Billy Sunday: Think you deserve to be here, don't ya? Fraternizing among navy men? Think you're as good as they are? How 'bout me, cookie? You better than me?
Carl Brashear: You're damn right I am!

User Review

An inspirational story with some shortcomings

Rating: 7/10

Military training films are becoming so common that they are becoming a genre unto themselves. Among the more prominent we have, `Officer and a Gentleman', `Top Gun', `GI Jane', and now `Men of Honor'. The fact that this one happened to be true doesn't change the fact that the formula is the same. This film is probably most like `GI Jane' since it focuses on the desegregation angle.

The story is actually quite inspirational and is probably the best human-interest story among those mentioned above. Carl Brashear (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) is unquestionably a man of great courage and principle, and his strength of character shines through brightly in this film. Unfortunately, director George Tillman has tunnel vision in presenting the characters and eschews character development of various characters other than Brashear in favor of showing Brashear in a constant state of adversity. Billy Sunday (Robert De Niro) is a central figure, and except for the initial scene, the fistfight and a couple of scenes with his wife, we don't know much about him. For instance, Brashear sees the scars on Sunday's palms and we are to assume that he worked a plow, but there is no follow-up on that point. Mr. Pappy (Hal Holbrook) gets only one short scene by which we can judge him. The rest of his screen time shows him pacing around and ranting. If a director is going to make a human-interest story, he needs to humanize the characters.

Cuba Gooding Jr. gives an outstanding performance as Brashear. This is probably the best I've seen him. This is a role and a character that is far more complete than any part he has played before, and he rises to the occasion. In `Jerry Maguire', Rod Tidwell was a fascinating, but one-dimensional character with the depth of a rain puddle. Brashear is much more complex and grounded, and the issues he faces are life crises, making the part far more challenging. This is an excellent recovery from Gooding's last role in `Chill Factor', a film so dreadful that it was almost an act of professional suicide to take the part.

After a stint trying his hand as a comedian (`Analyze This', `The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle', `Meet The Parents'), Robert DeNiro is back to his dramatic roots with an outstanding performance. DeNiro isn't a bad comedian, he is just such a great dramatic actor that it seems like he shouldn't waste his time doing comedy. DeNiro endows Billy Sunday with a rock hard personality belying a tortured soul. It is a pleasure watching him work.

It seems every film I watch lately has Charlize Theron in it. I saw `The Legend of Bagger Vance', `Men of Honor' and `The Yards' right in a row and I was beginning to wonder if she had a part in every film in 2000 (actually, she only did five). This was a minor role for Theron, but she carried it off well and managed to stay with DeNiro step for step. David Keith, who co-starred with Richard Gere in `Officer and a Gentleman', has a cameo here

The DVD has some interesting special features, including reflections by the real Carl Brashear and some deleted scenes.

I enjoyed this film despite the hackneyed plot and the one-dimensional presentation. I rated it a 7/10. I'm a sucker for underdog stories and I have a fondness for stories where strength of character is the central theme. This film is particularly strong in both areas and brings us two memorable acting performances that compensate for some of the director's shortcomings.


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