MEN OF HONOR
Salty Sailor Nearly Sinks Ship
Release Date: November 10, 2000
Starring: Cuba Gooding, Jr., Robert
DeNiro, Charlize Theron,
Aunjanue Ellis, Hal Holbrook,
& Michael Rapaport
Audience: Older teenagers & adults
Runtime: 128 minutes
Distributor: Fox 2000 Pictures/20th Century
Director: George Tillman, Jr.
Executive Producer: Bill Cosby & Stanley Robertson
Producer: Robert Teitel & Bill Badalato
Writer: Scott Marshall Smith
Address Comments To:Tom Rothman & Jim Gianopulos, Chairmen
Fox Filmed Entertainment
20th Century Fox Film Corp.
A division of Fox, Inc. & News Corp.
10201 West Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
The movie opens with Carl as a young boy. Viewers see Carl helping his father plow the fields so that the family can remain tenants on a Southern farm owned by a white man. Several years later, circa 1948 or 1949, Carl’s father bids farewell to Carl, who is off to join the United States Navy. On board a ship, Carl and the other black sailors are relegated to kitchen, janitorial and servant duty. Carl, however, longs to be one of the Navy’s deep sea divers, who he sees risk their lives to save the crew on a Navy helicopter that’s crashed at sea. The captain of the boat notices Carl’s excellent swimming abilities one day and assigns him to help the divers as a swimmer. DeNiro’s character, Billy Sunday, however, happens to be one of the divers. Like the other white divers, Sunday doesn’t cotton to working with a black man, even though Carl’s only part of the swimming crew.
Several years later, Carl has finally gotten permission to train as a deep sea diver at a Navy facility in Louisiana. Unhappily, he finds that the facility is run by an elderly racist officer nicknamed Mister Pappy, played by Hal Holbrook, and that Billy Sunday is the head instructor there. Sunday, Mister Pappy and the other white men do everything they can to discourage Carl, even cheating on the final undersea test he must pass. Carl’s determination to succeed is so strong, however, that Sunday eventually sticks his neck out to help Carl become a real-life Navy diver. Years later, Carl will need his help to overcome a personal crisis that may force him to retire from the job he loves.
MEN OF HONOR has several dramatic climaxes, not the least of which is a final courtroom drama. Carl Brashear’s courage, honor and sheer determination become a tremendous inspiration not only to the audience but also to Robert DeNiro’s character. In fact, Carl inspires Billy Sunday to overcome his battle with the bottle, as an alcoholic, and remain in the Navy that he also loves. Despite its potent drama, the movie runs a little long; thus, it takes a while to get to those stirring climaxes. Another, more minor problem is that Cuba Gooding, Jr., as Brashear, seems a bit too earnest and unconvincing at times. This problem may just be a script problem, however.
Although its themes of honor and courage lend MEN OF HONOR a prominent moral worldview, the movie includes plenty of strong salty language, mostly from DeNiro’s rough character. DeNiro turns in a tremendous, compelling performance in this movie, but the harsh language of his salty sailor slams viewers in the face in the opening scene and continues periodically throughout the rest of the movie.
Some people will contend that such foul language is necessary to give a masculine movie like this one a sense of realism for today’s jaded, cynical viewers. This idea is false. MOVIEGUIDE®’s annual analysis of movies, for instance, shows that strong R-rated language severely limits the box office appeal of a movie. Thus, there’s no excuse to have such language in MEN OF HONOR. Since the movie is a compelling drama with strong moral themes, it would be perfectly capable of pulling in a much larger audience if the foul language was greatly toned down or eliminated altogether.
Therefore, mostly because of the movie’s strong foul language, viewers should exercise extreme caution about seeing MEN OF HONOR. Even so, however, it must be noted that the movie also includes a strong father-son theme. This theme adds much to the story’s moral sentiments. The key icon of this theme is a small hand-made family radio, which Carl’s father gives to him when he goes off to join the Navy. The father has inscribed the initials ASNF on the side of the radio. The meaning of the words inspires Carl to never quit and also ends up inspiring Billy Sunday.
Master Chief Carl Brashear is truly an American hero. It’s a terrific thing that he now has a major movie honoring his achievements. Of course, this makes the immoral language in MEN OF HONOR that much more regrettable.
MEN OF HONOR has several dramatic climaxes, not the least of which is a final courtroom drama. Carl Brashear’s courage, honor and sheer determination become a tremendous inspiration not only to the audience but also to Robert DeNiro’s character. However, because of the movie’s strong, repeated foul language, viewers should exercise extreme caution about seeing MEN OF HONOR. Even so, it must be noted that the movie includes a strong father-son theme. This theme adds to the story’s moral sentiments. Master Chief Carl Brashear is truly an American hero. It’s terrific that he now has a major movie honoring his achievements, but this makes the immoral language that much more regrettable