Many people like to call themselves patriotic and support soldiers in service and governments worldwide, including our own. However, when that service is complete, we seem to forget about those veterans. The question is not about the wars they went to but rather the treatment they receive when they return to civilian life. In 2017, Brian Brown-Easley, a former U.S Marine, wanted his $892 (£734), so he took matters into his own hands. Abi Damaris Corbin‘s Breaking, starring John Boyega, features a performance straight from the pages of the Denzel Washington School of Acting…powerful.
Many men and women worldwide go to war to fight, and many come home broken physically and mentally. It’s important not to forget them when they return home. It’s upsetting to see their lives destroyed by drugs, alcohol, and other factors, like a set of dominoes that also destroys the lives of those close to them.
Brian Brown-Easley is one of those broken people who are at their wits’ end. He is living in basic digs in a motel in the Atlanta area and is in dire need of assistance from the state. When we first meet him, he has been arrested and thrown out of the government office for social services (Veteran Affairs). He has been refused his disability benefit of $892, and without this money, he will not be able to pay his rent and may be thrown out onto the street.
Brian is in no way becoming homeless. Before desperation takes over his life, he chats with his daughter, who lives with his ex-partner Cassandra (Olivia Washington) and is separated from him. Through this call, the basics of Brian’s life are set up, and it’s not good. It’s obvious he is suffering from mental health issues, especially PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). It doesn’t help that he’s also unemployed and has no solid income apart from his disability cheque.
Brian walked into his local Wells Fargo bank the following day as if he were withdrawing cash like any other customer. He withdrew $25 notes and handed a written note to Rosa Diaz (Selenis Leyva), one of the tellers, which stated that he had a bomb. It was his only option, and he knew that it would only have one outcome, which he had to accept. His stance was to highlight his plight and get the money he deserved. The bank emptied its customers, leaving only Rosa Diaz and the manager, Estel Valerie (Nicole Beharie). The police were now aware of the hostage situation at the bank, and the first on the scene was Police negotiator Eli Bernard (Michael Kenneth Williams), determined to ensure that no one was injured or worse.
Breaking was originally called 892 after the payment that Brian was denied. Of course, people will jump onboard the Dog Day Afternoon similarities, even with Denzil Washington‘s John Q. All involving men who have been dragged into the darkest places of society, with only desperate measures left for them to take. Throughout the film, we get glimpses of Brian’s sincerity, politeness, and the bank tellers can see that and empathize with him. They can also see that he’s losing grip on reality in the pressure cooker surroundings. Bernard knows that Brian is a good man, but time is running out for him to save him from what is coming next.
Every day, we hear or read about servicemen and women left in the gutter by those who said they would look after them after their tour of duty. I can’t speak from a personal level, but these people have been badly let down. In a world where the few prosper and everyone suffers for their misdemeanours, the money Brian wanted would bring him a lifeline, maybe even a stepping stone for him to better things.
John Boyega is riveting as Brian, commanding the screen, and we feel his pain and suffering. We truly want him to get that money and help. It’s heartbreaking to know the final outcome, as it’s based on a true story from 2017. Michael Kenneth Williams (in his last performance) is solid as Bernard, a man willing to listen to Brian and try to do something. Breaking maybe a story we haven seen many times before on the screen. What it does is reminds society has to stop dehumanizing people and actually help and support them.
Crime, Drama | USA, 2022 | 15 | Digital HD | 27th March 2023 (UK) | Universal Pictures | Dir.Abi Damaris Corbin | John Boyega, Nicole Beharie, Selenis Leyva, Michael Kenneth Williams