August 12th, 2022
STARRING: JOHN BOYEGA, NICOLE BEHARIE, SELENIS LEYVA, MICHAEL KENNETH WILLIAMS, CONNIE BRITTON, JEFFREY DONOVAN
DIRECTED BY: ABI DAMARIS CORBIN
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
Recently, the subject of military veterans and the support they receive has been in the front of our minds, especially for the lack of care they are given. The reason for this was because of the bill signed to give health care for veterans that were exposed to toxic burn pits and how Republican lawmakers refused to sign onto the bill. These are the moments that wake everyday people out of their stupors of life, just for a brief moment, to see the humans that have given everything they could, and in return are used as pawns in a political game. The question I ask is, what about the moments when it’s not in front of mind, when there isn’t a vote taking place, or when it’s just a regular day? It’s those days when veterans need our help, from mental health, physical health, and financial support. In Breaking, the new film from Abi Damaris Corbin, we learn about the story of Brian Brown-Easley (played by a spectacular John Boyega), a Marine veteran that fought in Iraq, who found himself pushed to the edge when Veterans Affairs was not giving him his due funds. It led to him holding up a bank with a bomb, demanding his money, but more importantly speaking up for a world of veterans that deserve to be heard. Breaking is consistently tense, with excellent acting all around, in a true story that will break you up and wake you up to the support that must be demanded for military veterans now.
We first meet Brian walking along the highway and talking with his wife Cassandra (Olivia Washington), as he seems to be getting from one office to the next, trying to figure out his financial woes. Brian speaks with his daughter Kiah (London Covington) as a father who clearly has been behind the ball in many aspects, struggling to return back home after what he saw in war, and trying to be the best person he can be for his family. He then enters into a Wells Fargo the next day, prior to concocting some form of an explosive device- it’s never clear if the device is active- but he asks everyone in the building to leave except for two managers- Rosa (Selenis Leyva) and Estel (Nicole Beharie)- putting them in the middle of his anger, communicating with SWAT teams, and a negotiator- played by the late great Michael K. Williams. It makes for a highly tense and intense situation where the pain of one man comes to a breaking point.
An easy movie to compare to Breaking is Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon and that’s not a bad take, especially because the lead performance by John Boyega is incredibly powerful. There are multiple moments where the Star Wars actor loses himself, fully submerging into this man, expressing his pain and anguish in an authentic way. Alongside his work is an array of spectacular supporting performances from Beharie- who allows her brief moments to equally express her own characters fears and stresses. You also see the last performance of Michael K. Williams, who is not given enough to do, but his performance is solid, and an instant reminder of an actor gone too soon.
From a directing and writing standpoint, Breaking is strong work by Abi Damaris Corbin and co-writer Kwame Kwei-Armah, balancing the back and forth between the tight situation inside the bank, and the patiently waiting police outside. The third angle brought in is Connie Britton as a local news reporter, speaking to Brian as he calmly discusses why he’s going to these drastic measures. Under other circumstances, Breaking could play like a melodramatic story, with acting that never becomes believable. That’s never the story here. With Boyega leading the way, it’s impossible not to be sucked in by the situation, and become fearful that compassion for a Black man will be lost in the moment.
On the surface Breaking is just a hostage situation film, no different to a movie such as Phone Booth, Inside Man, or Captain Phillips, but this time around we see all the sides of the story. Breaking is a true story that we know about and you leave wondering how many other stories are just like this, where a veteran has reached their breaking point, in a world that keeps pushing them down. For some, seeing the traumatic moments for a Black man will be too much, but it’s obvious that Boyega and Corbin want to shine a light on this person. There is a cold reality that audiences might leave seeing Breaking and feel despair. My only hope is that the message does sink in, that we see too many people struggling like Brian Brown-Easley, and we can’t let them get to this Breaking point. They’ve already given enough.
BREAKING IS PLAYING EXCLUSIVELY IN THEATERS FRIDAY AUGUST 26TH 2022 FROM BLEECKER STREET.
Written by: Leo Brady