Plot: What’s it about?
Based on a true story, Men of Honor tells the chain of events that surround Carl Brashear (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) and his dream to become a master class diver in the Navy. Since Brashear is a black man however, that won’t be a simple task, as no one aside from whites has ever been selected to join the elite dive teams. He was inspired by the heroics of a diver however and no matter what it takes, Brashear is determined to make his dream come true. Soon enough, Carl finds himself enrolled in the diving training camp and his instructor is the man who inspired him to become a diver, Billy Sunday (Robert De Niro). Of course, this thrills Brashear and he loves to be around Sunday, but his instructor does not return that sentiment and in truth, would love to see Brashear fail in every respect. In addition to his problems in that area, Brashear also faces brutal hazing times from his fellow students, as well as various other obstacles. Can Brashear overcome the almost impossible odds and make his dream come true, by becoming a U.S. Navy Master Diver?
I knew this would be worth a look as soon as the names Robert De Niro and Cuba Gooding, Jr. flashed across the screen, but even so, I was surprised with how much I liked Men of Honor. I expected terrific performances of course, but I was really taken in by the storyline and although I wasn’t inspired, I do feel it was very well written and executed. Now I do think the lead performances are so good that some flaws in the material are glossed over, but in the end, I feel Men of Honor has a more than solid storyline and unfolds rather well. Gooding and De Niro have some help from the support cast also, which includes Hal Holbrook, Charlize Theron, Michael Rapaport, Powers Boothe, and Michael Keith. In other words, Men of Honor has a wealth of excellent performances and on that basis alone, the flick is worth seeing, if you ask me. But the rest of the elements also work well, which forms a very solid overall picture, although not a classic by any means. I give this one a good recommendation, though the second time around, the film didn’t hold up as well. So I am left to recommend a rental, but if you’re going to see Men of Honor, might as well make it this Blu-ray release.
He has an Oscar under his belt and a number of terrific performances, but to me, Cuba Gooding, Jr. still hasn’t found his niche in the business. When he is given the right roles, Gooding explodes on screen and commands the audience, but more often than not, he ends up in shallow films with little chance to shine. I prefer his energetic, but more dialogue driven turns to his action geared roles, but in Men of Honor, he is able to blend the two very well. A lot of physical demands are made upon him, but he is also allowed to open up a lot, which is where he works best, especially in scenes with Robert De Niro. Another solid effort from Gooding and although I think he is doomed to forever be a supporting player, I still like most of his work. Other films with Gooding include A Murder Of Crows, Outbreak, Jerry Maguire, Boyz N The Hood, As Good As It Gets, What Dreams May Come, and A Few Good Men. The rest of the cast here includes Robert De Niro (Taxi Driver, Meet The Parents), Aunjanue Ellis (A Map of the World, In Too Deep), Hal Holbrook (Waking The Dead, The Firm), David Keith (U-571, Major League II), Powers Boothe (Sudden Death, Red Dawn), Michael Rapaport (Small Time Crooks, Lucky Numbers), and Charlize Theron (The Devil’s Advocate, Reindeer Games).
Video: How does it look?
Men of Honor is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is another great looking Blu-ray title from Fox, a crisp and sharp picture that is sure to impress. The level of detail is excellent, backgrounds look lush and show a lot of depth, so subtle touches are more visible this time around. I wouldn’t call this transfer razor sharp throughout, but it is quite sharp and detail is high. I also found colors to be remarkable, as hues are vivid and rich, while also natural in scope. No problems with contrast either, as black levels remain accurate at all times and no detail is lost in the shadows. I did notice some grain, but that is expected and softness is minimal, though the image does show some at times. So not a perfect visual transfer, but a very impressive one and I doubt fans will have much to complain about here.
Audio: How does it sound?
The DTS HD soundtrack provided here is dynamic, but not in the usual sense, as power isn’t prominent, just superb sound design. The film has action scenes, but even the calmer moments sound great, thanks to a lot of detail in the audio scope. The surrounds are sparse in these scenes, but the front channels handle the load with ease, so no problems there. The surrounds up the ante when the action picks up, with more power and depth, to put us right in the thick of the situation. I was also impressed by the musical score, as it sounds boisterous and alive in this soundtrack. This disc also includes Spanish and French language tracks, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The standard DVD had numerous supplements, but this version offers only a few of those options. The only substantial item here is the audio commentary track with director George Tillman, Jr., star Cuba Gooding, Jr., producer Robert Teitel, and writer Scott Marshall Smith, which is decent, but unremarkable. The session features some additional information on the real life story, as well as various anecdotes from the production. This disc also includes a trivia track, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer. So there’s a lot of material absent, which is sure to disappoint fans.