The oddly concoted cast of Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, Christina Ricci, Brian Presley, Chad Michael Murray and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson make up the ensemble drama Home of the Brave, a movie that looks at how soldiers have to deal with adjusting to normal life after returning from the Iraq War. Most modern war flicks have hit theaters with an astounding thud, and Home of the Brave was given a particularly cruel limited release; it's $12 million budget went to waste on pennies in revenue.
It's not too much of a surprise, though, that MGM opted to forgo any kind of wide release for the film. Conceivably, the movie, given its cast, should have been able to at least make back its budget, but aside from that, Home of the Brave is pretty weak when it comes to war dramas. None of the characters' stories are particularly interesting, and movies about the after effects of war - especially wars that have taken place in the 1990's or later - rarely strike a chord with audiences. Ultimately, Home of the Brave is a boring and uninteresting film that at 105 minutes still seems too long.
The problem with Home of the Brave lies in the focus of the film. It's okay that the war action is relatively short; after all, this movie isn't about the war. But director Irwin Winkler and writer Mark Friedman make the mistake of giving us a film about ex-soldiers' struggles without allowing us to relate to their problems. For the ordinary citizen, we have trouble understanding how someone who has returned from war struggles to reincorporate into society. We are told that they have problems and we accept this, but rarely do movies or TV shows try to dig their nails into our skulls and make us understand. I'm pretty sure that was the intent of Home of the Brave, but The Deer Hunter this movie is not.
Home of the Brave has a very glossy and mainstream look to it, and the movie is, in fact, a mainstream attempt at explaining how soldiers have problems once they return from war. This right there is a problem. To master a story like this, I don't think you can take a mainstream approach. You have to be gritty, and you have to be willing to dive into the souls of your characters. And, probably, you need to focus on one or two characters rather than do an ensemble piece. Jackson's storyline, about a medical doctor who becomes a drunk once he returns, could have been great had Winkler devoted an entire hour and a half to the actor. Hell, nearly any of the characters would have been interesting had they been given their own movie. But since each character only receives 20 minutes of screentime, Home of the Brave barely scrapes the surface of the issues at hand.
Home of the Brave is a disappointing and bland war drama that isn't willing to present anything we haven't seen before. Avoid this one - there's nothing to see here.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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