Director Elegance Bratton skillfully guides Jeremy Pope to a star-making performance in The Inspection from A24. In this profoundly moving film, Bratton provides the screenplay inspired by his life story and directing the film.
Originally from the Bronx, Ellis French (Jeremy Pope) is a young Black man who has been kicked out of his home by his mother, Inez (Gabrielle Union), for being gay. Seeing that he has minimal options for the future, Ellis decides to join the Marines to succeed in a system that would otherwise cast him aside.
French's drill instructor, Laws (Bookem Woodbine), is determined to make French's training one of the most difficult he has ever experienced, as are some of his fellow recruits, particularly Harvey (McCaul Lombardi), who is ringleading. Even as French struggles with prejudice and the grueling routines of basic training, he finds unexpected camaraderie, strength, and support in this new community. Giving him a hard-earned sense of belonging that will shape the entire course of his life and forever change the course of his identity.
As I mentioned in my review for Devotion, military-themed movies always hit a bit differently for me since I am a veteran. Primary I wanted to see the film for the talents of Tony nominee Jeremy Pope, who first impressed me in the musical Ain't Too Proud To Beg.
The Inspection is the kind of film that opens the doors for young talent. One of the things I commend Pope for is his handling of the character. Pope never plays Ellis as a victim, particularly during the scenes with Gabrielle Union, who brings the right amount of disapproving bravado to her character.
Similarly, during the scenes with Bokeem Woodbine and McCaul Lombardi, you know that French will eventually earn their respect, and Pops brings his A game to the moment. Regarding the direction of Elegance Bratton, he gives the film an indie look, but it works. Concurrently, potential viewers should know the movie carries an R rating and some sexual situations, but it is tastefully done and not for shock value.
Primarily the film belongs to Pope and, in her limited scenes, Union. However, I would be remiss if I didn't mention another stellar performance from Bookem Woodbine. Underrated for years, Woodbine gets a chance to show off his intensity as a drill sergeant in this film. As a result, Bratton can point out that the character is still haunted by the memories of the combat he saw. That same dread remains with him to this day.
As a result, one of the film's more memorable dialogues occurs between Woodbine and a fellow instructor played by Raul Castillo. The scene happens during the film's third act as training is near completion ends and effectively highlights two different perspectives. Both present earnest cases on which method will shape French.
By no means is The Inspection a perfect film. Naturally, some cliches linger as in most military movies, but with skillful direction and pacing, it's a strong debut from Elegance Bratton.
Final Grade: B+
The Inspection opens in a limited release Wednesday, November 22nd.