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Naval Gazing

Men of Honor lays it on thick but not intolerably so

There is a suggestion that the change has something to do with Sunday's conquering his alcoholism or with his reconciliation with his understandably fed-up wife (Charlize Theron, third-billed for what is little more than a cameo), but the opening scene makes it clear that it in fact predates those events. We are left to conclude, with Sunday's having been utterly unmoved by Brashear's first three or four exhibitions of selfless heroism, that something about the fourth or fifth suddenly breaks down his lifelong attitude of racist contempt. (The scenes of heroism are brilliantly handled, filled with excruciating, nail-biting tension.)

Cuba Gooding Jr. in Men of Honor
Cuba Gooding Jr. in Men of Honor

There's no question that Brashear's story, even as filtered through the necessary distortions of filmmaking, is extraordinary and inspiring. Nor should Tillman be denied credit for constructing a spirit-rousing tale. What with Gooding being so noble, Mark Isham's on-the-nose score (which resembles the main theme from Jurassic Park more than a little) and De Niro's transformation, you'd have to be quite the hard-hearted cynic to totally resist the film's inspirational sledgehammer. If you don't view it too analytically, Men of Honor provides almost more uplift than a body can handle.

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