Without an ounce of ingenuity but plenty of moralizing, Home of the Brave repackages Patricia Foulkrod’s The Ground Truth—a piercing documentary about vets’ struggles to reintegrate into society once home from Iraq—into a laughably clichéd, melodramatic, Oscar-courting prestige pic. As directed by Irwin Winkler, the film alternates between being clunky, stagnant, and downright embarrassing—every interaction equipped with a message about servicemen and women’s difficulties in adjusting to everyday life after enduring the terrifying, traumatizing horrors of war. Such lessons are vital reminders of the toll combat takes on combatants and the military’s deficient support for the discharged. Too bad screenwriter Mark Friedman apparently wouldn’t know how to craft an authentic moment if the wherewithal bit him in the ass, his script the type of contrived mess in which characters spontaneously articulate their feelings and one-dimensional opinions on the Iraq War—and, by extension, the story’s primary themes—via big speeches that take place during dramatically heightened moments. Winkler doesn’t help matters by shooting everything in the most pedestrian way possible, his center-of-the-screen framing matched by flashbacks that are bludgeoning in their obviousness. As a medic unable to cope with memories of carnage, a moderately toned-down Sam Jackson barely registers. That’s more than can be said of the uniformly affected performances of newcomer Brian Presley (a total blank), Christina Ricci (asked, in her one scene, to say things like “I thought they [Iraqis] all hated us”), Chad Michael Murray, Jessica Biel, and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, the latter two delivering “important” monologues that Winkler shoots in self-conscious zooms into close-ups that merely highlight the actors’ inexpressiveness. Then again, subtlety is probably too much to expect from a director who once made a film called Life As a House..
- Irwin Winkler
- Mark Friedman
- Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, Curtis Jackson, Chad Michael Murray, Brian Presley, Christina Ricci
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