20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Robert De Niro, Cuba Gooding Jr., Charlize Theron
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Animatic Storyboard, Music Video, Music Promo, Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots
"Men of Honor" tells the true story of Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate Carl Brashear (Cuba Gooding Jr.), a sharecropper’s son who is forced to leave school at an early age to help support his family. Convinced that this life just isn’t good enough for his son, Carl’s father, Mac (Carl Lumbly), encourages him to enlist in the Navy as a way out of the crop fields.
From his first day in uniform, Brashear is met with both overt racism and the more insidious institutional bigotry systemic throughout America in 1948. But his father had instilled in him a fierce sense of pride and determination and, after his first glimpse of a Navy deep sea diver, Carl decides that he will do whatever it takes to join that elite group.
In the end, Master Chief Sunday comes to grudgingly respect the fierce determination that Brashear displays and, contrary to the orders of his CO, passes him after an excruciating final exam. Carl goes on to become a senior diver and, in the film’s most exciting sequence, must recover a nuclear bomb dropped into the Mediterranean Sea by a wounded B-52. During this daring mission, Brashear comes to the rescue of his fellow divers and suffers a serious injury as a result of his heroic actions. What follows is a slow recovery against long odds with help from unexpected friends.
Cuba Gooding Jr. delivers as fine a performance as I’ve seen from him and imbues the character of Carl Brashear with a quiet determination. Robert De Niro is surprisingly restrained in his role as Master Chief Billy Sunday which lends an air of credibility to what is in actuality a fictional composite character devised for the movie. Fine performances are also turned in by Michael Rapaport, David Keith, Powers Boothe, Hal Holbrook, and Charlize Theron — who seems to be in every single movie these days.
Audio comes in English <$DD,Dolby Digital> 5.1 and 2.0 Surround mixes as well as a French-dubbed 2.0 track. The 5.1 soundtrack is very well-balanced with a sweeping score, at time thunderous sound effects, and crystal clear dialogue all getting their equal due. The surround channels are used to great effect in the many underwater scenes and the LFE comes to life as well with some nice, deep bass. The 2.0 Surround track is quite good as well although the lack of discrete surrounds is immediately apparent in the action sequences.
Touted as a Special Edition, the "Men of Honor" DVD offers up some nice bonus features. First up is a running commentary with director George Tillman Jr., producer Robert Teitel, screenwriter Scott Marshall Smith, and actor Cuba Gooding Jr. Having all four men participate in the discussion really helps to flesh out the film. While the director and producer provide information on the nuts and bolts of making the movie, the screenwriter discusses how the story of the real Carl Brashear has been adapted for the screen and Cuba Gooding Jr. offers up his more general thoughts on the actors and characters they portray.
The DVD also includes two short featurettes. "The Making of Men of Honor" is a thirteen minute promotional piece that manages to reveal some interesting behind-the-scenes tidbits. "A Tribute to Carl Brashear" is a seven minute interview with the real Carl Brashear. I would have liked to see and hear more about the actual man behind this moving story as this short interview is very superficial.
A short animatic storyboard of the bomb recovery scene is also provided — revealing the CGI used in the scene — and can be watched with either the director’s commentary or an early sound mix.
The music video for Brian McKnight’s "Win" is also presented along with a short promotional piece for the movie’s soundtrack. Rounding out the extras are two theatrical trailers in non-<$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> and two TV spots.
"Men of Honor" is a film that tells a very straightforward story and tries its best to avoid using the easy cliches that one would expect to find in a movie about the triumph of the human will over insurmountable odds. The DVD itself is another stellar effort from the folks at Fox and, while I had one minor quibble with the video, the disc was technically sound. The inclusion of a handful of decent bonus features is a definite plus and I can certainly give the DVD, and the film itself, a solid recommendation.