When you make a film about a war there are bound to be politics involved. I mean, come on, this is Hollywood for crying out loud. Every film must decide, at some point, whether it is for or against the particular war that it portrays, or at least that is how critics like myself will see it. In this light, Irvin Winkler’s Home of the Brave seems to have a bit of identity crisis, never really deciding whether it wants to be for or against the war in Iraq, but in this case, indecision may not be the film’s only fault.
The story centers around members of an Army Reserve squadron from Spokane, Washington, all of whom were involved in a terrible convoy ambushing right before they were due to come home after a lengthy tour in Iraq. It shows how the war affected their lives once they returned home, all of them struggling greatly to return back to normal life. Samuel L. Jackson, in a role with no snakes and no badass-ness, plays a doctor who battles alcoholism and a son who wears a “Buck Fush” t-shirt to school to speak out against the war. Jessica Biel plays Vanessa, a member of a maintenance company who lost her hand during the convoy attack. Brian Presley and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson play cavalry soldiers, both who were wounded and lost a close friend (Chad Michael Murray) during the battle.
The film begins in Iraq, showing the brutal day that changed the lives of these soldiers. The battle scene does not linger, but it does stick around long enough to make its point. The scenes of the streets of Iraq before the battle, slow pans with little score behind them, remind the audience of the depressing level of Iraq’s situation. The actual battle sequence itself is brief but brutal, Winkler does a good job of showing the blood to the audience, but never shoving it in our faces.
From there the film begins to unravel. At some points it begins to feel like an anti-war political ad that you would see on television, with soldiers meeting in public and jumping into an all too predisposed conversation about how people treat them differently after they have been to war. It is not to say that this message, among others, couldn’t fit in a film or doesn’t belong, it is truly just poor delivery. Other points of the film seem to take on a more somber approach, paying homage to the bravery of the soldiers who fight.
The performances in the film are also just mediocre. Samuel L. Jackson, who left his usual foul-mouthed persona at the door, gives a hollow and often forced performance. As his character begins to spiral downward into the abyss of alcoholism, his performance dives with him. So too does this film continue to spiral downward, into the dumps of being just another “nice try”. Someone should give Irwin Winkler an “at-a-boy” pat on the back and kindly remind him to stick to producing and let the real directors direct. In the end, Home of the Brave is a reflection of itself, its only emerging theme being that once you come home, something stays with you, thankfully once you return home from a viewing of this flick, should you be so bold, you can forget that it ever happened.