Men of Honor
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|Men of Honor|
Original film poster
|Directed by||George Tillman, Jr.|
|Produced by||Bill Badalato
|Written by||Scott Marshall Smith|
|Starring||Robert De Niro
Cuba Gooding, Jr.
|Music by||Mark Isham|
|Cinematography||Anthony B. Richmond|
|Edited by||John Carter
Fox 2000 Pictures
State Street Pictures
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
Men of Honor (released in the UK and Ireland as Men of Honour) is a 2000 drama film, starring Robert De Niro and Cuba Gooding, Jr. The film was directed by George Tillman, Jr. It is inspired by the true story of Master chief petty officer Carl Brashear, the first African American master diver in the United States Navy.
Carl Brashear (Gooding, Jr.) decides to leave his lifestyle in native Kentucky in 1948 and the life of a sharecropper by way of joining the United States Navy. As a crew member of the salvage ship USS Hoist, where he is assigned to the galley, he is inspired by the bravery of one of the divers, Master Chief Petty Officer Leslie William "Billy" Sunday (De Niro). He is determined to overcome racism and become the first black American Navy diver, even proclaiming that he will become a master diver. He eventually is selected to attend Diving and Salvage School in Bayonne, New Jersey where he arrives as a boatswain's mate second class. He finds that Master Chief Sunday is the leading chief petty officer and head instructor, who is under orders from the school's eccentric, bigoted commanding officer to ensure that Brashear fails.
Brashear struggles to overcome his educational shortcomings, a result of his leaving school in the 7th grade in order to help his family's failing farm. He receives educational assistance from his future wife, an aspiring doctor, who works part-time in the Harlem (New York City) Public Library. Brashear proves himself as a diver by rescuing a fellow student whose dive buddy abandoned him during a salvage evaluation that turns into a near disaster. Unfortunately, due to the prevailing racism of the commanding officer (Hal Holbrook), the student who fled in the face of danger is awarded a medal for Brashear's heroic actions. Likewise, during an underwater assembling task where each student had to assemble a flange underwater using a bag of tools, Brashear's bag is cut open. Brashear nevertheless finishes the assembly and successfully completes the diving school, earning the quiet and suppressed admiration of Master Chief Sunday and his fellow divers. Master Chief Sunday is later demoted to senior chief by the commanding officer for standing up for Brashear and allowing him to pass. Sunday's career begins to wane as he continues to lose his composure around the officers that disrespect his accomplishments, until he is finally demoted to chief petty officer and relegated to menial duties.
The paths and careers of both Brashear and Sunday sharply diverge as Brashear rises quickly through the ranks, even becoming a national hero in 1966 Palomares B-52 crash (Spain) for recovering a missing atomic bomb and for saving the life of Navy crew, while the latter becomes a brooding alcoholic and is displeased with his low rank. The two eventually meet again after Brashear loses his left leg in the atomic bomb incident and Sunday again trains Brashear and aids him in his fight against the US Navy bureaucracy and an antagonistic Navy Captain (a former Lieutenant and the XO of the Hoist when both men served on that ship) in order to return to full active duty and fulfill his dream of becoming a master diver. They are successful and Brashear is reinstated.
In the epilogue, it is noted that two years later Brashear becomes a master diver. It is added that he does not retire from the Navy for another nine years.
- Robert De Niro as Master Chief Leslie Sunday
- Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Boatswain's Mate Second Class (later Master Diver) Carl Brashear
- Chris Warren, Jr. as Young Carl
- Charlize Theron as Gwen Sunday
- Aunjanue Ellis as Jo Brashear
- Hal Holbrook as Camp commanding officer "Mr.Pappy" Captain USN.
- Michael Rapaport as Gunners Mate Snowhill, Brashear's barracks mate and a stutterer.
- Powers Boothe as Captain Pullman
- David Keith as Captain Hartigan
- Holt McCallany as Machinist's Mate First Class Dylan Rourke
- David Conrad as Captain Hanks
- Joshua Leonard as Petty Officer Second Class Timothy Douglas Isert
- Carl Lumbly as Mac Brashear
- L. Luquette as Diving Expert
- Lonette McKee as Ella Brashear
- Glynn Turman as Chief Floyd
- Joshua Feinman as DuBoyce
- Richard Radecki as diving master chief
- Dennis Troutman as Boots
- Miguel Brickman as Editor-in-chief
The film features the classic US Navy Mark V diving equipment used by the Navy from 1915 until 1985. It is rare to see this equipment used in motion pictures. The equipment was custom made by DESCO, who manufactured the gear for the Navy along with three other makers. The helmets used were actually commercial helmets (which have larger glass windows or "lights") on Navy breast plates, allowing greater visibility of the actors. The divers wore equipment weighing about 200 pounds (91 kg).
The film opened at the third position at the North American box office behind Little Nicky and Charlie's Angels, which was on its second week at the top spot. Men of Honor was met with mixed reviews. It currently has a 41% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, calling it "an old-fashioned biopic" but criticized Theron's appearance in the film, calling it "professional but unnecessary to the picture".
Mark Isham's soundtrack was released as an album in 2000.
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- Men of Honor at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Men of Honor at the Internet Movie Database
- Men of Honor at AllMovie
- Men of Honor at Rotten Tomatoes
- Men of Honor at Box Office Mojo