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|
|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 leaves his native Kentucky and the life of a sharecropper in 1948 by 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. 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 grade 7 in order to work on his family's failing farm. He receives educational assistance from his future wife, a medical student who works part-time in the New York Public Library in Harlem. Brashear proves himself as a diver by rescuing a fellow student whose dive buddy abandons him during a salvage evaluation. Unfortunately, due to the racism of the commanding officer, 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 has to assemble a flange underwater using a bag of tools, Brashear's bag is cut open on purpose. Brashear nevertheless finishes the assembly and graduates from diving school, earning the quiet and suppressed admiration of Sunday and his fellow divers. Sunday is later demoted to senior chief by the commanding officer for standing up for Brashear and allowing him to pass.
The paths and careers of Brashear and Sunday diverge. Brashear rises quickly through the ranks, even becoming a national hero in the 1966 Palomares incident for recovering a missing atomic bomb and for saving the life of Navy crew. Sunday continually loses his composure around officers who disrespect his accomplishments, until he is finally demoted to chief petty officer and relegated to menial duties. He becomes a brooding alcoholic displeased with his lowered rank.
The two eventually meet again after Brashear's left leg was so mangled in the Palomares incident that he feels that his only chance to return to active duty and a relatively normal life is for it to be amputated and replaced with a prosthesis. Until this time, no Navy man had ever returned to full active duty with a prosthetic limb. Sunday again trains Brashear and aids him in his fight against the Navy's bureaucracy and an antagonistic Navy captain (Brashear's and Sunday's former Hoist executive officer) in order to return to full active duty and fulfill his dream of becoming a master diver. They succeed in getting Brashear 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
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 with the consensus stating: "De Niro and Gooding Jr. manage to turn in performances that make this by-the-numbers inspirational movie watchable."  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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