Men of Honor
Cuba Gooding Jr. goes head to head with Robert DeNiro in Men of Honor. The inspirational tale of male conflict is based on the real-life experiences of Carl Brashear. He was the first African American to ascend into the fiercely closed ranks of Navy Master Divers. Cuba Gooding tailors his contagious affability into a heroic shape to portray Brashear's constant struggles against a racist American system. It's a handsome fit: Gooding's charisma softens the sentimental edge. DeNiro, on the other hand, seems to heighten it. He plays mean redneck Master Chief Billy Sunday. Part alcoholic, part reprisal of DeNiro's Cape Fear character, Sunday is not someone you'd want throwing traps across your path. This composite villain has it out for Brashear, but he's not the only one. When Brashear arrives all but one of the diving crew refuse to bunk with him. David Conrad's high-ranking military official may be more even more bigoted than the soldiers. And along with racism there are troubles brought by ambition. Brashear's tireless devotion to the Navy imperils his relationship with wife Jo (Aunjanue Ellis).
The lessons learned in Men of Honor are anything but surprising. Nearly all of the movies that deal with the military distort the subject matter with humor or melodrama. That considered, the melodrama of this film is seemly, defensible matter.