In 2017, a Marine veteran named Brian Easley walked into a Wells Fargo bank in Georgia and threatened to detonate a bomb. Suffering from PTSD, he was angry that the Department of Veterans Affairs was withholding his disability checks: checks that totaled just $892.
“Breaking” is based on this true story, with John Boyega portraying Easley. It’s a tragic tale of how America fails our soldiers, but director Abi Damaris Corbin never finds a strong enough way to convey what she wants to say. While technically proficient, the film’s end result is a poorly executed message that succumbs to standard hostage movie tropes. It’s satisfying enough if that’s all you’re seeking.
Boyega is well cast as a desperate man who feels he is out of options and will do the unthinkable just to be heard. Entangled in a bureaucracy that’s inherently unfair, he just wants the money he is owed so he can support his wife and child.
The problem is that Easley doesn’t feel as sympathetic as he should in order to make the film work. His situation is horrible, but he made the unjustifiable choice to take hostages in a bank over a few hundred dollars. What did he think would happen? Spoiler alert: the film implies that Easley anticipated his eventual fate the second he set food inside the Wells Fargo, but chose to go through with his plan anyway. That fact makes him even more unlikable in my eyes,. and it’s difficult to get over that.
The film doesn’t cover new ground and follows the typical hostage film formula, showing how quickly a peaceful negotiation can turn deadly. There’s a lot of crying and shouting into telephones, making demands that we all know will never be met. This doesn’t mean that “Breaking” is bad, it’s just like every other hostage movie. It’s tragic, but forgettable.
By: Louisa Moore