“The Inspection”

This film was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival

Writer / director Elegance Bratton‘s “The Inspection” is a highly personal film inspired by his real life experience in the Marine Corps. It’s a sad story about the rampant homophobia that he faced while enduring boot camp, ending with a hopeful message that feels designed to prevent alienating viewers. Most of the material is compelling, but the narrative is overly simple and riddled with clichés.

French (Jeremy Pope) has been disowned by his mother (Gabrielle Union, in a scene-stealing performance). She’s ashamed of her son, leaving him to fend for himself on the streets. Homeless, gay, and hoping to turn his life around and make his mama proud, he sees no other option and enlists in the Marines. Life isn’t easy for a homosexual black man in the military in 2005, and French is abused mentally and physically by his drill sergeants and peers. Basic training is an ordeal and a test of endurance for any new recruit, but especially for a gay man. French is bullied, beaten, and harassed in a series of maltreatment, yet he never gives up. He’s not a quitter, and he works twice as hard to earn the respect of his superiors and platoon.

There are some heartbreaking scenes of homophobia, and Pope gives a moving performance that creates a highly sympathetic character. You can sense the drive in his personality and the pain in his heart as French realizes he’s attracted to his drill instructor (Raúl Castillo). Set during the height of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, the film delicately portrays the struggles of a gay man not only trying to better himself, but to conceal his sexual identity in the process.

All of the boilerplate story elements that you’ll find in most military movies are here, including French’s teary-eyed reunion with his mom at graduation. The conversation goes the way you expect and just like the rest of the film, it’s predictable. Bratton’s direction is dry and unexciting, which matches the most uninspired parts of his screenplay. Still, the movie offers a different and interesting perspective from a filmmaker who actually lived this story, and that added dose of realism helps make “The Inspection” a mild success.

By: Louisa Moore

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