All four live in Spokane, Wash., and upon their return find it difficult to resume their prewar lives. Will is bedeviled by his combat experience and starts to withdraw from his wife. As a doctor, it's his job to have the answers, and here he has none, so he retreats to the bottle. Jackson is always a welcome presence, but it's been awhile since a character has required him to completely strip away the pop sensibility that enlivened signature turns in films like Pulp Fiction and the Star Wars prequels. And there is something about the voice, the body language and his whole Samuel Jackson-ness that makes it harder to acknowledge any emotional vulnerability, even when played against the obvious trope that the more impregnable the man, the more tragic his descent.
The film stays mostly apolitical, although Will is stuck with a rebellious son Billy (Sam Jones III), an antiwar teen who wears a Buck Fush t-shirt and hates his father for voluntarily participating in some American Imperialist escapade. Their conflict is tantalizing, but its climax, as a drunken Will gets medieval on Billy's new lip ring, is straight down Broadway. The same can be said for Vanessa, who is struggling with her prosthetic hand. After dumping her well-meaning husband, she finds a new lover by way of a disappointingly standard meet-cute, as Mr. Nice Guy helps her pick up a box of papers she dropped on the ground. Biel, whose recent, more serious roles are a grab at credibility, is certainly not bad, but she's a surface-level actor. The same goes for rapper Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, who has a very strong presence, but can't sell anything more than the blustery attitude that is de rigeur for his day job.
Home of the Brave
is not prowar or antiwar — it's pro-empathy. Whether it's Jamal holding his estranged girlfriend at gunpoint or Tommy considering reenlistment, tragedy and dignity flower from the same bloodstained soil. It's respectful and nonjudgmental, but it's too pallid, digging in just enough to claim it's digging in. It's no
Coming Home. But maybe it doesn't have to be. While the Iraq War continues to polarize the country, only the lowest of the low wish ill upon American soldiers. Although it plays like a rough draft of a better Iraq War film yet to be made,
Home of the Brave
should put the subject on the front page, where it belongs. That way it'll be easier for our troops to return home, where they belong.
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson
Director: Irwin Winkler
Screenwriter: Mark Friedman
Producers: Avi Lerner, George Furla, Irwin Winkler and Rob Cowan
Genre: War drama
Rating: R for war violence and language
Running time: 105 min.
Release date: December 15 NY/LA, January 5 exp