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Film Reviews
The Inspection - Film Review
| Wednesday, 11.23.2022, 11:38 PM |   (234 views)

This ‘based on a true story’ film opens in Trenton, NJ, 2005 when ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was still in effect.  The poignant film is written and directed by Elegance Bratton and based on his own real-life experience living on the street, being shunned by his mother and eventually finding a home, of sorts, in the Marine Corps.

With Jeremy Pope starring as Ellis French, Bratton/French quickly reveals that his mother, Inez (Gabrielle Union), refused to acknowledge her son once he embraced his homosexuality.  Leaving him to fend for himself on the street and in homeless shelters, French acknowledges that there is no way for him to survive without help and opts to enlist in the military.  French approaches his mom’s door with trepidation, needing his birth certificate to enlist, but also needing an excuse to see her to give her the news.  They have been estranged for quite some time. 


Inez initially refuses him entrance, but then acquiesces when he tells her he’s going to enlist.  Once inside, we see that her home is that of a packrat, with blankets and detritus strewn throughout the tiny apartment. A religious broadcast is blaring on the television set.  Religious iconography glares down from the walls.  Mom is attired in some sort of security guard uniform and is very distressed at his news.  However, once she agrees to his request, she is immediately able to locate the needed certificate in a dresser drawer; the certificate is obviously a prized possession stored among the jumble of her life.

Then we get approximately 80 minutes of the hell of Marine boot camp, with multiple homophobic beatings, threats and punishments heaped on for good measure.  Some of the scenes at the camp left me wondering if they were created expressly for the film, because that’s what would be expected in the early 2000’s military.  One beating, in a shower, was horrific and confusing, because French seemed to accept it as what he deserved, rather than defending himself with a story that his bunkmates might have reluctantly swallowed.  Did Bratton want to give more of a glow to French’s eventual rise to power and acceptance by those who initially despised him?  Hard to tell.  Dream sequences in gay steam rooms?  Not sure why this was necessary.  French didn’t seem to be struggling with being gay.  He accepted it, embraced it.  It wasn’t a ‘choice’.  It’s how he was born.

As we can see, he was also born a very compassionate man; Pope is compelling in the authenticity he pours into the role.  And those scenes where he just wants to be a good guy,  when he sees his platoon mate struggling, are the most touching.  The silent looks, the silences themselves, are more powerful than many of the hateful words exchanged in The Inspection. 

Bokeem Woodbine does an excellent job as Laws, the platoon’s commanding officer, who is determined to whip the new recruits into shape.  He’s one mean SOB, seeing himself as the tool needed to give the recruits the best chance to survive in combat.  

The most telling line in the film may or may not have been created just for The Inspection.  “If we got rid of every gay person in the military, we’d have no military”.  It’s for reasons like this, and many others, that the US Military finally repealed DADT in 2011. Of course, things being what they are these days, sadly, we’re coming full circle.

Lisa Blanck is the Associate Editor and Movie Reviewer for In Focus  Her background includes 30+ years of digital editing for WESH2 News and WKMG News.  She also edits on-air spots for Matter Of Fact, a highly-rated nationally syndicated news and information program.  For more than 20 years she has covered the Florida Film Festival and the World Peace Film Festival, with additional experience in advertising, marketing, promotions and live special events at MTV Networks.  She was previously a columnist for the Focus In Newspaper.  

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