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Men of Honor (2000, Robert De Niro, Cuba Gooding Jr)

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Based on a real-life story, Cuba Gooding Jr stars as Carl Brashear, son of a poor sharecropper who signs up for the US Navy post-WWII with the ambition of becoming a diver. President Truman had passed legislation integrating the armed forces but in the Navy in general and diver’s training in particular, racism was still rife. Brashear comes under the immediate command of Master Chief Billy Sunday (Robert De Niro) and overall of base commander Captain ‘ Mister Pappy’ (Hal Holbrook) who is determined that no black diver will graduate under his watch. Brashear is set deliberately hard tasks, some life-threatening but overcomes them all only to suffer a career-threatening accident. But determined to fulfil his ambition and supported by Sunday, who recognises him as a determined, kindred spirit, he fights the Navy to retain his position.

Despite the tension of the underwater scenes, the real story is on dry ground, with Gooding Jr playing Brashear as a determined man overcoming prejudice on all sides while De Niro, while occasionally a little over-the-top, brings his experience to the role. Also starring are Charlize Theron as Sunday’s wife, Gwen and Aunjanue Ellis as Jo, Brashear’s partner and a librarian who coaches him through his written exams but the film belongs to the two leads and the pace allows them to fully develop their characters in this very human drama.

production details
USA | 129 minutes | 2000

Director: George Tillman, Jr.
Script: Scott Marshall Smith,

cast
Robert De Niro as Master Chief Leslie W. Sunday (‘Billy’)
David Keith as Captain Hartigan
Holt McCallany as MM1 Dylan Rourke
Cuba Gooding Jr. as Senior Chief Carl Brashear
Charlize Theron as Gwen Sunday
Aunjanue Ellis as Jo
Hal Holbrook as ‘Mr. Pappy’
Michael Rapaport as GM1 Snowhill
Powers Boothe as Captain Pullman
Glynn Turman as Chief Floyd
Tyler Posey as Boy (uncredited)
Henry Harris as Rescued Pilot
Theo Nicholas Pagones as FC Mellegrano
Richard Sanders as Donny Moor Bartender

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