'Home Of The Brave'
(Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, et al / DVD / R / (2006) 2007 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: When a humanitarian mission in Iraq is derailed by an explosive ambush, a small band of American soldiers find themselves fighting for their lives.
DVD Verdict: The picture begins with what will ultimately prove its best sequence - a twenty-minute scene concluding in an insurgent assault on an American convoy in Iraq, in which one soldier (Chad Michael Murray, from “One Tree Hill”) is killed and others severely injured or traumatized. The film then comes home with the characters, becoming something akin to “The Worst Year of Their Lives.”
First there’s the funeral of the dead soldier, and then come the difficulties of the survivors fitting back in. One is Will Marsh (Jackson), a doctor who takes to drinking excessively, much to the distress of wife Penelope (Victoria Rowell), and who has special trouble dealing with his rebellious teen son Billy (Sam Jones III, from the earlier seasons of “Smallville”), who’s both anti-war in general and angry with his father for being a part of it.
Another is Vanessa Price (Jessica Biel), a young woman who lost much of her right arm in the ambush, was treated on the spot by Marsh and now is fitted with a prosthetic hand. A third is Tommy Yates (Brian Presley), who has trouble coping with the loss of his best friend and has returned to find the old job at a gun store no longer his.
And finally there’s Jamal (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson), whose back was injured in pursuit of the attackers and rages after his return when his girlfriend rejects him and the VA bureaucracy fails to give him the help he feels he needs.
The script by Mark Friedman focuses on these vets’ readjustment to civilian life, which some of them manage better than others but all struggle with. That’s certainly a subject worthy of dramatic treatment (as well as political action), but this movie doesn’t do it justice. The screenplay is cliche-ridden and obvious, the direction - apart from the opening assault, which has some visceral power - slack, and the production threadbare, with flat, undistinguished cinematography by Tony Pierce-Roberts. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Audio Commentary from director Irwin Winkler, writer Mark Friedman and producer Rob Cowan
Deleted scenes (with optional commentary by Irwin Winkler, Mark Friedman and Rob Cowan): “Soldiers get news they are returning home,” and “Vanessa and Cary get to know each other.”