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THE INSPECTION (2022)  l  levelFILM  |  December 2, 2022

Starring: Jeremy Pope, Raúl Castillo, McCaul Lombardi, Aaron Dominguez, Nicholas Logan, Eman Esfandi, Andrew Kai, Aubrey Joseph, Bokeem Woodbine, Gabrielle Union

Director: Elegance Bratton

A young, gay Black man, rejected by his mother and with few options for his future, decides to join the Marines, doing whatever it takes to succeed in a system that would cast him aside.

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TIFF REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus

The Inspection is a purposeful and introspective character study of a young man who faces extreme homophobia during US Marine training, led by a strong performance from Jeremy Pope to captivate audiences. 

 

Inspired by writer and director Elegance Bratton’s real life experiences going through US Marine training as a young, gay black man, Bratton has crafted a film that a deeply personal and moving film that is no doubt sure to make an emotional connection with audiences. In the film, we meet a young man named Ellis French and join him on his journey through US Marine training. Before he leaves for training, we get a glimpse into his strained relationship with his mother, portrayed by Gabrielle Union, and see that this young man is looking for a purpose and place to belong. The majority of the film takes place during training, highlighting the extreme homophobia faced by Ellis and the lack of support from the commanding officers as his fellow training members try to make Ellis fail out of the program. While the film is set during the early 2000s, and one can hope that such an environment would be better today, it’s hard to imagine that there has been a complete culture overhaul to fix what viewers see in this film. Compared to the majority of military films we have seen over the decades, this is the first time such a story has been told which provides audiences with something new that has been missing from the genre. 

 

The story itself presents Ellis with true hardship, but also Pope the dramatic material he needs to not only rise to the occasion to prove his tormentors wrong, but to evolve his character over the course of the film. Pope is excellent in the role, finding a lot in the silent strength he brings to Ellis as he takes the higher road with his training mates while also standing up to his tormentors. At the same time, the screenplay gives Pope moments of true vulnerability as he grapples with his volatile relationship with his mother as well as exploring the life he has chosen by joining the US Marines. In crafting the heart of the film as he brings to life this emotionally taxing story, Pope is nothing short of excellent. 

 

Raúl Castillo co-stars as one of the instructors who bonds with Ellis and develops a deep connection, even if there is heartbreak there for Ellis who thinks he finally found someone who understands what he is going through. Castillo gives a good performance, one provides some tenderness in a film so drenched in hatred. Though, it was Gabrielle Union who stole the film for me. In just a handful of scenes, her dominating performance as Ellis’s mother Inez makes a lasting impression on the viewer. Coming from an actress who is normally a positive force in films, Union fills her character with a mixture of love and venom that steals the entire film. Especially in the film’s final sequence where she is firing on all cylinders, giving a truly spectacular performance as she captures the mixed emotional reaction of her character.

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Bratton’s screenplay and direction does a great job capturing the emotional story he is going for, never for a second sacrificing an intimate moment and instead focusing on the character of Ellis and the heart of the story. The technical aspects are well put together, showcasing Bratton’s talents and promise for his future in filmmaking as a director. But overall, the film’s pacing was ultimately too slow for my liking which prevented this from being a film that I really enjoyed, making it one that I thought was good but would never contemplate rewatching again. The film will no doubt speak to some audiences more than others, which will make the slower pacing less of a concern, but I found myself getting a little restless which is never something I want to say about a film that is only ninety five minutes long. 

 

Brought to life by strong performances from Jeremy Pope, Gabrielle Union and Raúl Castillo, The Inspection handles its subject matter with care and consideration, chronicling the homophobia faced by a young man during Marine training to create an engaging experience that is certain to create an emotional connection with audiences.

RATING: 3 out of 5