"The Net" director Irwin Winkler's latest picture is a somewhat (it's been done before, certainly) different take on the war drama, focusing largely on the difficulty that soldiers encounter when they return home and try to readjust. "Home of the Brave" opens with a group of soldiers in Iraq learning that they are going to be headed home in a matter of a couple of weeks. These soldiers include Vanessa Price (Jessica Biel), Jamal Aiken (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson), Tommy Yates (Brian Presley), and Jordan Owens (Chad Michael Murray).
Before heading home, the group has to go on a humanitarian mission, but before they make it to their destination, they are ambushed from all sides on a stretch of city street. Under heavy fire, Vanessa is injured and loses a hand (although she is treated by a medic, played by Samuel L Jackson), Tommy is shot and Jordan doesn't make it.
The film's opening scenes are an incredibly tense and horrifying recreation of battle, and it's not long after that the survivors find their way home - the whole group to Spokane, WA. Vanessa has difficulty trying to cope with her physical therapy as she tries to use a prosthetic hand and becomes withdrawn. Jamal has difficulty finding assistance and his girlfriend won't speak to him, Will Marsh (Samuel L. Jackson) hits the bottle and Tommy has difficulty trying to cope with the loss of his friend and his father's lack of sensitivity about what he went through.
"Home of the Brave" certainly is a well-intentioned movie and it wants to remind us of both the horrors of war that our soldiers face and the difficulties that they must encounter when returning home, which often include trying to heal wounds both physical and mental. However, as well-intentioned as the movie is, the film doesn't work as well as it should, thanks largely to first-timer Mark Friedman's screenplay, which is full of clunky, cliched dialogue (one scene where a character talks about how he doesn't like selling "stupid tickets to stupid movies" is dismal) and underdeveloped characters (especially Jamal.) Winkler's flat direction and heavy-handed approach don't help matters, either.
The performances are better than the material, although most have done better elsewhere. Biel is especially moving as a young woman trying to cope with raising a child and adjusting to her injuries. Jackson makes the most out of the material, as he has a few powerful moments as a father whose son strongly disagrees with the war. The movie really doesn't get into the politics of the war, it simply focuses on the fact that those on the front lines go through nightmarish situations, and when they return they need help and care to try to return to the life they left behind.
VIDEO: "Home of the Brave" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The screening copy of the film that was provided offered just adequate image quality, with some noticable artifacting and some shimmering. However, this is still not the final copy and unfortunately, I cannot make any final comments on it, as the final copy will likely offer differing (and hopefully better) image quality.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation was more aggressive during the early sequences, but once the character return home, the film's sound design understandably calms considerably. Audio quality is fine, with crisp dialogue.
EXTRAS: A commentary from director Irwin Winkler, producer Rob Cowan and writer Mark Friedman, as well as a pair of deleted scenes.
Final Thoughts: "Home of the Brave" is a well-intentioned look at what troops must face both on the battlefield, as well as once they return home. However, while the performances are reasonably good and the movie has some moments that work, the material could be improved significantly, as not only is the dialogue often cliched, but the characters are underdeveloped. Fans of the actors should consider a rental first.
The Film C