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Honor Roles

De Niro and Gooding use an uplifting film to dive for Oscars

There is a suggestion that the change has something to do with Sunday's conquering his alcoholism, or with his reconciliation with his understandably fed-up wife (Charlize Theron, third-billed for what is little more than a cameo), but the opening scene makes it clear that it in fact predates those events. We are left to conclude that having been utterly unmoved by Brashear's first three or four exhibitions of selfless heroism, something about the fourth or fifth one suddenly breaks down Sunday's lifelong attitude of racist contempt. (The scenes of heroism are brilliantly handled, filled with excruciating, nail-biting tension.)

There's no question that Brashear's story, even as filtered through the necessary distortions of filmmaking, is extraordinary and inspiring. Nor should Tillman be denied credit for constructing a spirit-rousing tale. What with Gooding being so noble, Mark Isham's on-the-nose score (which resembles the main theme from Jurassic Park more than a little) and De Niro's transformation, you'd have to be quite the hard-hearted cynic to totally resist the film's inspirational sledgehammer. If you don't view it too analytically, Men of Honor provides almost more uplift than a body can handle.

Billy(Robert De Niro) and Carl(Cuba Gooding Jr.) show the worst and best of the navy.
Philip V. Caruso
Billy(Robert De Niro) and Carl(Cuba Gooding Jr.) show the worst and best of the navy.

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Rated R

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