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Men of Honour is inspired by the true life tale of one Carl Brashear (Cuba Gooding Jr.), a highly decorated naval diver of the '50s and '60s for the United States of America. Men of Honour is about Carl's struggle to rise through the naval ranks and reach his specialised career in diving, against the bigotry and hypocrisy that was commonplace at that time.

Men of Honour
Movie
In the '50s, to paraphrase one of the characters, blacks only had three choices in the US Navy, to cook, to valet or to get out of the Navy. Carl was determined to change that, he promised his father before stepping on the naval recruitment bus that he would never give up and shouldn't even think of returning for a long time. This gave him the encouragement to succeed where others had failed.

Carl's naval career starts – as far the film is concerned – in a ship's galleon where he and two other black colleagues are employed as cooks. Ship's cooks are one of the lowest positions offered to navy recruits. Later that day we watch as a group of higher-ranking naval personnel find a moment to relax by jumping into the sea. The cooks, as you may already have guessed, are not allowed to undertake in such activities, but in a fit of uncertainty, Carl whips off much of his uniform and jumps overboard. The captain is provoked into ordering that he be forcefully taken back onboard; while Carl races to the nearby buoy way before the guy that they sent after him - this impresses the captain.  Carl is sent to the brig as punishment where he is told that he will be promoted to a position where he will help rescue others. Eventually, after a lot of work on his part and an understanding captain, he is given the chance of a lifetime; he gets a place at dive school.

Men of Honour has been given a cast of tremendous skill with such a great as Robert De Niro playing the disgraced former master diver.  De Niro perfects his famous Southern accent that was previously practised in Cape Fear many years back. Cuba Gooding Jr. provides an excellent advisory to De Niro, the on-screen chemistry between these two was very evident which definitely helped the movie.  The remainder of the supporting cast were equally as superb, director George Tillman Jr. seems to have wished the supporting cast to act in a more subtle manner, which is what they have successfully done.

The movie is based on a true story, and that's its main weakness. True stories are almost always the same; you rarely see them based on a central character that never ever succeeds. You just know what is going to happen for the rest of the movie after the first twenty minutes have adequately settled you into the story. Albeit with the odd surprise to maintain a level of interest, but it is your typical true story type movie that would be more at home on daytime telly than on DVD if it were not for the cast and director.  

Another problem I had with the movie was its length, much of the beginning and middle feel drawn out, while the latter parts go by a little too quickly.  That's probably just my own personal preference, don’t worry, it's nowhere near as drawn out as the lord of the rings was!

Men of Honour
Video
Men of Honour has been given an excellent treatment in respect to the visual transfer, colours are sharp and vibrant, even in the dark murky underwater scenes which appear fairly frequently throughout.  The quality of the transfer is both crisp and clear – though there is a very, very slight fuzziness in the action sequences.

This is a 1:2.35 aspect ratio transfer that has been anamorphically enhanced for widescreen viewing.

Audio
As always, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has afforded an excellent audio transfer, though unlike the region one alternative, offers just one audio track (excluding the commentary). It is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track; I had no major problems with it, very clear and precise.

Extras
There’s a nice selection of quality extras on this disc, aside from the animated menus and the eleven subtitles we have a couple of featurettes, a commentary, Animatics, a music video, a trailer, some TV spots and several deleted scenes with an alternate ending.

The first featurette was sourced from HBO and is entitled, "Making of Men of Honour." Apart from the usual "so-and-so is the best actor" comments which cannot be helped with this sort of material, there were a few nice bits in it. It was promotional in nature but it does provide some background information about Carl Brashear and did cover quite a lot of the actors. Running time is approximately fourteen minutes. The other featurette is a lot more specific and centres entirely on Carl Brashear's life; it only lasts for seven minutes but provides a more realistic vision of certain aspects of Brashear’s life in the Navy than that offered by the movie.

There are ten deleted scenes provided, ranging from thirty seconds to three minutes, and an alternate ending – lasting around four minutes. These scenes aren't the best of quality but are adequate to suit their purpose. They are in the same aspect ratio as the movie, but not anamorphically enhanced, however they do have the option to enable/disable the director's commentary. My only peeve was that they couldn't be viewed in one complete reel, I've seen many discs offer the option to watch them separately or all at once, just a pity this option wasn’t offered on this disc. Quite a few of the scenes were only very slightly cut yet were shown within their context, so in a thirty second clip, only about five or ten seconds contained the deleted material.

There's a three-minute Animatics demonstration with a director's commentary which is basically all the storyboards for a particular scene joined together with some voiceovers and CGI effects. Such a tool tends to be more useful than a storyboard alone, helping to describe what the scene should look like on completion of the movie. I won't state which scene it was because that'll give away a bit too much about one of the more dramatic parts of the movie.

The music video didn't look that impressive, it featured Brian McKnight on a floor covered in water singing.  Occasionally he can be seen playing a piano but the nasty bit was the film inserts, it was as if the video was shot before they even thought about how to incorporate the clips from the movie, and had forgotten how to change between them properly! As always, there is a trailer, and two TV spots – the TV spots were just cut down versions of the trailer.

The main highlight of the extra features is the commentary featuring Cuba Gooding Jr., George Tillman (director), Scott Marshall Smith (writer) and Robert Teitel (producer).  It's fairly entertaining and has lots of information about locations, sets, special effects, actor choices and all sorts of other interesting aspects of movie making.

Men of Honour
Overall
I would have to say that I like this movie, it was definitely not what I was expecting when I first heard that I had to review it. Given that Robert De Niro was starring and the choice of title, I expected something along the lines of U-571, The Rock or some other action movie starring Nic Cage that Tom has in his scary collection.

Men of Honour is probably a movie that I would normally see during the daytime or even late at night on the telly. Some true story where a hero succeeds against great adversity, starring a cast whom will almost certainly be in a movie the following day in the same slot. That said, it is definitely much better than the average true story movie, you only need to look at the cast to see that someone thought that this movie was definitely worth investing in.

My only quarrel with Men of Honour is that diving may not seem an exciting enough subject to keep your average DVD punter interested for a few hours. If you are into true stories with a bit of action and great acting thrown in, then I would happily recommend this movie. Just don't be surprised at the end when Carl Brashear becomes a hero and succeeds in becoming a master diver, sorry, but you just know it's going to happen...


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