Breaking Movie Review

“Breaking” is a based on a true story of a veteran who has a bad experience with bureaucracy and it leads him to take desperate action. The former Marine Corps Lance Corporal is out of the service, and also out of luck. He has a strained relationship with his wife, and his finances are on shaky ground. He is one push from the edge of the abyss, and the Veteran’s Administration just gave him a big shove.



The former soldier is named Brian Brown-Easley (played by John Boyega). His time serving in the Marines led to his discharge with disability benefits. He has some PTSD episodes that have cause his marriage to crumble. He finds it hard to hold down any type of job. He attempted to attend a college to get more training, but could not complete it. The college puts in a request to garnish Brian’s disability check. When the VA complies, and they withhold the money from Brian, and he finds himself shoved past his limits.


After a visit to the VA Office goes very poorly, Brian can see no other way to himself back on track. He will commit an act of desperation that he feels will give him a wider audience. He wants to explain his side to the employees at the bank, to the people out there in Atlanta. He wants to make sure his story is publicized and put out by all the news organizations.


Brian goes into the bank branch to ‘get his money back’. But his method to convince the bank, the VA Offices, the local police and the news studios — it is a little drastic. Brian hands over a note to a teller, named Rosa Diaz (played by Selenis Leyva). Brian wants the attention of authorities. The best way to get, he thinks, is to tell them he has a bomb and will blow up the bank. Soon, the only people left in the branch are Rosa, Brian, and the branch manager, Estel Valerie (played by Nicole Beharie).


Brian wants an intervention by the police, so he has Rosa call 911. He wants to talk to someone who can get his story out. The police Chief Jack Quail (played by Robb Derringer) wants this madman to be stopped. He calls on his SWAT Unit leader, Major Riddick (played by Jeffrey Donovan). SWAT will have all sorts of agents ready to go. But the most important will be the sniper team. Things are not looking too good for Brian.


There is a hostage negotiator named Eli Bernard (played by Michael Kenneth Williams). He will soon retire, and he is tired of the SWAT team getting trigger-happy. Bernard takes his time to talk with the people who are in difficult positions, such as Brian Brown-Easley. He knows he cannot change the situations for them, but he lends an empathetic ear. He starts to talk to Brian and learns of his problems with VA bureaucracy. He wants to get Brian to trust him enough so he will release Rosa and Estel. They have been caught up in a wild situation that might end up with a tragic outcome.


Brian has chosen his path, and he knows where this path will finally lead. He has one other avenue to consider. He calls up a local new station and gets a hold of the new producer, Lisa Larson (played by Connie Britton). She is not part of the on-air talent, but she gets all the information from Brian. She understands that his situation is critical, and that he has run out of options.


The VA and college point at each other and nothing gets resolved. If nothing else, Brian Brown-Easley wants his story told and his side explained. He is not doing this out of spite or for a huge payoff. He only wants his disability money to come back to him (all eight hundred and ninety-two dollars that he is owed).


Brian is resigned to the fact that he will never leave the bank alive. Rosa and Estel work to try and find a way to get the funds into Brian’s account. But that will not matter. Brian’s wife and child watch the news reports and listen to story told by Lisa Larson. She accurately explains that the VA and college are not responding to Brian, and that is why he taking this desperate action. Bernard is talking with Brian and letting his know that he has also had issues with Veteran’s benefits. But the SWAT sniper is in position, and the SWAT commander — Major Riddick — he will have the final say in the outcome.


“Breaking” is character study of a man pushed to the edge, who then falls into the abyss. The tragic outcome is indicated at the outset. After all, the original article this was based on is called “They Didn’t Have to Kill Him”. But the way Brian Brown-Easley decided to deal with his issues was a little bit extreme. Based on a true event, the details are dramatized, but probably not embellished all that much.


John Boyega, in the lead role as Brian, plays this man unhinged and ready to explode (no pun intended). His mannerisms are consistent with a bi-polar attitude, since he was severely affected by PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Unfortunately, he actions probably caused more PTSD in the bank employees. Nicole Beharie (as Estel) and Selenis Leyva (as Rosa) are also really good in these roles.


Michael Kenneth Williams is excellent in his role as hostage negotiator Bernard. He brings a real depth and humanity to this role. He plays a true advocate for Brian and his situation. He is not ‘in charge’ of the hostage stand-off scene, so he is as shocked as anyone when the final action happens, and the stand-off is ended by force. This is one of the final movies that Williams will star in, because of this death in 2021.


“Breaking” shows a tragic story of how bureaucracy and indifference can affect one afflicted man, twisting him and bending him over and over again, until he is ‘Breaking’…


Directed by: Abi Damaris Corbin
Written by: Abi Damaris Corbin, Kwame Kwei-Armah
Based on: “They Didn’t Have to Kill Him” (by Aaron Gell)
Starring: John Boyega, Nicole Beharie, Selenis Leyva, Connie Britton, Jeffrey Donovan, Michael Kenneth Williams
Cinematography: Doug Emmett
Edited by: Chris Witt
Music by: Michael Abels
Distributed by: Bleecker Street
Release date: August 26, 2022
Length: 103 minutes
MPAA rating: Rated PG-13 for some violent content, and strong language.
Genre: Drama


Rating contributor: JMcNaughton tmc

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