I liked “The Inspection” but found it regurgitated a lot from “An Officer and a Gentleman.” There were several scenes that dealt with similar themes and others that looked and felt like a carbon copy of the Taylor Hackford film. Of course, there is one big difference, and that difference is what ultimately makes “The Inspection” worth seeing. It’s somewhat autobiographical as director Elegance Bratton relives his own experience in boot camp as a gay Black marine in the mid-2000s.
The film introduces us to a gay, homeless man named Ellis French (Jeremy Pope). He’s in his twenties and realizes life’s flying by with his having nothing to show for it. So, after years away, he knocks on his mother’s door hoping for a welcome. His mother, Inez (Gabrielle Union), opens the door but is more concerned about the items in her apartment than she is about her son’s condition. He lets her know he needs his birth certificate so he can go and join the army. She allows him a night on the couch, and, doubtful he’ll end up as anything than he already is, she gets him the birth certificate. She does hope he’ll be a man and not disappoint her as he has so many times before. What a sweetie she is. It’s heartbreaking that she’s willing to miss out on who he could become just because he doesn’t fit into the category she has put him in.
I enjoyed watching French grow as a person and teach those around him, even the hardest of men, how to find their grace and compassion. People will also revel in the movie for the reason I mentioned earlier. If you liked “An Officer and a Gentleman” and even “Full Metal Jacket,” you’ll find a lot to like here. There’s a lot of anti-gay hazing going on in the film and if you’re aware of the politics of the time, you could be confused about the timeline this is portraying. The famous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was in effect under President Bill Clinton. This allowed gay people to serve in the military, provided they didn’t make their sexual orientation known to the public. Ignore that little blip. The characters are good, and the build-up to what happens between French and his mother was worth the time you put into getting there. What’s so heartbreaking is that he can finally be accepted and be called a Marine by someone who only referred to him as a “Faggot” since he joined, but his mother leaves him, letting him know she loves him but can’t and won’t love who he is.
The defining moment is when Drill Sergeant Laws (Bokeem Woodbine) sees French as the Marine he has become. It’s stunningly well done. This is a solid film that will be appreciated by many. Had it followed him after his stint in boot camp, showing his mother that he became what she doubted he could, it would have had an even broader ending. It’s inspiring without it, but a more extensive peak would have separated it from the many films it feels similar to.
Written and Directed by: Elegance Bratton
Starring: Jeremy Pope, Raúl Castillo, McCaul Lombardi, Aaron Dominguez, Nicholas Logan, Eman Esfandi, Andrew Kai, Aubrey Joseph with Bokeem Woodbine and Gabrielle Union
Running Time: 1h 35m
Genre: Drama, LGBTQ+
Distributed by: A24