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Based on Elegance Bratton’s true story, a young, gay Black man becomes homeless after his mother rejects him. With few other options, he joins the Marines, where he experiences challenges that test him and try to break him.
Director/writer Elegance Bratton did the same for a documentary on homeless kids who become housed: Pier Kids. Tony, Emmy, and Grammy nominee Jeremy Pope (Hollywood, Pose) stars as Ellis French. Gabrielle Union (Being Mary Jane, Bad Boys) plays his tough mother, and Bokeem Woodbine (Fargo) plays Commander Laws.
A favorite at film festivals that has fallen below mainstream radars, The Inspection is a passionate, heart-tugging indie brimming with talent and moving performances. It’s a nuanced story about a man trying to find his place in the world and be accepted for himself, and it shines a light on the role that camaraderie and tough guy toxic masculinity play in the military…and the world at large.
Shot mainly with close ups, Jeremy Pope is mesmerizing as Ellis French. He lights up the screen and steals every scene, and you’ll see why his performance earned him a Golden Globe nomination. As French’s mother, Gabrielle Union, who has made a career of playing beautiful, sexy female leads, trades it in to play a uniformed prison officer without an ounce of glamour, letting her true acting talent shine. She disappears into the role of a stern, complicated single mother who has love in her heart but can’t find acceptance for her gay son.
From the script: “Most of my friends are dead or in jail. The streets was going to kill me no matter what. So if I die in this uniform, I’m a hero, somebody.” – Ellis French
From the critics: “It is the type of film — brave, raw and poetic — that will rightly put Bratton on the map as someone to watch, not to mention the standout performances of Jeremy Pope and Gabrielle Union.” – AP’s Lindsey Bahr (full review)
A film about the military may not be for everyone, but The Inspection is more of a psychological drama about feeling alienated and alone that captivates the lost loner in all of us. Its examination of how men are “toughened up” by society also gives it resonance, and Jeremy Pope has been talked about as an Oscar contender.
Fans of Hollywood and Pose will enjoy seeing Jeremy Pope in a leading role that is such a departure from his previous characters. The Inspection will also appeal to fans of well-written ensemble shows like Atlanta and The Chi. And Gabrielle Union fans will be surprised to see her in a stern, serious role.
There is a violent shower scene that may be disturbing for some audience members to watch.
Writer-director Elegance Bratton’s real mother was killed just after the movie was greenlit. Once you’ve seen it, read his interview with NPR’s Eric Deggans.