Directed by Abi Damaris Corbin.
With John Boyega, Michael Kenneth Williams, Nicole Beharie, Connie Britton, Selenis Leyva, Jeffrey Donovan, Olivia Washington, London Covington, Robb Derringer, Carmine Giovinazzo, Kate Burton, Albert Kong, Elise Neal, Kelli Dawn Hancock, Mel Fair, Keith Ewell , and Miriam Silverman.
When Navy veteran Brian Brown-Easley is denied support from Veterans Affairs, financially desperate and out of options, he takes a bank and several of its employees hostage, setting the stage for a tense standoff with police. .
While it’s not an entirely new concept, it’s a refreshingly daunting screenwriting task to portray someone committing an act of terror with empathy. Based on true events from 2017 and directed by Abi Damaris Corbin (co-written alongside Kwame Kwei-Armah), Breakup sees John Boyegaa as Brian Brown-Easley, a Navy and Iraq War veteran, out of options and desperate to recoup the funds Veterans Affairs is withholding. Divorced from Cassandra (Olivia Washington), Brian is still a loving family man, driven to give his young daughter Kiah (London Covington) a better life as he faces systemic injustices.
Suffering from PTSD and increasingly spiraling sanity (especially following a humiliating incident at the VA that we see later in the film via flashback), Brian, not without a moment of deep contemplation , enters his local Wells Fargo bank and proceeds to begin a withdrawal transaction. Meanwhile, he slips a note to the cashier stating that he is carrying a bomb.
However, Brian has no interest in robbing the bank. Orchestrating this hostage situation is a call for attention directed at the VA in hopes of finally righting a wrong. As such, Brian allows everyone in the building to leave away from two high-ranking staff members, Rosa Diaz (Selenis Leyva) and Estel Valerie (Nicole Beharie), using their endangerment as a means. to conduct negotiation talks.
Not quite out of his rocker, Brian shows about as much kindness as one can show someone when he plays with human life as a means to an end; he assures that no one will be hurt and that he wants the money he is owed. Basically, the money cannot come from the bank; it won’t end until the score with the VA is settled. Wisely, the script sometimes tries to offer insight into the lives of these hostages, either by communicating directly with Brian trying to relay and show compassion, or with digital notes saying goodbye to their loved ones in case the worse would happen.
Most of the above actions are executed with white-knuckle strain and measured performance from everyone involved (John Boyega is a sweaty mess of paranoia and anxiety, aware that the only way out comes most likely from a bullet to the head). The first steps are also intriguing as they offer insight into who Brian is, as viewers come to conclusions about how far they can go on his side despite his gruesome actions.
But it’s not long before Breakup splits as Brian finds himself talking to TV news producers, inevitably climbing his way to interacting with a negotiator played by the late great Michael Kenneth Williams (delivering by far the best performance here, weathered and uncertain but determined to defuse the situation without a body count). The dialogue loops with a twisty story that has only one predictable ending. Everything that worked until now also becomes flawed and overplayed; there’s nothing left for the script to do except tell the actors to play each role with a capital A.
It’s also surprising how superficial the film is about the VA, TV news cycles, military relations, and injustice. 45 good minutes of Breakup are simply empty and devoid of any remotely compelling element, no matter how many characters talk to each other (which is also very exciting given the bland direction). By the time Breakup comes to its generic conclusion and the shot reveals itself without any insightful social commentary (true story or not), the film is simply broken.
Scintillating Myth Rating – Movie: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the editor of Flickering Myth Reviews. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter Where Letter boxor email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com