Skip to Content
Stream Live
More Streaming Options
Recently Played
View Full Playlist
‹ Flicks with The Film Snob

The Inspection

April 27, 2023
Flicks with The Film Snob
Flicks with The Film Snob
The Inspection

Elegance Bratton’s autobiographical film dramatizes what it was like to be a gay Marine during “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

A young black man is rejected by his religious mother when she finds out he’s gay. She kicks him out, and he ends up homeless and living in shelters and on the streets. But then—he joins the Marines. That’s the story of The Inspection, the debut feature film written and directed by Elegance Bratton. And it’s all based closely on Bratton’s own story.

Proof that he has good instincts as a director is established in one of the movie’s first scenes. Ellis French, the main character played by Jeremy Pope, has come to knock on the door of his mother’s apartment, who won’t let him in until he tells her he needs his birth certificate in order to join the Marines. The mom is played by Gabrielle Union, and the conversation they have in her living room is a beautifully understated piece of work. A less sophisticated artist would hash out the issues that they have with each other in this conversation, providing a plot exposition for the audience. Instead, we can just notice how they look at one another, their gestures, attitudes, and quiet mannerisms, and this tells us the real story in emotional terms far more skillfully than any speeches could. In fact, it’s only in one bitter comment by the mom at the end of the scene that the film first lets us know explicitly that Ellis is gay.

Most of the rest of the movie takes place during boot camp on a South Carolina base. Basic training in the Marines is legendary for being extremely difficult, and from the beginning of the film we observe the trainers aggressively breaking down the recruits with yelling, insults, and punishments. The head instructor is a mean, tough, charismatic black man named Laws, beautifully portrayed by Bokeem Woodbine. He seems to sense vulnerability in Ellis French, and starts to get on his case right away. It’s already a grueling experience, but the fear is, what if someone finds out that he’s gay?

The time of the story is 2005. The Iraq War is ongoing. And the military still has a policy called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” It means that gay people could be soldiers, but only if they were closeted. Soldiers admitting that they were gay would be discharged. That didn’t stop other soldiers from harassing and persecuting someone in their ranks that they thought was gay.

French must therefore hide his sexuality in order to achieve his goal of becoming a Marine. This is a constant undercurrent of the film, but it’s not the whole story. Bratton goes into great detail depicting the three-month long basic training process. We experience the sheer physical strain that is part of boot camp, as well as the abusive behavior designed to break men down. But it’s not an anti-military or for that matter, pro-military movie. It’s a movie about a situation a lot of people go through, and what that’s like.  Overcoming incredible obstacles in order to graduate is also a transformative experience, for French and all the others. They attain a kind of fearlessness, and a devotion to protecting the Marine to their right and their left, that shakes loose a lot of previous notions and behaviors that weren’t serving them.

Now, the drill sergeant Rosales, played by Raúl Castillo, has the job of building recruits up after they’ve been torn down—he’s tough on French, but nonjudgmental, and this represents a critique of what we usually think of as masculinity. French knows that he’s gay, and he isn’t trying to change that, but by becoming a Marine he hopes to prove his worthiness to his mother. Rosales shows him that he doesn’t need to prove anything.

The Inspection is a thoughtful and well-crafted film that asks important questions about manhood and identity.

boot camp,   gay,   homophobia,   marine corps,   mothers,  


Sign Up