"Breaking" stars John Boyega, Nicole Beharie, Selenis Leyva, Connie Britton, Jeffrey Donovan, and Michael Kenneth Williams. Released on August 26, 2022, the film has a war veteran robbing a bank with a bomb threat.
The film was directed by Abi Damaris Corbin, who directed short films like "Luna" and "The Suitcase". It is based on the 2018 Task & Purpose article "They Didn't Have to Kill Him" by Aaron Gell. People have specific ways to make their presence known and make us hear what they have to say. Some are subtle, while others are so extreme that it's borderline criminal. One person went so far as to hold everyone in the bank hostage and threatened to blow the place sky high. Some people may disagree with his actions, but that doesn't mean they should go unnoticed. I remembered many events that caused many alarms towards the human race, even those that were tragic. This one, in particular, flew underneath my radar. I was completely unaware of the incident in a Wells Fargo Bank five years ago until I noticed this movie. Given the circumstances involved in the situation, I was surprised that this event didn't click for me. Fortunately, this is all the more reason for me to check it out, especially since it has John Boyega from Star Wars and one of Michael K. Williams' final roles. So was the film able to provide a gripping take on the tragic event? Let's find out.
The movie is based on the real-life story of Brian Brown-Easley (Boyega), a Marine Corps veteran. Brian was denied disability support from Veteran's Affairs, resulting in him landing in financial debt. Fearing being homeless and for his daughter's future, Brian takes the direct approach of robbing a Wells Fargo Bank with a bomb threat. This caught the attention of the police, led by Eli Bernard (Williams), who surrounded the bank with no way in or out. Eli works against the clock to save the bank workers and get Brian to reconsider his actions before the unthinkable happens.
The film was tasked with representing the tragedy inside a bank via filmmaking to its audience. It had to have the makings of a heart-pounding drama thriller for regular moviegoers unfamiliar with the incident. At the same time, it also had to respect the people involved in the scenario, especially Brian and his family. Many movies based on true stories attempted to conquer this feat without being too fictionalized and tasteless. Some have succeeded, while others fell beneath their intentions. Fortunately, "Breaking" is a solid example of the former, as it delivered a gripping and sentimental thriller with plenty to say amid its tense altercation.
With the majority of the action taking place in the bank, the film gave Abi Damaris Corbin the limitations needed to provide some consistent stakes in its drama. Since it's based more on dialogue-driven moments than action scenes, capturing the audience's attention for less than two hours in a single location can be challenging. Luckily, the filmmaker managed to pull it off easily. Almost every scene she directed was filled with enticement and emotion as if I was in the situation myself. More importantly, Corbin was unafraid to express the sentimentality of the movie's characters and dilemma, primarily Brian's heartfelt moments with his daughter Kiah (London Covington). Even though some of its emotional beats weren't as strong as others, the film offered a decent mixture of suspense and drama that'll get people's hearts racing and their tears racing down their faces.
But, of course, it isn't just Corbin alone that helped make me care for the hostage situation. It was also the actors that manifested the physical and mental emotions that their characters were going through. I still see John Boyega as a respectable and talented young actor who's shown some promise in movies outside of the Star Wars franchise, regardless of how his character in those sci-fi movies was treated. If his roles in "Attack the Block" and "Detroit" weren't enough to make him more than just a franchise wonder, then I hope his performance in "Breaking" will change people's minds. Boyega was a force to be reckoned with as he was fully committed to portraying the mentally scarred veteran at his breaking point. Boyega commanded every scene he was in like he's the captain of the S.S. Wells Fargo, and I couldn't help but watch in awe. I would even say that this is one performance that could land him a Golden Globe nomination and maybe an Oscar nomination if he's lucky. Michael K. Williams was also stunning as Eli Bernard, which was one of his final roles before his death last year. Nicole Beharie and Selenis Leyva also did a great job holding their ground with the compelling main leads with their portrayals of Estel Valerie and Rosa Diaz.
The film has a screenplay that's tight in its scenario and also thought-provoking in its themes. "Breaking" is supposed to represent a veteran's mental state after serving their duty and the Veteran Affairs' mistreatment of specific volunteers with disabilities. I may not know much about the system since I'm not a veteran, but witnessing something as crazy as this was enough to make me mad. It also showcases how authorities handled specific threats made by people regarding race. You might understand what I'm talking about if you've seen the movie already. The script's only weakness is that it didn't do much to expand on its messages due to its limitations and runtime. But, aside from that, the screenplay does well in capturing the real-life problems that deserve to be addressed.
Overall, "Breaking" is a tightly-scripted and riveting drama that's well-intended in its themes. It is also a strong showcase for the actors involved, mainly John Boyega and the late Michael K. Williams. It may not be a perfect depiction of the messages it's portraying, but the film delivers enough tension and emotion to close off this year's summer movie season in a respectable fashion. If you're into movies based on thrilling real-life events, this one is worth checking out if it's playing in a theater near you, but be sure to bring some tissues before you do. However, if you prefer escapism in your movies, this film may not win you over.