February 20, 2023


2022 / 95 min
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😺

If one’s gonna do a film about the obstacles facing a gay black man in the military, it only makes sense that it comes from a man who was actually there. 

Writer-director Elegance Bratton’s mother kicked him out of the house at 16, and he was homeless for nearly a decade before deciding - mostly out of desperation - to enlist in the Marines. The Inspection is based on his experiences in boot camp, dealing with the expected amounts of homophobia and a somewhat sadistic drill instructor. Some of it is fictionalized and names have been changed, but because Bratton is chronicling himself, we get the impression he’s not only trying to create awareness and empathy, but telling this story as a form of catharsis. 

Whatever the case, it's often an emotionally gripping film. Much of that is due to the characters and performances, particularly the protagonist. Ellis is emotionally fragile and certainly fallible, with a troubled past that isn’t delved into (nor does it need to be). At the same time, he’s smart, likable and ultimately very resilient. Jeremy Pope delivers a strong performance and it’s easy to see why he was nominated for a Golden Globe. Junior drill instructor Rosales (Raul Castillo) is also intriguing, a tough Marine who supports Ellis, mainly because he, too, is gay and forced to adapt to a largely homophobic world (by keeping his sexuality a secret). 

"Wow...I coulda had a V8."
Elsewhere, Ellis’ mother, Inez (Gabrielle Union), could be considered the main antagonist, especially since it sometimes seems like Ellis enlisted to earn her acceptance, but she is still portrayed with a certain degree of sympathy. We may not approve of her treatment of Ellis, but a small part might understand it. Even senior drill instructor Laws (Bokeem Woodbine) isn’t completely one-note. Sure, he’s vicious, cruel and borderline psychotic, but there are moments where he appears to grudgingly respect Ellis’ resolve. Speaking of Laws, despite the serious subject matter and tone, one of the funniest scenes I’ve seen recently involves his reaction to how Ellis applies war paint, followed by the latter's priceless response.

Sometimes The Inspection is a little too episodic for its own good, especially during the second half, with scenes that are interesting but feel more like stand-alone sequences and are therefore less impactful on the overall narrative. Still, this is an entertaining and enlightening film, made authentic by someone who lived it.


“PROTECT AND SERVE: MAKING THE INSPECTION” - Features interviews with writer-director Elegance Bratton and most of the principal cast.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By writer-director Elegance Bratton.



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