When I first heard of Breaking, I was interested due to two reasons, John Boyega and Michael Kenneth Williams. For John Boyega’s performance, I was excited since I’d loved him in the “Star Wars” films and wanted to see him do something that was more dramatic. In the case of Michael Kenneth Williams, I knew he had recently passed away and that this was his last film before his death. He was always an amazing actor. In the case of the performances, I was thrilled that both men were as phenomenal as I expected. The film was an emotional, tense, speculative drama that will make people think about society and how it treats individuals.
Breaking is a thriller drama written and directed by Abi Damaris Corbin and co-written by Kwame Kwei-Armah, based on the 2018 Task & Purpose article, They Didn’t Have to Kill Him, written by Aaron Gelt. The film is based on the real-life story of the late Brian Brown-Easley (John Boyega), a former Marine Corps veteran in financial trouble. Desperate and concerned over the effects on his daughter Kiah (London Covington) as well as the prospect of homelessness, Brian robs a Wells Fargo with a bomb threat in 2017, holding two women hostage, bank manager Estel Valarie (Nicole Beharie) and teller Rosa Diaz (Selenis Leyva). In the film, police surround the building with Major Riddick (Jeffrey Donovan) in charge and Eli Bernard (Michael Kenneth Williams), the negotiator attempting to resolve the situation. Also in the mix is local reporter Lisa Larson (Connie Britton). The taut situation plays out to an all too real ending.
The writing is taut, and the pacing is perfect. In this film, the writing focuses on the actions of Brian, trying to demonstrate his emotions and speculate on what he must have gone through during those hours, as well as how his actions impacted others. The writing does not flinch from the real-life consequences and the pain on Brian’s family, the emotions he endures, and the fear of the hostages. The direction keeps the focus on Boyega as Brian, keeping the audience aware of the reasons for his actions as well as showing us scenes from his past to illustrate the pressure and difficulties he has endured. The writing keeps the film realistic. The pace of the story matches the long wait for the situation to resolve. And while this is a very dramatic film, the writers alleviate some of the tension with sweet moments between Brian and his daughter Kiah as well as the way he bonds with Eli Bernard, the negotiator, who is trying to help both Brian and the hostages.
Besides the writing, the other aspects that truly drives this film to greatness are the performances. Boyega is emotional and powerful as Brian. He has some beautiful warm scenes with London Covington, and their dynamic is rich. He illustrates a quiet desperation in the role, allowing for a profoundly strong performance. He holds the screen with his presence. And London Covington as Kiah is sweet and funny and adds to the desperation of Brian’s actions. The late Michael Kenneth Williams is also superb in his last film performance. His bond with Boyega allows the audience to believe that his character truly cared for Brian, and his performance is commanding as well. Nicole Beharie and Selenis Leyva as the hostages are every bit as important, and their acting every bit as strong and emotional as the men. Their fear and desperation resonate and enhance the movie. Connie Britton and Jeffrey Donovan are fantastic as well.
The film is not fast-paced, but the tension is strong, the story will resonate with audiences, and the emotional and powerful acting will keep you glued to your seat. It is difficult to watch at times as the ending is not unexpected, but the bulk of the film is about speculating on the emotions of those interacting with Brian Brown Easley and the man himself. And the film does an excellent job of portraying his desperation, the fear of the hostages, and the emotions of those outside the bank.
If you like emotional, dramatic films with a realistic view of how a desperate situation can be made worse, you might check this movie out. It perfectly illustrates how broken the system is and how individuals can be broken by the smallest of errors. Boyega is superb and Michael Kenneth Williams is commanding in his last role. If you like either man, you should watch this film. Their performances are some of the best I’ve seen on film.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Bombs
When Marine Veteran Brian Brown-Easley is denied support from Veterans Affairs, financially desperate and running out of options, he takes a bank and several of its employees’ hostage, setting the stage for a tense confrontation with the police. Based on the true story.
BREAKING opens in theaters on Friday, August 26, 2022.
ONE-LINER: A Marine war veteran faces mental and emotional challenges when he tries to reintegrate back into civilian life.