The Inspection(2022)

Movie Info

Movie Info

Elegance Bratton
Run Time
1 hour and 35 minutes

VP Content Ratings

Sex & Nudity
Star Rating
★★★★4.5 out of 5

Relevant Quotes

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Psalm 139:14-15
 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

Hebrews 13:17
Ellis is constantly degraded by his drill sergeant. (c) A24

Writer-director Elegance Bratton’s semi-autobiographical film is one more indication that Hollywood is taking the LGBTQ+ community seriously, and respectfully. A beautiful (though containing some ugly moments) parable of unconditional love binding a parent and a son, it turns the trope around so that it is the son’s love that knows no bounds; since the age of 16 Ellis French (Jeremy Pope) has been surviving on his own because his mother had cast him out when he revealed that he was gay.

We see the son’s devotion at the very beginning of the film when he is heading, small bouquet in hand, to his mother’s, Inez (Gabrielle Union), apartment. She is reluctant to answer the door and then, as he persists in knocking, eventually admits him. She is surprised that he has decided to join the Marines after so many years of drifting and living in a homeless shelter. After seeing so many of his friends die or be sent to prison, Ellis has decided to change his life.

The Marine way of changing a life by degrading a recruit begins at the very moment that Ellis steps off the bus and lines up with the other recruits at the command of their drill sergeant (Bokeem Woodbine), who promises that he will break them. The film is set in 2005 when the “Don’t ask/Don’t tell, Don’t Pursue” was the policy of the military. However, Ellis’s condition is soon revealed in the shower when he is surrounded by naked male bodies and his penis hardens. He is assaulted and shunned by the other recruits—except for a few who also are outsiders, such as Ismail (Eman Esfandi), a Muslim. Also Rosales (Raul Castillo), an assistant instructor who is kind and supportive.

Much of the harsh, indeed cruel, training regimen will bring to mind Full Metal Jacket. How Ellis endures the regimen, made all the harsher by homophobia and racism, is remarkable, but even more so is his persistent desire to please his judgmental mother. When she does not reply to any of his many letters, he tries to get her to talk on the telephone. As graduation day approaches there is tension around the question of will she show up, and then, whether she will approve of him at last. This is complicated by her mistakenly believing that boot camp has “cured” him of his homosexuality. In this sequence there is a stirring moment of soldierly solidarity that equals the fabulous “I am Spartacus” scene in the 1960 film about the rebel slave.

I was intrigued, and a bit saddened, by the sequence in which the Marine chaplain refers to the passage from Hebrews, using it to teach the recruits obedience to their officers. He claims that, like in the Bible, there is a chain of command in the Marines which must be followed. This reminded me of several scenes from films about slavery, such as the recent Emancipation­ or the slightly older Birth of a Nation, in which a preacher, approved by the plantation owner, uses the words of the apostle Paul to instill obedience to the master in the slaves. I would be interested in the reaction to this of any of you who have served as military chaplains

Also, the film raises the question of how a gay man can maintain his sense of self-worth in such a harsh military environment designed to break the spirit and revive it with new values—not just heterogeneous ones but also those that inhibit the urge to kill. The Hebrew/Christian Scriptures have often been misused to condemn homosexuals—but how might Psalm 139 inspire or support them? And what role can others, such as Rosales, play in sustaining the spirit in the midst of so much homophobia?

I love the film’s reversal of the usual flow of unconditional love—from son to mother, rather than the opposite—it makes this film a unique one, worthy of more attention than it is receiving. The director dedicates his film to his own mother, who apparently is like Inez, a devout Christian whose religion makes it almost impossible for her to accept a gay man, even if he is her son. Just as the twisted form of Christianity enabled believers to enslave Blacks, so it enables believers today to hate gays! Bratton’s film helps us to the plight of the African American gay person as few others do.  Released during the period leading up to Christmas, a time when divine love is celebrated, it should be high on your list of “must see” movies.

This review will be in the January issue of  VP along with a set of questions for reflection and/or discussion. If you have found reviews on this site helpful, please consider purchasing a subscription or individual issue in The Store.

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