I’m not sure why I continue to be surprised when I see a film about a true story that happened during my lifetime, as it seems to happen far too often. Admittedly, I avoid the news a lot, and – of course – some stories may not get the attention they deserve. Breaking (2022), directed by Abi Damaris Corbin, is a story about Marine Veteran Brian Brown-Easley (John Boyega) who decides to take over a bank and keeps its employees as hostages after being denied support from Veteran’s Affairs. Finding himself financially desperate and running out of options, he chooses to bring his circumstances to a larger audience, hoping to be heard finally.
This film is sad for a multitude of reasons. The first reason is that it is the last film of Michael K. Williams. He gives a tremendous final performance as Officer Eli Bernard. Officer Bernard is tasked with speaking to Brian, and the conversations between these two incredibly talented actors are some of the film’s highlights. Williams brings so many layers of emotion, and his character is likely representative of the voice of many in the real world upset by the events of that day. There is a weight to the performance that will remind all who watch how incredible Williams was at his craft.
Another reason this film rocked me emotionally is the many injustices that we are made aware of and the fact that I hadn’t known about it prior to the existence of this film. Boyega gives what may be his best performance to date, which is saying something for this fan, as this story requires a number of little nuances in the performance to make it firmly click. If you don’t know the true story, then you aren’t entirely sure what Brian wants to achieve by walking into that Wells-Fargo. Early on, we see him assembling something, and he tells the teller (Selenis Leyva) that he has a bomb. However, Brian never seems to want to hurt anyone, and the remorse seen in Boyega’s eyes helps to bring the audience in. It is impossible not to ponder what Brian could possibly think will happen that can’t end in tragedy, so the audience is immediately put into a bad situation. We feel for the employees at the bank, we feel for Brian’s ex-wife and daughter, and we worry for Brian.
At times, the film does lean into sentimentality and emotional manipulation a bit too much – a lingering shot of a photo of Rosa’s (Leyva) family, for example – but it is understandable. This is an emotional story that deserves to be heard. The unjust treatment of Brian is infuriating and stands as a substantial reminder of the treatment (or mistreatment, rather) of veterans. While this is a specific story, it is not the only one like this. The cast does everything in their ability to bring the emotional weight of this tragedy to the screen while being respectful to the real-life people it is about. Breaking earns the Must See rating.