Opening 24 Aug 2023
Writer-director Elegance Bratton has crafted a powerful, poignant, and multi-layered drama whereby each layer adds a relevant measure to The Inspection. Based on a true story—his—it is an upsetting commentary on humankind, yet an invigorating inspiration for individualism.
Ellis (Jeremy Pope), trying to turn his life around turns to Mom (Gabrielle Union) for support, ironically at the same time his military draft notice arrives. It actually slots into his plans. If anything can turn him around the Marines can. That, or break him. During the bus ride to Paris Island, South Carolina, he gets an inkling of what’s in store; he casually befriends Ismael (Eman Esfandi). Drill instructors scream them off the bus and keep it up for the next 13 weeks. Sargent Leland Laws (Bokeem Woodbine), lead training instructor, is tough, short on patience and long on punishment with a masochistic streak, while others go along. For Sargent Rosales (Raúl Castillo), though, training up a good Marine comes first. “It’s all about protecting the man on your left and man on your right.” The course is physically punishing and mentally grueling, and for Ellis far worse. Another recruit, Harry (McCaul Lombardi), is competitive, likes to control others and licks Laws’ boots. The combination is toxic, particularly for Ellis when their homophobic hazing verges on dangerous. And then comes the Crucible.
The testosterone-high tone of The Inspection makes much of the legendary Marine Corp bootcamp’s intense, exhaustingly tough training; it is the longest and considered most arduous of the US military branches with an attrition rate of 11–15%. Bratton makes light of some aspects to emphasize others important to the storyline; one erotic scene early on at bootcamp is without discernible meaning or purpose. The cast is strong, Pope shines; Bratton’s part for Union/Inez French is one-dimensional, albeit his mom’s actions were relevant to his own. Production values are good: Lachlan Milne’s cinematography, Oriana Soddu’s editing and Animal Collective’s soundtrack. At its core, The Inspection’s authenticity carries it forward and without question esprit de corps is about developing the wherewithal to bend, and not break. (Marinell Haegelin)