Starring: Jeremy Pope, Gabrielle Union, Bokeem Woodbine, Raúl Castillo, McCaul Lombardi, and Eman Esfandi
Director: Elegance Bratton
Director Elegance Bratton has crafted what is clearly a very personal film that is something to be proud of. The Inspection, above all else, feels authentic. It’s not afraid to “go there,” but it’s never gratuitous, while the moments of levity are organic and never forced. Jeremy Pope justifies his casting with a powerhouse performance that is both touching and heartbreaking, and Gabrielle Union gives a career-best showing - good enough to put her in the awards conversation even. Growth is one of the main themes of The Inspection, which is fitting because we’re about to see that growth in both Bratton and Pope’s careers.
The Inspection does a lot while also feeling incomplete. The film likely would have fallen apart if it weren’t for Jeremy Pope’s astonishing performance, but unfortunately, its 90-minute runtime doesn’t give director Elegance Bratton enough time to flesh everything out. Its stance is clear and told effectively, but outside of its central character, everything feels simplified in its approach. I certainly felt the emotions I was supposed to feel, but that was more towards the situation and less because of everything it was building to.
Although The Inspection could have afforded to be a little more biting in its portrayal of the U.S. military and/or the implications of gay men being in it during the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era, it’s more than well-carried on the back of a brilliantly nuanced Jeremy Pope performance. Pope is exceptional in the film, able to will empathy from an audience that wants him to succeed in his mission just as much as we want him to save himself from it. Gabrielle Union and Raúl Castillo also turn in strong supporting work, though Union is seldom on screen.
This film was reviewed by Nick as part of Bitesize Breakdown's coverage of the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, as well as by Jacob as part of Bitesize Breakdown's coverage of the 2022 New York Film Festival.