When a humanitarian mission in Iraq is derailed by an explosive ambush, a small band of American soldiers find themselves fighting for their lives.
The fact that Home of the Brave
is about soldiers coming home from a war that isn't even over is just one of the things that's off in this film; director Irwin Winkler and screenwriter Mark Friedman's 2006 tale of the problems faced by the men and women returning from Iraq is also hampered by thoroughly predictable storytelling, sub-par acting, and sometimes painfully on-the-nose dialogue, reducing what could have been a provocative and challenging effort into so much TV movie fodder. When Army medic Will Marsh (Samuel L. Jackson, who does his best to rise above the level of the material) and soldiers Vanessa Price (Jessica Biel) and Tommy Yates (Brian Presley) return to Spokane, Washington, major readjustment problems loom, mostly due to a chaotic ambush in a small Iraqi town (occurring less than two weeks before they were to be sent home, the incident is so unsurprising that anyone could have seen it coming). Will and his angry teenage son wage their own war, while Dad takes to the bottle; Vanessa's learning to cope with a prosthetic hand, while Tommy's grieving over the best buddy who died in the ambush and the loss of his job, girlfriend, and self-respect. Those matters and the clichéd, unconvincing way in which they're handled, along with the film's refusal to take a strong stand either for or against the war, obscure the potentially much more interesting issues. Are these soldiers patriots, or merely pawns? Were they doing their righteous duty by serving in this conflict, or were they victims sent off to suffer and perhaps die by a bunch of men in suits who never saw a minute of combat themselves? Other home-from-war films, from 1946's The Best Years of Our Lives
to 1978's Coming Home
to 1989's Born on the Fourth of July
, have dealt with these and other issues a good deal more effectively than the earnest and well-intentioned but not very compelling Home of the Brave
. --Sam Graham