Elegance Bratton‘s extremely impressive debut feature “The Inspection” is a somewhat harrowing tale of an out gay man being forced back into the closet. 25-year-old African /American Ellis French (Jeremy Pope) is both homeless and friendless and was only 14 years when he was disowned by his conservative religious and sanctimonious mother (Gabrielle Union)
The year is 2005 and the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Law’ is still being enforced, but French (as he is known) signs up to join the Marines, the toughest branch of the Armed Services. This self-imposed decision is part of a need to suppress his sexual desires and become more of a man that can fit into society’s expectations.
We’ve seen enough media to know that getting through basic training is probably the roughest thing that these raw recruits will ever have to face in their lives. It’s simply a system of unfettered bullying by power-hungry NCOs who impose a regime of sheer terror that they claim sorts out the maen from the boys. Although one accepts that all of them must be trained for the rigors of way they will most likely face, however, the sheer cruelty of how they are physically and mentally treated is still very hard to watch let alone actually undertake.
Knowing that The Inspection is based on the filmmaker’s own life not only adds such authenticity but scares us more knowing that this inhumane treatment is very real indeed.
Serving in any of the Armed Services has always been touted as one of the most testosterone-packed lifestyles which are only suitable for the most masculine of men. Society has always assumed that it is impossible for men to be ultra-masculine and homosexual too. This is part of the ignorance that leads to gay recruits being far more brutally treated than their straight colleagues, and what is even worse, as in this case are encouraged, to physically abuse any gay men in their ranks.
It has always appeared that the Armed Services act diametrically opposed to the rest of society. Where the latter encourages individuality and an independent spirit, the Marines want to break that spirit and create soldiers who will follow every order to the letter without hesitation.
However, the drama in The Inspection unfolds at a slower rate than one would expect, and although this story of rampant homophobia is major, Bratton neatly avoids turning it into a melodrama. It has its homoerotic moments, and for some reason, we were uncomfortable with a scene when all the results were in their own beads very noisily pleasuring themselves.
The film worked so well because of the career-defining performance of two-time Tony-nominated openly gay Jeremy Pope. It was compelling highly nuanced and perfectly pitched. We wouldn’t be surprised to see his name on several lists of Award nominees this season.
Kudos to Bokeem Woodbine for his convincing scary performance as Staff Sargent Laws. Plus Gabrielle Union is French’s mother who is in the opening and closing scenes of the film. Her spot-on performance as the angry and self-righteous mother will resound with so many other queer people who also had to go through similarly hurtful comings-out.
The film itself is a kind of sequel to Brattan’s heartbreaking doc Pier Kids who are queer kids living rough on the Streets exactly like he did when his own mother threw him out. Both of his films make such valuable contributions to LGBTQ+ history
The last word must go to the sympathetic Sergeant who told French “If we got rid of every gay man in the military, there would be no military,”
PS A24 Films are releasing THE INSPECTION in US movie theatres on Nov 18th 2022
Review : Roger Walker-Dack
Editor in Chief : Queerguru Member of G.A.L.E.C.A. (Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association) and NLGJA The Association of LGBT Journalists. and The Online Film Critics Society. Ex Contributung Editor The Gay Uk &Contributor Edge Media Former CEO and Menswear Designer of Roger Dack Ltd in the UK one of the hardest-working journalists in the business' Michael Goff of Towleroad