Diving Deep

The story of one man's struggle against the tide of racial tension in the US Navy.

Based upon the true story of Carl Brashear, "Men of Honor" is directed by George Tillman and is brought to the screen by Fox Searchlight Pictures. The movie follows the trials and tribulations of an elite team of US Navy divers during the 1950s, and one black man's career therein.

Carl Brashear (Cuba Gooding Jr.) was an idealistic young man from Kentucky who decided to take on a challenging career in the Navy’s elite diving squads. Facing racial opposition at every turn, Brashear’s determination and excellence become painfully evident to his superior officers.

After enrolling at the dive school in New Jersey, his life takes a capricious turn in the hands of Master Chief Sunday (Robert De Niro), whose dichotomous personality cannot be understated in this film. Under the latter’s influence, Brashear gains the respect of his bunk buddies and rises to a reasonable status in the navy. Unfortunately, a tragic accident at sea leaves him handicapped and he is faced with the unwelcome prospect of an early retirement before the completion of his life-long dream to be a Master Chief.

The movie is a tribute to the career of Carl Brashear and manages to follow the cinematic example of many drama films. The compelling story of one man's struggle against the tide of racial tension in the Navy is adequately represented and the director’s sense of authenticity deserves credit.

Two renowned award-winning actors bring the characters to life. Gooding downplays his role as the determined protagonist, while De Niro's role as Master Chief Sunday is a fresh change from any Italian-American clichés.

The production’s efforts to recreate the 1950s is thorough and accurate and it becomes increasingly clear that the crew has done their homework.

"Men of Honor" is a brilliant entertainer and the story of Carl Brashear is historically and socially relevant to our modern context. The movie is a compelling tale of power, determination and the choices involved in our everyday lives.

This article was first published on25 Jan 2001.