On July 7, 2017, Brian Brown Easley walked into a Wells Fargo bank with a mission. He handed over a bank card. It read: “I have a bomb.” the movie, breakage shares a story of a Navy veteran claiming his $892 Veterans Affairs check.
breakage is based on a true story that not many people would know if they didn’t live in the state of Georgia. Much of what happened on screen happened in real life.
About a year after the incident, Aaron Gell reported on Easley’s life and death. The article was titled “”They Shouldn’t Have Killed Him: The Death of Corporal Brian Easley.”” It also detailed everyone involved and the steps that led to Easley’s eventual death.
It opens with Easley’s last moment of dignity before launching a plan to get his money from the VA. After talking to his daughter Kiah (London Convington) and promising her a dog, he decides to begin his own end. His goal was not to rob banks, nor to hurt anyone. He just wanted to be heard. The installation of the movie starts very quickly. One moment we’re in a hotel room where Easley is contemplating his next move. Next, he’s at Wells Fargo holding two women hostage, looking for a negotiator.
Abi Damaris Corbin directed the film. She also co-wrote with Kwame Kwei-Armah for a thrilling experience. Corbin and Kwei-Armah capture the true meaning of tragedy, but they don’t do it as a means of grabbing money or crying. They made this movie to educate people about what is really going on with the VA.
The reason this movie works so well is John Boyega’s performance. In every way, it felt natural. The pain behind each breakdown, from Easley’s fits of frustration to the complete courtesy he extended to everyone he interacted with, definitely showed who Easley was as a person. His personality didn’t change to show him as a hero or villain. Rather, a person who has lost hope. He had PTSD and other mental issues that made him behave differently. When you look, John Boyega will no longer be there; instead, Brian Brown Easley took his body. His acting skills have taken him sky high. If Boyega isn’t nominated for an Oscar, that would be a crime in itself.
As the story unfolds, we see the crumbling police force working alongside the FBI, GBI and News reporters to influence what will happen to Easley and his hostages. Nothing was dramatized for Hollywood effect, which made this all the more annoying. Every law enforcement officer that was on screen felt real. The uncertainty surrounding Easley’s next move had everyone on edge.
Each character played a role in the story. The two workers at Wells Fargo are Estel Valerie (Nicole Beharie) and Rosa Diaz (Selenis Leyva). Both women displayed courage and humility; every step they took had the audience in their shoes. Both women, at different times, wanted to help Easley, but ultimately, it wasn’t the money he wanted. He wanted the VA’s attention – it was a form of an apology. He wanted their money. What would you do in that situation when you start hearing the story from Easley?
The late Michael Kenneth Williams played Sgt. Eli Bernard, the negotiator. He was the only one in law enforcement who wanted Easley to get out of this alive. Through conversations between the two, it is revealed that Bernard has had similar run-ins with the VA. These issues are not new and therefore these scenes will touch the hearts of many people. There are many ways to connect with Easley’s journey, and it’s not limited to Veterans. It will relate to people who deal with mental health issues every day, who are homeless when it wasn’t something they could have done differently, and even people who try to make the most of things and still don’t get the result that they deserve.
breakage will open conversations about failures with VA. When true stories are done correctly and with good intentions, it can spark conversations. There is a clear message to Easley’s story. After many attempts to hear his voice, I can’t. VA does not help veterans when they are needed most.
It touches on all aspects of the themes: family, heartbreak, isolation, mental health, and the failed American dream. And in each of them, the audience will see through the eyes of Brian Brown Easley.
It’s not often that films are given perfect scores, but the story itself, along with the cast, director and writers, shows what true art can do. This is a tear, especially in the final moments of the film. It shows who Easley is deep down. He was a veteran, yes. He was also a father who needed help and no one could give him what he deserved.
This is a tragic story that is not over. As of today, Easley’s family has not been paid $892. The film was made to send a message to the world giving more thanks to the veterans who serve us every day.