Elegance Bratton’s The Inspection is based on his real-life experience as a young man. Bratton dealt with homophobia at home from his mother and had to face more blatant homophobia during his time at the Marines Corps boot camp because of his sexual orientation.
Jeremy Pope plays Ellis French ( a stand in for Bratton), a young man down on his luck. When we’re first introduced to Ellis, he’s trying to get his birth certificate from his mother Inez (Gabrielle Union) so he can join the Marines. Through this short and very intense interaction, it’s clear their relationship is strained.
Once Ellis arrives at the Recruit Training Depot at Parris Island, he’s met by cast of fellow recruits and a hardnosed training instructor named Laws (Bokeem Woodbine). After the first day, it’s clear to everyone in Ellis’ boot camp that he’s gay. The rest of his group reacts terribly, and Ellis is faced with intense hazing and abuse. The training instructor and some of Ellis’ fellow recruits do their best to make sure he quits and/or doesn’t complete his training.
Ellis spends the next few weeks going through basic training as he’s pushed to his limits physically and emotionally while also fighting the urge to quit due to the vile attacks he’s facing. Ellis does his best to find strength and support in his fellow recruits as he begins to succeed in a world that tries to cast him out at every turn.
The Inspection is a deeply personal story that follows one man’s journey to find acceptance and identity for himself. Jeremy Pope gives a masterful performance as Ellis. Pope carries the pain and pride Ellis has without dismissing who Ellis is at his core, even at times when Ellis doesn’t quite know himself. If there is an award clip in this film, it’s the scene with Ellis and Rosales (Raul Castillo) in the truck. Rosales asks Ellis why he wants to be a Marine. Ellis gives an answer that will bring many people to tears.
Bokeem Woodbine has been a working actor since 1993 and I can’t think of any role he’s played like this. He’s so unlikable, devious, and hateful. The power in Woodbine’s performance is making the audience believe Laws thinks he’s doing the right thing. No matter how disgusting or distasteful his actions are, Laws feels he wouldn’t be doing his job if he wasn’t trying to break this young man.
One of the subtleties in this film is how much insane stuff happens at bootcamp that nobody blinks an eye at, yet somehow Ellis being gay is a bridge too far for so many people
The Inspection is a touching film that touches on various personal struggles, both within the family and societal. Jeremy Pope’s riveting performance makes the film worth your while.