Breaking, rated PG-13
Breaking is an intense film based on true events that took place in 2017 about a veteran, who feeling that he is out of options and at his breaking point, goes to a Wells Fargo bank in Atlanta with a bomb. The film features a solid cast and a powerful acting performance by John Boyega (Star Wars films), who portrays Brian Brown-Easley.
The film was written and directed by Abi Damaris Corbin and co-written by Kwame Kwei-Armah. It is based on the 2018 article “They Didn’t Have to Kill Him” by Aaron Gell.
Brian Brown-Easley is an honorably discharged Marine veteran who has fallen on tough times. He is living in a cheap motel and separated from his wife, but stays in touch with his young daughter when he has enough money to buy minutes for his phone. We don’t know what has led him to this situation, but it appears he is suffering from PTSD, and does not have money for the medicine he needs.
Upset that he hasn’t received the money due him from the Veteran’s Administration, we see Brown-Easley make a small bomb and walk into a Wells Fargo bank in Atlanta. Most of the bank customers and employees are able to get out. Eventually, it is just Brown-Easley and two hostages in the bank; the bank supervisor Estel Valerie, played by Nicole Beharie (42), and bank teller Rosa Diaz, played by Selenis Leyva (Spider-Man: Homecoming).
Brown-Easley doesn’t want money from the bank, he wants what he is due from the VA. He also wants media coverage, so that he can tell his story, and to talk to a police negotiator. He calls Atlanta television producer Lisa Larson, played by five-time Emmy nominee Connie Britton (The White Lotus, Nashville, American Horror Story, Friday Night Lights), and eventually is put in touch with police negotiator Eli Bernard played by five-time Emmy nominee, the late Michael Kenneth Williams (Lovecraft Country, When They See Us, Vice, The Night Of, Bessie), who died in 2021 in his final role.
Most of the film takes place in and immediately outside the bank – it has the feeling of a stage play. We do meet Brown-Easley’s former wife Cassandra, who is played by Olivia Washington, and his young daughter Kiah, who is played by London Covington and who clearly loves her troubled father.
Brown-Easley is not a typical bank robber. Several times we see him apologize to his hostages. In a flashback scene with his daughter, we see them pray together.
Themes in the film include mental illness, desperation and a hostage situation. Content concerns include violence and some adult language.
Breaking is a low budget under the radar film based on true events that features an excellent acting performance by John Boyega. I would have liked to see the film explore more of what led Brown-Easley to his breaking point.