Updated: Jul 20, 2022
John Boyega, one of the biggest names thrust into stardom by the recent revival of Star Wars, enters Sundance with his latest starring turn, Breaking, the debut feature from Abi Damaris Corbin. Breaking is a film based on the riveting true story of Bryan Brown-Easley, a former Marine who decided he would no longer be overlooked by our broken system and took matters into his own hands; what came of this was a bone-chilling standoff with police that captured the eyes of the nation. While some may recall hearing of this story on the news or in the paper, Brown-Easley is not exactly a household name, but his message is one that demands to be heard by all.
Brown-Easley was a man with a potent message: one for the entire world about the ways in which this country overlooks people. People who have been marginalized and passed over for so many reasons and for far too long. In the United States, two of the most neglected groups of people are Veterans and the Homeless. Brown-Easley, who was both, decided that his life was going to stand for something and that he was done seeing this country neglect people in need. Brown-Easley was a complicated man who, despite his challenges, remained devoted to his family and to his faith. It’s established early on that Brown-Easley is a good man, giving so much weight to every move he makes. A man this nuanced with such an important story could only be successfully portrayed by the right leading man. As it’s said in the film so many times, “these people have stories to tell”, and it takes some seriously talented actors to tell them.
Enter Boyega, who since his time in Star Wars, has ventured into some far more powerful roles, but none more important and striking than this one. It’s evident Boyega has a fiery passion for telling stories and after seeing his character so poorly bungled by the folks over at Disney, all I wanted was to see him in a role he could really sink his teeth into. Boyega, a classically trained actor, brings such a raw intensity to his roles which is omnipresent in every inch of his portrayal. Reuniting with Kwame Kwei-Armah, the man who put Boyega in his first play, clearly allowed Boyega to dig deep into his bag of tricks and pull out a gem of a performance. Full embodiment doesn’t begin to describe it. As we see Brown-Easley struggle through these intense moments of crisis, it’s clear that Boyega has internalized this role far beyond his staggering physical appearance. While we only see a short sliver of his life, it’s clear that Brown-Easley had a deep past and Boyega clearly draws on this as he attempts to convey the man’s fears and struggles. A role that requires this much empathy will not soon be forgotten and for Boyega, it marks a new high.
Beyond Boyega’s excellent work on screen, there’s a legacy to a role and film like this that will carry this story further than even Brown-Easley believed possible. Breaking has a fully realized cause and message from the very first frames, but it never sacrifices its entertainment value. Brown-Easley aimed to shed light on the gross mistreatment of veterans in our country; the light this film shines is unflinching, and if there’s ever a villain in this movie, it is most certainly the U.S. Government. In the Q & A following the film, first-time director Demaris Corbin said something along the lines of wanting to “make this movie in such a way, that this story wouldn’t need to be told again in 20 years” and thanks to Boyega and the rest of the team, it hopefully won’t need to be. But if Easley’s story is any indication, we may be sadly forced to repeat these lessons for a long time to come.
Breaking celebrated its world premiere this week virtually at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival under the title 892 and will be released in theaters August 26.