A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Promotes the need for empathy and the importance of mental health support and disability resources for veterans. Shows the importance of people feeling seen and heard.
Positive Role Models
Brian is a loving father and, despite his actions at the bank, a moral man with no interest in taking anything he's not entitled to. He's also struggling with mental illness and in need of meaningful help. The two bank employees, Estel and Rosa, try to remain as calm and empathetic as they can and work to try to resolve the situation. Officer Bernard respects his job and Brian.
Most characters are Black or Brown. Race is addressed in Brian's experiences and conversations, like when he tells Officer Bernard that people like him never survive, or jokes with Estel that the other bank robber she saw must have been arrested and not killed because he was White. The movie is making a clear statement about the poor way that Black men and mentally ill people are treated by society at large and by the VA in particular.
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Violence & Scariness
Brian says he has a bomb and yells a lot -- at people to leave the bank, at customers who call, and at his two hostages. He threatens to "press the button" but also tells the two bank managers he'll let them go before blowing himself and the bank up. Rosa urinates in fear in a brief scene. SWAT officers are heavily armored. A law enforcement sniper shoots from a distance, the sound frightening people. A person's blood is visible, as is part of their dead body. General sense of tension.
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Occasional strong language includes "damn," "s--t," "bitch," "bulls--t," "FUBAR," and one "f--k."
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Products & Purchases
Newport cigarettes are prominently featured in a few scenes, and nearly the entire film takes place in a Wells Fargo bank. iPhone is briefly shown, and CNN is mentioned.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Brian smokes cigarettes and later asks for them.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Breaking is a drama based on the true story of Lance Cpl. Brian Brown-Easley, who walked into a Wells Fargo bank in Georgia in 2017 and held employees hostage while demanding the disability benefits he was due as a U.S. veteran. There are moments of peril and weapons-based violence (at the hands of the authorities), plus the underlying upsetting idea that Brian could let a bomb explode. Expect occasional strong language (one "f--k," plus "s--t," "bitch," etc.) and a brief shot of someone urinating in fear. Wells Fargo and Newport cigarettes are featured prominently, and the end of the movie features a brief photo (but no footage) of the real-life Brian and his daughter. Starring John Boyega as Brown-Easley, the docudrama is also the final film of the late, great Michael Kenneth Williams. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Boyega gives a captivating, nuanced performance in this fact-based drama about a man on a mission to be heard. Breaking isn't an easy watch; Corbin and her co-writer, playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, don't shy away from the various upsetting ways that veterans with mental health or disability needs aren't adequately supported. Brian isn't a villainous thief -- he doesn't want a cent more than he's due. Boyega touchingly captures Brian's despair and sense of helplessness in the face of poverty. Despite his anger and paranoia, Brian never wavers about the moral rightness of his actions, and for the most part he's surprisingly polite and apologetic toward the hostages. And Beharie and Leyva stand out as the bank employees who are at once frightened and desperate to convince Brian he should just take the money from the bank instead of waiting in vain for the VA to rectify their error.
As a full-length directorial debut, Breaking proves that Corbin has a great deal of promise as a filmmaker. And although Boyega is undeniably the drama's star, it's impossible to discuss the movie without focusing on the fact that it's Williams' final role. Shot in the summer of 2021 just before his death, the movie highlights exactly how much gravitas he could bring to even a supporting role. Williams imbues Officer Bernard with a powerful sense of empathy and respect that allows him to connect with the troubled Brown-Easley. He and Boyega don't physically share space (they communicate by phone), but they act so well with each other that it's easy to wish they could have made another film together. Close-ups of Williams' expressive face and his vital presence are a poignant reminder of what a talent we have collectively lost.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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