‘Breaking’ Offers a Gripping Real-Life Story of Injustice

Ben Friedman


“What do I need to do to get the attention that I need right now?” That is the driving motivation for our protagonist, Lance Corporal Brian Brown-Easley.


Breaking tells the true-life story of Easley, a former marine in financial trouble. On the brink of homelessness and an inability to pay for his daughter’s child support, Easley decides to hold a Wells Fargo Bank hostage and make his voice heard through live news coverage. Breaking is a harrowing look into the hardships that veterans face, told through the vehicle of one man, portrayed by Star Wars actor John Boyega.



Every minute of screen time revolves around Brian Brown-Easley. From the get-go, the threat is imminent. Very little is revealed about Easley until the second half of the film, which could make the character feel directionless. Yet Boyega commands the screen with such intensity and gravitas. His performance grounds the story in its humanity. Brian is rash, yet sympathetic.  In what is his best acting performance to date, Boyega presents the fragility and fear that binds Brian.


Co-starring alongside Boyega is the late, great Michael K. Williams. Williams portrays Eli Bernard, a hostage negotiator and former vet. Eli’s shared military connection allows him to sympathize with Brian’s situation. The film showcases William’s calming screen presence. His character feels so in control of the moment. Where Brian is rash, Eli remains level-headed, allowing the two actors to complement one another’s performances.



Helming the project is newcomer Abi Damaris Corbin. Her greatest talent is her restraint. For a story like this, it would have been easy for a director to overindulge in flashy action scenes, yet she understands to keep the action focused on the characters. Her direction feels delicate. The slightest of camera movements are equivalent to that of a jump-scare effect, and in doing so, captures tension on-screen that feels palpable.


Breaking is not a particularly groundbreaking film. Like Dog Day Afternoon and John Q, Breaking roots its story in protesting an injustice. This may cause some to believe the film has nothing new to offer. Yet the film’s familiar story beats emphasize a lack of progress within American society.


Nearly 50 years later, the anger Sidney Lumet felt is still palpable within Breaking. The film exists as a reminder of just how little has actually changed in America.  


Author Bio:

Ben Friedman is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.


For Highbrow Magazine


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