Irwin Winkler cribs from the best in Home of the Brave — unfortunately, he’s copied the wrong masterpiece at the wrong time. And he’s done so with a crayon. As a result, he’s ended up with a Hallmark TV drama about the very antithesis of a Hallmark moment.
With William Wyler’s powerful 1946 Oscar winner The Best Years of Our Lives, about GIs returning from WWII, as a guide, the veteran Rocky producer-turned-director follows the bumpy progress of National Guard soldiers returning from war in Iraq to peace in Spokane, Wash. Having survived a devastating ambush in the last days of their tour, when others in their unit did not, the vets come home to a blithe American dailiness now infuriatingly alien to them. Among them, a tough surgeon (Samuel L. Jackson) buries sadness with liquor. An athletic single mother (Jessica Biel) rages at her permanent physical wounds. A gentle guy tormented by back pain and haunted by his participation in the bloodshed (Curtis ”50 Cent” Jackson) rapidly unravels.
The movie’s aims are compassionate and respectful — noble, even, in the desire to pack as much info (about amputees, about vet support groups) into the unsubtle, expository script by Mark Friedman. But evenness of political keel, combined with a generic filmmaking style, is an artistic weapon way too puny for a successful assault on so tough, bruising, and crucial a subject.