An unspecified Asian island hosts an American tale of crude bigotry during World War II in Home of the Brave, a responsive result of internal wartime malaise. James Edwards lashes out as Peter Moss, volunteered into a small squad and subsequently rejected for being black, forcing an uncomfortable dichotomy on an isolated island.
Home of the Brave rejects flimsy action scenes, handling them with weakly descriptive machine gun fire and unseen Japanese. Moss’ recollection, acting as the film’s framing device, squats on characterization. Finch (Lloyd Bridges) acts as a supporting post for Moss’ dwindling psyche, while the others are looser with their dialog.
As propaganda films cast John Wayne as the totalitarian spire of heroism, Home of the Brave shatters a connotation of military perfectionism. For 1949, Brave is uncharacteristically fierce in its condemnation of race bias, fearless in assaulting those wrongly distributed values which carried into battlefields. Moss’ bed ridden condition – paralyzed without a wound – is metaphorical above logical despite the undercurrent of PTSD decades prior to its official designation.
Tightened focus appears thin, stuck in either set-built jungles or interior barracks, although consequences spill forward from this flashback spun story. Brave’s closure is a comfortable deconstruction of discriminatory thoughts, if still leaving the prevailing attitudes of unchanging mindsets in place. Moss is not cured so much as he is injecting himself into a continued cycle of ignorance post-war.
Brave maintains historical significance, both for joining a series of ’40s films renouncing inequality and for stoutly demanding cinematic acceptance of James Edwards, whose career would blast racist characterization. Modern terms lends credence to the depressing messaging, aged or otherwise, as prejudice is still harbored as critical 24 hour news cycle fodder.
Direction by Mark Robson propels uniqueness with tension driven close-ups (unusual for the period) if proving blasé without them, holding to the stage production’s natural flatness. Standout scripting from Carl Foreman’s adaptation of Arthur Laurents’ play hoists the film into specialized cinema. The production year is irrelevant to its purpose.
Preservation work is tremendous under Olive Films’ banner from this Pramount-held feature, presented with a notably modern scan and capable encoding technique. Vintage 35mm film is hoisted onto the shoulders of capable bitrates, presenting clean health to this hefty grain structure. Digital tools appear to have passed some filtering into the process with hints of lost fidelity in medium shots, salvaged by detail blasted close-ups.
Substantial gray scale proves crisp, adding density as opposed to age related fading. Few moments of blown out highlights near Brave’s island closure are performed in passing and relieved quickly. Black & white work distinguishes the plethora of plants on set, of course aided by the resolution of the master.
Source imperfections are Brave’s ultimate collapse, and not merely the technical limitations of period filmmaking which soften pre and post-edit fades. Distress has left the feature with countless specks and dirt, workable and in some instances adding to the worn feel.
However, the rush of gate weave issues, splotches, vertical scratches for minutes at a time, flickering contrast, and other damage oriented concerns are disappointing. Clean-up was either quick or ignored during the transfer process. Thankfully, key scenes are often in avoidance of critical concerns.
Likewise, mono work is scattered between instances of popping and static. Uncompressed assistance from DTS-HD is of minimal help. While orchestrated highs offer a relief from other elements, some choir work is wholly unintelligible. Low drums are a touch ragged.
Dialog will only be bothered by strain within the source, clean enough to receive a pass. Consistency in delivery is high, and when bunched up with gunfire in the third act, minor complications arise. Static roughhouses the material as delivered without critically damaging consequences.
Olive offers a menu with chapter skips and no bonuses.
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