After directing four shorts and collaborating with fellow directors Shaun Duffy and Melanie Aitkenhead for the 2017 feature Actors Anonymous, Abi Damaris Corbin returns with her last feature, 892, starring John Boyega. Based on a real-life story, 892 follows Brian Brown-Easley (Boyega), a former Marine Corps veteran at the end of his rope. Already in financial troubles with rent past due, Brian is also facing pressure from his ex-wife.
Things turn for the worst when Brian learns that his VA disability check is short $892. Appalled and concerned over the effects of this action on his relationship with his daughter alongside the prospects of homelessness, Brian decides to take action and concludes that robbing a Wells Fargo Bank with a bomb threat will solve his problems.
After walking into the bank, Brian quickly informs teller Rosa Diaz (Selenia Leya) of his planes. Meanwhile, on the other side of the branch. Bank manager Estel Valerie quickly realizes what is happening and follows protocol to get as many civilians out of the bank as possible. With two hostages in tow and nothing left to lose, Brian patiently waits to hope his plan will unfold, while a sympathetic hostage negotiator Eli Bernard (Michael Kenneth Williams) hopes he can defuse the situation before it escalates.
I was unaware of Brian Brown-Easley’s life events that fateful day back in 2017. However, as a fan of the cast, true stories, and a Veteran myself, the film’s plot caught my attention. In my opinion, John Boyega has been one to watch since his breakthrough in 2011’s Attack the Block. Boyega has always had a natural screen presence. In this film, though, Boyega tones down the charisma that guided him through the last Star Wars trilogy for a more somber performance that, in my opinion, is his best since Detroit.
Losing himself in the role of Brian, Boyega quickly allows the viewer to understand his plight. When Brian sets his plan in motion, he is never aggressive or threatening his hostages. Throughout the film’s early moments, Brian uses customary greetings towards the woman, and it is clear that director Abi Damaris Corbin wants us to see how this country failed Easley. One powerful scene involves Brian taking a trip to the VA, where the VA rep blows him off. As a VET myself, the frustration in Brian’s eye hit home.
Michael Kenneth Williams’s former military man turned hostage negotiator character Eli Bernard appears in the film’s second act. As you know, Williams tragically passed away in the fall of 2021, so this is one of the actor’s final on-screen roles. The scenes between Williams and Boyega’s characters consist primarily of the two men engaging in witty banter. Hearing the men converse and Eli’s genuine compassion for Brian reminded me of the relationships I had with my mentors throughout my military career.
While they do not have any vast moments, Nicole Beharie and Selenia Leya bring just enough gusto to their roles. Additionally, the always enjoyable Connie Britton and Jeffrey Donovan show up for substantially extended cameos. Please make no mistake, though; 892 is all about letting Boyega shine which he does with a significant effect.
If I had to point out one grouse moment in the film, it is that outside of a few scenes, the bulk of 892 takes place inside the bank. While I admit that, it was necessary for the story that Abi Damaris Corbin and her co-writer Kwame Kwi-Armah, were trying to tell some of the shot choices and camera angles caused me to raise an eyebrow. Nevertheless, though, 892 is a powerful film that deserves an audience.
Final Grade: B
Following the Sundance debut, Bleeker Street acquired US distribution rights for 892. The studio is planning a late-summer release in theaters nationwide.
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