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Film / Men of Honor

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Sunday: What did your father say to you to make you try so hard?
Brashear: Be the best.

A 2000 military drama film directed by George Tillman Jr., starring Robert De Niro and Cuba Gooding Jr..

It is a Based on a True Story movie about Carl Brashear (Gooding), the very first African-American Master Diver of the U.S. Navy. Brashear faces significant obstacles, including racial discrimination, his lack of education having quit school in the seventh grade to work on the family farm, and an antagonist head instructor, Master Chief Petty Officer Leslie William "Billy" Sunday (De Niro), also the man whose bravery inspired Brashear to become a diver.

Ultimately, Brashear overcomes his obstacles to become a Navy Diver, including becoming a national hero for his acts in retrieving the lost atomic bomb in the 1966 Palomares B-52 crash, but his leg is mangled in the bomb retrieval. He has the leg amputated and then embarks on attempting to return to full active duty despite no Navy man having returned to full active duty with a prosthetic. With the help of Sunday, now a brooding alcoholic of reduced rank, but knowledgeable in the ways of bureaucracy, he not only returns to full active duty, but eventually becomes the first African-American Master Diver of the U.S. Navy.


  • The Alcoholic: Sunday. It gets even worse as he suffers numerous reductions in rank and has to be remanded for a month at detox center after yet another drunken disorderly episode.
  • Appeal to Force: Sunday intimidates a Marine standing watch outside the courtroom. The Marine lets Sunday by, even though keeping him out of the courtroom was his only reason for being there.
    Chief Sunday: Son, you best step aside or I'll crack you right in the jaw.
  • Artistic License – Military: Master Chief Sunday's various demotions. For Navy personnel E-7 and above, it takes a full court-martial to demote such a person, not simply captain's mast. And even then, such an individual will be strongly encouraged to retire before it comes to that. The movie is correct in that a chief that has gone through the process of demotion will be more or less stuck in a dead end when it comes to future career advancement until he retires.
  • Ax-Crazy: Pappy. He’s not the serial killer type but he’s definitely got MANY screws loose in his head, which is the reason why he was never promoted past Captain. Then of course due to his viscous almost fanatical racism (which even for the times would have been considered too much) he tries to have Carl murdered to prevent him from passing diving school.
  • Biopic: A loose biography of Master Chief Carl Brashear.
  • Badass Creed: "The Navy Diver is not a fighting man, he is a salvage expert. If it is lost underwater, he finds it. If it's sunk, he brings it up. If it's in the way, he moves it. If he's lucky, he will die young, 200 feet beneath the waves, for that is the closest he'll ever get to being a hero. Hell, I don't know why anybody'd want to be a Navy diver."
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • Carl joins the Navy, hoping that desegregation will allow him to work in a glamorous job. He ends up a galley cook and is mocked by the other black sailors for thinking that institutional racism would have simply disappeared.
    • Sunday tells Carl this about the latter's desire to enter Dive School.
  • Determinator: Carl. He stay underwater for over 9 hours to finish his final test at Dive School. He also didn't let having one of his legs amputated get in the way of his military career. Also William Sunday, who in the end fights his alcoholism and regains his rank.
  • Career-Ending Injury: At the beginning of the film, Sunday goes on a hasty deep dive to save another diver who was knocked underwater. The damage it does to his body means he can never dive again.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: While he's quite openly racist towards Brashear, Master Chief Sunday is only slightly nicer to the white dive trainees.
  • The Drunken Sailor: Sunday, whose Madness Mantra takes the form of the CPO Rules:
    Chief Sunday: A chief petty officer shall not drink; however, if he should drink, he shall not get drunk. If he should get drunk, he shall not stagger. And if he staggers, he shall not fall. If he should fall down, he shall fall in such a manner as to cover up his rate so that passers-by will think he is an officer.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Sunday is a drunken lout who’s unpleasant to be around at the best of times, and a racist dick who will happily beat, humiliate, and threaten Carl to make him quit. Nevertheless, he draws the line at trying to murder him.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: Even though Carl saved the life of a fellow student who was trapped, the credit for his heroics went to a student who had run away.
    • The Fake gives Carl the medal before they part ways one last time.
  • Freudian Excuse: One of the reasons Sunday hates African-Americans is the fact his father lost his job to one because African-Americans do it for a lesser wage and Sunday's father lost the will to live because of this.
  • Good Old Ways: What Carl invokes to impress the hearing board. The admirals certainly agree.
  • Handicapped Badass: Carl, after losing his lower left leg.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Sunday becomes a drunken, roughish and depressed mess following his multiple demotions not to mention due to his alcoholism and bitterness, his marriage suffers and his reputation in the Navy is in shambles.
  • Insult of Endearment: Sunday started out calling Carl "cookie" to mock him for starting out as a steward with the rest of the black sailors. Later on when they became friends, Sunday continued calling Carl "cookie".
  • I Shall Taunt You: When Carl struggles to continue walking in the heavy suit, Sunday insults him in order for Carl to be motivated by his anger.
    Sunday: God damn it, Cookie. Move your ass, I want my twelve!
    • His mere presence at the hearing is a taunt to Captain Hanks, especially after the admirals say he can stay.
  • Jackie Robinson Story: He was not the first African-American Navy divernote , but he was the Navy's first African-American master diver. He later became the Navy's first one-legged African-American diver.
  • May–December Romance: There is a large age gap between Sunday and Gwen, his wife, so Hanks mistakes her for Sunday's daughter.
  • Medal of Dishonor: The medal awarded for Brashear's rescue of a trapped classmate goes to another (white) diver trainee who panicked and fled the incident. As Master Chief Sunday reads the citation, his face is a mask of utter disgust, as he holds the man in contempt for cowardice. The trainee receiving the medal remains at the Position of Attention, but looks down in shame.
  • The Mentor: Sunday to Brashear. Carl wouldn't have made master chief without him.
  • Mirror Character: Sunday, who suffered a Career-Ending Injury rescuing men trapped underwater, first starts respecting Carl for saving a classmate in an underwater emergency at the risk of his own life. Later, he acknowledges that Carl is an "old Sailor" like himself, the kind that McNamara-esque "college boys" like Hanks want to get rid of, because they see men as more than statistics.
  • Moving the Goalposts: Though it was done long before the event in question. After getting his prosthetic leg, Carl wants to be reinstated as a Navy Diver again, but the military says no. He makes it a legal challenge, and is told that he has to basically qualify again by making 12 steps unaided in a full diving suit, which weighs well over 400 pounds. When he prepares to do so, with the help of Chief Sunday, Sunday tells the Navy men to help Carl stand up, only to be informed that under new rules, a Navy Diver must stand unaided. The struggle for Carl to get to his feet takes minutes.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Who knew taking 12 steps forward could be so dramatic? Although a one legged person taking 12 steps in a 400-pound diving suit is hardly mundane, by any stretch.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Sunday delivers a quick but brutal one to then Lieutenant Commander Hanks after hearing-seeing Hanks talk about him behind his back at the New Year’s Eve Party.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: CAPT Hanks.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero / Politically Incorrect Villain: Sunday is both, starting out as the latter and finishing as the former. The change means he uses slightly fewer racial slurs.
    • Captain "Pappy," the reclusive dive school commander, is firmly in the "villain" category, as he tried to have Carl murdered out of bigotry.
  • Pretty in Mink: Sunday's wife wears a stylish dress under a mink coat.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Each sentence of the Diver's Creed at the end is punctuated by Carl taking a step in the suit.
  • Race Lift: The WASP Gunners Mate Snowhill fills the role a Brazilian diver had in real life.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Captain Pullman. He doesn’t show contempt or racism with Carl for disregarding the swim schedule and is actually impressed by his confidence and ballsiness that he makes him a deck seaman and when Carl announces he wants to go to diving school and asks Pullman for his recommendation, the Captain (even though he doesn’t believe it will work due to the racism at the time in the Navy along with the difficulty it is to become a Navy Diver) endorses Carl’s request.
    • He also is very lenient with his punishment of Chief Sunday as he sticks him with a training assignment at Dive School then outright forcing him into early retirement which then Lieutenant Hanks (eventually Captain Hanks) wanted to see happen due to his dislike of men like Sunday.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: When reuniting with Carl in rehab, Sunday mentions that the Navy has hidden him away in a small dive school in Little Creek, Virginia.
  • Rebuilt Pedestal: Carl seeks to be a Navy diver after seeing Sunday make an imposing figure in the suit and then sacrifice his health and career to save a man from drowning, while also being impressed by how Sunday is a former farmer like him. He is harshly disillusioned after Sunday makes his racism clear to Carl while subjecting him to Drill Sergeant Nasty abuse and sabotage, and calls him out as being an empty and hateful man. However, later in the film, they reconcile as Sunday finds it hard to deny Sunday’s skill and drive, refuses an order to kill him, repairs his broken beloved radio (after having previously broken it himself), and later supports him when he needs to learn how to walk and dive with a prosthetic limb.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Overlapping with Deliberate Values Dissonance. After specifically sabotaging Carl's diving qualification exam, Sunday is ordered by the racist captain in charge of the diving school to let Carl die underwater instead of letting him pass. Sunday deliberately refuses to do so, and is promptly demoted/reassigned after certifying Carl as a Navy Diver.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Isert yells that he wants out of the program after nearly dying during a training exercise, and does indeed pack his bags and leave soon after being rescued.
  • Sink or Swim Mentor: Sunday's teaching philosophy includes literally making men stay underwater
For dangerous periods to test their lung capacity and perseverance.