Elegance Bratton’s autobiographical story The Inspection is one of learning to accept love on one’s own terms. Ellis French (Jeremy Pope), a young gay man in New York, is rejected by his religious mother (Gabrielle Union) and left to fend for himself on the streets. Searching for a sense of self-worth and meaning, French enlists in the Marines, discovering some harsh realities while building bonds of camaraderie.
The Inspection is a relatively conventional boot-camp drama—recruit joins with lofty ideals, unprepared for what’s truly in store for them—elevated by Pope’s performance and Bratton’s understanding of conveying cathartic moments. Bratton heavily uses stylization and dream sequences, at times creating a feel that is less narrative drama and more a working through of his own internal trauma. There are moments of brutality, primarily doled out by recruits under the eye of drill instructor Leland Laws (Bokeem Woodbine), interspersed with moments of poignant reflection and connection.
Where The Inspection doesn’t quite come together is largely in the limited range of character dynamics, as the secondary characters, though critical to French’s development, receive only tentative spurts of development themselves. It’s truly a one-man narrative, which is perhaps fitting for a story focused on the process of coming to terms with finding love for oneself before negotiating the messy and sometimes difficult ways in which others love us. R, 95 min.