Sundance 2022: Carolyn Talks ‘892’ with Valerie Complex

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892 - But Why Tho

Directed by Abi Damaris Corbin and co-written with Kwame Kwei-Armah, 892, is a dramatic feature film starring John Boyega as Brian Easley, a veteran of the U.S. Marines who on one sunny day in July 2017, walks into a bank, passes a note to the teller, beginning a series of events that many will never forget, and many more never even knew took place. In this episode of Carolyn Talks…, I discuss 892, which had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, with Valerie Complex, film critic and associate editor at Deadline

Set during that fateful day,  the film gives an inside look at what took place behind the locked doors of the bank’s entrance, and into the thoughts and emotions of those involved in the incident.  Suffering from severe PTSD – a result of the traumatic events he endured during enlistment – Lance Corporal Brian Brown Easley, was reliant on the money he received through disability assistance to provide from himself and his young daughter, but when he’s told he can’t get the money owed to him Brain is pushed to his limits.

Wanting the world to know what he – and many others like him – is going through, he calls 911 and alerts the press of what he’s done. But just as he’s filled with determination to carry out his plan, he’s equally filled with fear and confusion. Due to his mental illness, Brian has struggled to function in a society that no longer feels safe and treats him like an inconvenience. Having dedicated the most pivotal and formative years of his youth and life to the service, Brian feels betrayed by the country institution he sacrificed so much for.

As Brian, Boyega gives his most impressive dramatic performance in years as he portrays a man on the brink of losing everything he cherishes because so much has already been taken from him. Boyega is focused on the moment’s Brian’s convictions and frustrations are their strongest, and vulnerable when his insecurities and fear become more apparent as he tries to assure his daughter Kiah (London Covington) that he’ll be ok during a phone conversation.

Joining Boyega in the cast are Nichole Beharie, Selenis Leyva and Michael K. Williams as Estelle Valerie, Rosa Diaz, and Eli Barnard, the bank staff and hostage negotiator who try to get through to Brain in order to prevent him from making a decision he could never come back from. Beharie, Williams, and Leyva stay grounded in their emotions as people who despite being terrified, do their best to connect with the person they’re most afraid of.

892 being her first feature film, Corbin does an extremely impressive job keeping the pacing even and tense without giving into overly dramatic direction. Because the film is based on real events, she smartly makes the story about these people who exist in real life, paying respect to what is an extremely sad occurrence. By having many of the scenes individually focused on the characters, the audience is able constantly reminded that these are real people and that each moment was fraught with danger and uncertainty.

In our discussion Valerie, who is an ARMY veteran herself, shares her perspective on the film, experiences dealing with Veterans Affairs, and the way the system fails veterans (and their families) once it no longer needs them.

Proving just how impactful their performances are the cast of 892 won the Special Jury Award for Best Ensemble Cast in the U.S. Dramatic Competition of Sundance.