Based on real events, 892 tells the riveting story of Brian Easley (played by John Boyega), a 33-year-old Marine veteran who entered a bank on July 7, 2017 and took two hostages while claiming to have explosives in his backpack. Brian isn’t your typical bank robber; he is mild-mannered, uses the terms “ma’am” and “please” when asking the hostages (played by Nicole Beharie and Selenis Leyva) to perform an action, and on several occasions apologizes when he feels he has overstepped his bounds.
That is because Easley’s intention was not to rob the bank, but to bring attention to the fact that the Veterans’ Affairs office had not paid the $892.43 he was owed in disability pay. This may sound like a small number to most, including the hostage negotiator (played by the late Michael K. Williams), but to Easley it meant being able to take care of his daughter and put food on the table. He wants media outlets, such as WSB’s Lisa Larson (Connie Britton) to cover his story in the hopes that the VA will finally listen to him.
Writer/director Abi Damaris Corbin’s story isn’t really about a bank heist at all, but about a war veteran faced with serious mental health issues and food/housing insecurity, who is trying to make an enormous bureaucracy stop and listen to his concerns. Of course his way of going about that was criminal and traumatizing to his victims, and the film does not make any apologies for that. It instead offers an acute commentary on issues of race and the justice system, as well as how this country continues to let down our veterans.
With the film’s breakneck pace and tension, I’m not sure that my heart ever left my throat. But the biggest standouts of the film are the performances from a phenomenal ensemble cast. Boyega gives a career-defining performance. His control and command of the character, particularly his ability to switch from a polite and reluctant lawbreaker to a man on the edge, is pitch perfect.
Nicole Beharie’s gut-wrenching, affecting performance is the emotional center of the film. Her ability to make you immediately relate to and root for her character to not only escape, but also to get through to Boyega’s Easley is as intense as it is moving. Beharie actually becomes a mirror for how the audience feels while watching the film—it’s clear she wants this awful situation to be over, but she feels for Easley and doesn’t just see him as a “bad guy.”
Lastly, I want to shout out Selenis Leyva, who has been one of my favorite actors since her turn as Gloria in ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK—someone I used to hope would get recognized for an Emmy. Usually she plays the strong, badass type, but in 892 she is more hesitant and reserved. I was happy to see her showcase another element of her extraordinary range for this film.
When I am not obsessing over the latest movies and TV shows, I am researching true crime stories; I find it strange that I was not familiar with Brian Easley’s story until seeing 892. I even took a poll of my true crime-obsessed friends and they had not heard of this story either. That is why a movie like 892 is so important. It highlights the humanity in individuals that may be portrayed only as criminals by the media and reintroduces issues like the need for better assistance for our veterans into the public discourse.
My Review: B+
**Photos in this post are courtesy of the Sundance Institute**