by Katie Small
While driving her car in April of 2018, Abi Damaris Corbin suddenly pulled over to read a news article that had popped up on her phone. The story described how marine veteran Brian Brown-Easley had held up a bank in Atlanta in a desperate attempt to bring attention to the lack of support veterans receive in the United States. “My heart was broken,” Corbin says. “I saw the struggles of my dad reflected, and I knew this story had to be told.”
Knowing that 892 is based on a true story makes the riveting standoff and hostage negotiation feel even more tense. Participants in the post-premiere Q&A remarked on how realistically the film depicted the struggles of veterans and the experience of PTSD. Corbin says she drew from her own father’s military experience and worked closely with Brian’s family in crafting the film.
“We started this project pre-pandemic, and [co-screenwriter] Kwame Kwei-Armah and I were on the ground in Atlanta, Georgia, walking the same paths that Brian walked, listening to what Brian would have listened to, hearing the emotional distress he would have gone through,” she said. “We knew that it was a story we didn’t want to be told again in twenty years. We knew that it had to be told now, so that we don’t have to repeat that cycle.”
892 opens in a cheap motel in Atlanta, where Brian is eking out his existence, living paycheck to paycheck while trying to maintain a connection to his young daughter. Disenfranchised and desperate, he shows up at a Wells Fargo, where he slides the bank teller a note saying he has a bomb. But it turns out he’s not after money — he simply wants what he’s owed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. In conversations with police negotiators, television journalists, and the two bank tellers he’s taken hostage, Brian reveals his need for recognition of the sacrifices he made in service to his country. But the validation he seeks comes at a high price.
Showcasing powerful performances by British-Nigerian actor John Boyega, the late Michael K. Williams in his final screen role, Nicole Beharie, Selenis Leyva, and Connie Britton, Corbin’s feature debut serves as a timely reflection on the legacy of the United States military and the effect it has on American society, both in the form of bloated militarized police forces and the damaged soldiers who are often all but abandoned when they return home.