‘Breaking’ Ending, Explained: Does Brian’s Plan Ultimately Work Out In His Favor? What Happens To Him?

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“Breaking” is a gripping and sad tale picked up from America’s recent history, showcasing the helplessness of a former Marine when he tries to rob a bank to compensate for a VA fraud against him. While the general filmmaking and the script are neat and convincing, special mention needs to be made of John Boyega’s exceptional performance in the lead role to make it all the more effective. Overall, “Breaking” brings to mind more thoughts than it directly makes and leaves a grim effect exactly as it intends to.

 Spoilers Ahead


‘Breaking’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?

Brian Brown-Easley, a former Marine Corps veteran, finds himself in dire financial stress and seems unable to get any help from the Veterans Administration of the US government. In the very opening scene of “Breaking,” Brian is seen being led out of some public administrative building in handcuffs but is also released soon. His personal life is revealed as well, as the man dearly loves his young daughter Kiah, even though he has separated from his wife and Kiah’s mother, Cassandra. Brian is seen calling up his daughter, who seems to be asking for a pet puppy as a gift for quite some time now, and Brian has been stalling on this wish as he is unable to afford any such luxury at the time. As he returns to the roadside motel room he has been staying at this evening, Brian gets busy fixing and attaching wires to some device that is not clearly visible, and he puts this device into his backpack.

The next morning, he walks into a Wells Fargo bank branch in the city and asks the attending teller to withdraw a small amount of money from his account. As the teller helps him with it, though, Brian hands her a note that mentions that he is carrying a bomb with him in his backpack. Although the teller, a woman named Rosa Diaz, is shocked and scared at this sudden emergency situation, she manages to get this information across to the manager, Estel Valerie. The manager swiftly works to get every customer and employee out of the branch just as Brian notices her. The man speaks out his only demand—that Rosa calls the police and tells them how Brian is holding the bank hostage. While Brian repeatedly admits that he has no intention of hurting anyone, his only request is to get the Veterans Administration to pay him the money they owe him.


Why Was Brian Holding The Bank Hostage?

After Rosa places the 911 call and is able to connect with the authorities, Brian himself takes the phone and directly tells the police who he is and what he is up to. The operator asks for details from Brian, and he complies with all the information, except when he is asked about his clothing. This immediately makes Brian realize how very vulnerable he is to the police simply shooting him dead through the bank’s big glass windows. He even has a panic attack thinking of this, and then gradually recovers from it over time. Throughout his entire hostage situation, Brian keeps assuring the two women that he will not hurt either of them at all. Even though he tells the police over the phone that he would blow up the bank along with the hostages if his demands are not met, Brian makes sure to tell Rosa and Estel that he would actually let them escape the branch if he used the bomb. He even let the two women use the restroom whenever they wanted, and never grew hostile toward them. Instead, what the man asks for is attention, for he wants his side of the story told, and asks the police to let the media, as well as the fire department, know about the events at the bank. When no media coverage is seen on the television inside the bank, he asks for a negotiator and even grows a bit hostile by arming the bomb and waving it around so that the police gathered outside can see it. He is quickly assured that a negotiator is on the way, and the man calms down, putting the small bomb back into his backpack. Still waiting around for some communication from the outside with him, Brian grows impatient and calls up the WSB TV news network.

The employee receiving the call quickly latches on to Brian’s story but tells the man that they are still not airing his story because they do not want to capitalize on his actions, which are mostly because of his life’s sufferings. Brian sharply says that such respect for him is not what he needs at the moment and would instead like to be aired on TV. Although the large police force gathering outside the Wells Fargo branch and their Major gives the news media permission to air the news, not everyone among them is happy to do so. Special negotiator Eli Bernard had been called into the situation only a few minutes earlier, and he waited for the Major’s orders to start the communication. However, the police major kept waiting for some more time, and Eli made his displeasure felt about Brian talking to a news station as a desperate measure because he had still not been given a police negotiator. Inside the bank building, Brian gets unnerved once more as he charges the bomb and waves it around again in an attempt to show that he was not bluffing. Finally, Eli is given permission to establish direct contact with the veteran, and through everything that Brian says to Eli, as well as to the news media, the reasons for his actions become clear.

Brian Brown-Easley had served in the US Marine Corps on two overseas missions in Iraq and had a very good and clean record during his entire professional career. After his military days were over, due to being injured while on duty, he had worked tirelessly to support his family, and was even working two jobs to keep his wife and daughter well looked after. However, he lost his job sometime in the recent past and had to rely solely on the disability allowance promised by the Veterans Administration for having served in the Marine Corps, but this payment was also not coming around. To understand why this allowance was cut off, Brian had gone over to the administrative office and had been told that the money had been redirected to a college where he had some outstanding payments, and this allowance money had been used to clear this debt. Brian, however, was confident that he had no such outstanding payments at any college and had come to the realization that he had been subjected to some administrative scam. Taking a look at the long queue of people at the office, who were all probably subjected to a similar scam, he had perhaps tried to take some action to get justice, but was immediately thrown to the floor, handcuffed, and led out of the building, where he was released. It is also later revealed in the film that this outstanding payment claim was false, as schools and colleges in the US sometimes report their students as defaulting when the particular students want to discontinue or drop out, which means that the authorities then grab money from whatever sources they can find, and in this case, it was Brian’s disability allowance. When asked about the exact amount that was owed to him in the present, Brian says that it was a total amount of about $892. Since the amount was really small compared to the demands of most bank looters, the branch manager, Estel, offered to pay up the amount from the bank, saying that the bank would be easily compensated for such an amount. But Brian remained clear about his principles and his demand—he did not want anybody else’s money; he simply wanted the money that the VA had promised him and the amount that he deserved for having risked his life for his country. Even the negotiator, Eli, tries to talk Brian out of the situation, or even modify his demands in some way, but Brian stays put.

Along with all the things going on in the film’s plot, “Breaking” majorly brings racial inequality into the conversation without directly talking about it. There is a sense of racial tension that is really hard to miss. Both Brian and Estel are Black, while the other hostage, Rosa, is of Hispanic ethnicity, and the first feeling deep inside all their minds (and perhaps also the viewers’) after the hostage scenario begins, is that the police are in no hurry to show up because they do not care about any of them. Brian is sure from the beginning that he is going to get killed, both from the self-realization of his unlawful act of taking a bank hostage and also for the fact that he is not unaccustomed to racial profiling. He would have definitely not been treated the same way inside the VA office had Brian been a white man making rowdy demands for his veteran’s allowance check. Neither of the three characters inside the bank are unaware of the prejudices that the administration outside has against them because of their ethnicity, and perhaps that makes “Breaking” all the more effective, almost palpable. Brian does not shy away from telling his young daughter about the inequalities that he and she would have to face, and little Kiah herself gets an introduction to it when she sees FBI agents, all white, roll up to their house and question her mother in ways that are not very friendly. The police operator, Eli Bernard, himself is also Black, and he too faces similar inequalities on the other side of the fence. The new police chief, Major Riddick, keeps him away from contacting Brian at first and then rudely cuts him off in the middle of his conversation with Brian. Although it seems that Eli is professionally senior to Riddick, these casual acts of disrespect are not too uncommon simply because of the difference in their skin color.


‘Breaking’ Ending Explained: Is Brian Dead Or Alive?

Gradually, over time, Eli manages to make a deal with Brian in which he would receive some cigarettes for the time being and would have to release one of the hostages in return. Brian had no intention of causing harm to the women and had been keeping them only to ensure that his story would be heard, so he agreed to the deal. In order to make this handover, Brian would have to come up to the bank’s door on the inside, and so he wanted Eli to come to the door because he did not trust any other police official. While the three inside the bank decided who should be released first, settling on Rosa, the police and FBI officials outside were moving up closer to the building to ensure safety, and snipers were also getting into position. During this time, Brian realizes that his time is coming to an end, and he now goes over to the washroom and tearfully calls up his daughter. He had earlier contacted his family as well, informing his ex-wife about his actions and trying to give them support. Now he tells Kiah how much he loves her and assures her that she and her mother will be fine. Being a religious individual, Brian then prays with his daughter over the phone, and when he returns from the washroom, he is ready to release both the women and not just one. However, while he plans out how to go about this and thanks the two for their cooperation, Brian is shot dead by one of the snipers, and the whole hostage situation is brought to the worst end.

Media personnel question the police chief about the sudden killing of the perpetrator, but he refuses to respond. It is very evident that from the very beginning, Brian was not someone worth saving, according to the authorities. He had only been considered a miscreant, a nuisance who could be easily killed off without having to be too answerable simply because of his race. Estel and Rosa are not happy either, for Brian had treated them with the utmost respect and politeness throughout that morning, being apologetic for putting them in this situation even till the last moment. Even the bomb that Brian claimed that he was carrying was found to be a normal device with alarms and lights like a bomb, but with no actual explosive in it. Since their negotiations had first begun, Eli kept assuring Brian that he would not be harmed, even though Brian was sure that he would be killed, and he even told Eli that he could not really talk the white police officials out of it because he too was not seen as equal. This ultimately turned out to be true as well, and Breaking’s real questions are beautifully raised in this way with a touch of subtlety. After Brian’s death, the FBI officers at Cassandra’s house refuse to give her the news and coldly tell her to contact her local police station. The film ends with a photograph of the real Brian Brown-Easley with his daughter and also his own voice recording of the first 911 call from the bank, in which he states who he was and what he was up to. Perhaps such a film is the only tribute possible to a man who was unjustly pushed towards homelessness, poverty, and desperation, all to facilitate an administrative scam.


 “Breaking” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by Abi Damaris Corbin.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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