Semper Fi: Always Faithful (2011)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Semper Fi: Always Faithful Photos

Movie Info

Marine Corps Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger was a devoted Marine for nearly twenty-five years. As a drill instructor he lived and breathed the "Corps" and was responsible for indoctrinating thousands of new recruits with its motto Semper Fidelis or "Always Faithful." When Jerry's nine-year old daughter Janey died of a rare type of leukemia, his world collapsed. As a grief-stricken father, he struggled for years to make sense of what happened. His search for answers led to the shocking discovery of a Marine Corps cover-up of one of the largest water contamination incidents in U.S. history. Semper Fi: Always Faithful follows Jerry's mission to expose the Marine Corps and force them to live up to their motto to the thousands of soldiers and their families exposed to toxic chemicals. His fight reveals a grave injustice at North Carolina's Camp Lejeune and a looming environmental crisis at military sites across the country. -- (C) Official Site
Documentary , Special Interest
Directed By:

Critic Reviews for Semper Fi: Always Faithful

All Critics (11) | Top Critics (2)

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | January 21, 2013
Top Critic

Jerry Ensminger isn't an environmental or public health crusader as much as a grieving father.

Full Review… | January 6, 2012
Washington Post
Top Critic

Pic forges a clear storyline through a sea of scientific reports, doublespeak denials and personal anecdotes (the docu snagged Tribeca's docu editing award), and a consistent picture emerges of a stonewalling military agency.

Full Review… | January 6, 2012
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | May 14, 2012

It makes an impact. These men fought for our right to pursue our own American Dreams. And as thanks, they had theirs ripped away from them.

Full Review… | January 6, 2012

Shot on a variety of affordable video cameras, from the older HD standard Sony EX1 down to the classic Panasonic DVX100, Semper Fi has a very intimate visual look.

Full Review… | January 6, 2012
Paste Magazine

Audience Reviews for Semper Fi: Always Faithful

Told through the eyes of a still-grieving father, Semper Fi: Always Faithful is more than just an Erin Brockovich-style story of the little guy fighting big bad polluters. It's a personal examination on what "closure" really means. Yes, the film's main focus is Jerry Ensminger's quest for tangible and emotional justice, but what resonates more deeply is plight of thousands who simply want the United Stats Marine Corps to admit they did wrong, so they can move on with their lives. The film is centered around the environmental disaster at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. For nearly 30 years, toxins were being disposed of dangerously and incorrectly, which led to a polluted water supply and a shockingly high rate of childhood cancer for the affected population. One of those affected is Marine Corps Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger. His daughter, Janey, died at the age of nine after a nearly lifelong battle with a rare form of leukemia, and for years-decades, even-Ensminger searched for some kind of answer. When a series of unclassified military documents on the Camp Lejeune water supply were published on the Internet, Ensminger sprung into action. He started speaking publicly about his daughter and the toxic water, which made the issue visible and brought many other victims into Jerry's life. As a group, they took their investigation all the way to Capitol Hill for a Congressional hearing. But once there, Ensminger learned a hard lesson: The Marine Corps motto (which also serves as the film's title) might not mean as much to military leaders who need to protect their asses as it does to him. The film shares a lot in common with its fellow Oscar shortlist member Battle for Brooklyn. Both films are about ordinary people thrust into situations they never dreamed they'd be in, fighting a losing battle for what's right. The main difference is the opponents both films' protagonists face. In Battle for Brooklyn, Daniel Goldstein faces a corporate behemoth with billions of dollars to throw around and a real grudge against this pesky New Yorker. With such slimy characters doing immoral (if not illegal) things, it's easy to feel a sense of disgust as Daniel's plight gets worse. In Semper Fi, however, the opponent is the military. No one, regardless of your political affiliation, wants to believe the military capable of such cowardice. One almost assumes those in charge of such a prestigious and honor-driven institution would practice what they preach-that they'd follow the code through even the most damning of situations, like this one. Instead, what Jerry and company get are excuses-"Well, we'll try to contact as many of the potentially-affected veterans as we can, but it might be hard." It's all just extremely disheartening. But directors Tony Hardmon and Rachel Libert go a step further in their examination of this crisis: They make things quite personal. Ensminger, for example, becomes the face of the people involved in the case. In one scene, we sit down with him and his two living daughters, and they recall what it was like after Janey died. One of them goes so far as to say it felt like they lost a sister and a father, because he was so consumed with figuring out what happened and why. Another one of the affected men is Michael Partain, who was born at Camp Lejeune and was diagnosed with male breast cancer decades later. He becomes a very close and vocal ally of Ensminger's, and after working on outreach in his office for hours, he's forced to face the wrath of four disappointed children and a frustrated wife. They understand the importance of what he's doing, but he, it seems, isn't quite aware of the toll it's taking on them. Details like this elevate the film above your average underdog story. Semper Fi: Always Faithful is pretty powerful stuff. It shares an underreported story with us, and it does so in as intimate a way as possible. The film is very tight and clean-very little feels extraneous. I think the only reason it missed out on a nomination is that its profile was lower than that of the five nominees. But the film is available on VOD now, and it's definitely worth checking out.

John Gilpatrick
John Gilpatrick

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