Sunday, 29 January 2017

Hacksaw Ridge

WWII American Army Medic Desmond T.Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people and becomes the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot.

I am so glad to see Mel Gibson back to directing movies because ever since The Man Without a Face he has made many very good movies, among which my favourite has to be Braveheart, being an incredible film as well as Apocalypto, which is just as good. This time around, at the heart of this cinematic cyclone is a more conventional character study; of a man torn by his need to serve in a fight against Japan and a strict moral code that prevents him from taking life. Though, once on the battlefield the complexities of his moral fall away, replaced by the simple maths of saving lives. 

Andrew Garfield, former Spidey, is so good at being an optimist in life, he has this infectious smile, he seems to be such a sweet guy and you really root for his character. Garfield is the warm anchor the film needs. Between this film and Silence, two contrasting tales of faith in an unforgiving world, any memories of the sad end to his web-slinging days should be well and truly banished. Teresa Palmer gives also the best performance of her entire career, as a nurse who Desmond meets, they get to know each other and their relationship is genuinely sweet and charming. 

Vince Vaughn is in this movie and stole every scene he's in, as an aggressive motor mouth drill instructor. That casting choice is a reminder that Vince Vaughn is obviously very funny, but he also has some dramatic arcs. Moreover, Hugo Weaving gives one of the best performances in this film and I am so happy to see him again. I haven't seen him in a movie in a long time. He is always great, as his legendary roles can attest: Smith, Elrond, Red Skull or in V for Vendetta; this is what we love him for. In this film, he gives such a harden and emotionally powerful performance, as a man who has to deal with alcoholism. I am blown away by his work here. 

The slow-burn promise of the film's opening acts pays off in a fierce focus on characters we have come to know, from all of the above to Sam Worthington and Luke Bracey. Biblical themes resonate and Doss's faith and certainties are tested in the movie's second act, a shift happens from home-baked heaven to the purgatory of military training. Mel Gibson and his scribes: Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan's grip on a familiar material is firm; their images, motifs and structures lend purpose to a potentially cheesy material. 

The combat sequences, set on a blasted, blood-soaked Okinawan ridge in 1945, are filmed in Viscera Vision - they blaze and roar with the expression of pure violence. At some point, Mel Gibson leads us up a cliff and into a Bosch-ian nightmare. Between the mud, splayed bodies, bullet-pierced tin hats and torsos used as shields; the Battle of Okinawa pulverises. War has been hell in movies before, this is worse. What is impressive here, is how Gibson pushes his direction beyond the exploitative possibilities of raising hell. 

The war scenes are brutally realistic and you can see that nothing has been held back and they are very well done and not romanticised at all. This happened. This sucked and this is the story of a man who tried to do something good. This is effectively shocking. Finally, you don't need to be a religious person to appreciate the movie. It addresses strong perspective for the character but you don't need to be religious to appreciate the spirit of this film, and the eternal truth that Human spirit is the most powerful thing you can have.

Overall, Hacksaw Ridge is an old-fashioned story that Mel Gibson mainlines with bleeding-edge craft and technique - he has lost little of his knack for spectacle and has proved once again that he is a master behind the camera.  

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