Tag Archives: Hacksaw Ridge

2017 in Review: January

rock

“Daddy’s gotta go to work.”

2017 has begun – and with it, my challenge to see a film a day for the duration of the year. 365 films before New Year’s Day 2018 should at least be a half decent way to watch a bunch of films that I either haven’t seen for ages or wouldn’t usually watch.

I tried and failed miserably last year, but I’m determined to make a decent go of it this time and so far, it is going pretty well. Months like this one would make it impossible to just list all the films I saw, there’s no way I can write that amount of film titles and make it interesting; so let’s try it this way.


expendablesWeek One

2017 started with a bang. We waited up for the fireworks and we watched a film. By 2am on the first day of the year film one, The Expendables, was in the bag. With a bunch of new films out that day, including Assassin’s Creed and A Monster Calls, my count was climbing nicely with, I shit you not, seven films done by the end of the day.

The rest of the week wasn’t that successful, but it honestly didn’t need to be. I had done a week’s worth of films on day one so everything from here was a bonus. A pair of Ted films and the end of The Expendables trilogy paved the way for us to start the next series on our pile of shame: The Fast and The Furious. We got through five of those movies in week one, dotted around shit sci-fi with Kill Command, a ghastly “horror” film in The Lesson and a surprisingly fun action revenge flick in I Am Wrath.

The first few days of the challenge ended with the surprisingly fun The Wolverine and the bloody awful Sisters. I’ve definitely had worse weeks.


avengersWeek Two

Back to work after the Christmas break meant no more cramming films during the day. But a new phenomenon was showing it’s head in our house. As well as the animated movies, my kid is wanting to watch the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. She’s been asking for ages to watch Avengers Assemble, so I let her. And she loved them. Now she’s going through a load of the films in the MCU, with varying degrees of success, and enjoying them for the most part. She asks for them, I add them to my count. Win-win.

A couple of Oscar-bait films with the ghastly La La Land and Manchester by the Sea early on before we finished off the last two Fast and Furious entries. A fun popcorn horror flick in the form of the silly The Windmill Massacre, followed by the cut to pieces waste of space The Bye-Bye Man. Topping them off with the umpteenth viewing of Rob Zombie’s 31.

The week ended with more preparation for upcoming sequels with the final cut of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. What a way to end the week.


xxx-return-of-xander-cageWeek Three

We have a pile of blu-rays stacked up next to the TV. It’s our pile of shame. I vowed to have it cleared by the end of January and dammit that’s what I’m trying to do. This week was all about a shit film or two at the cinema – xXx 3 the worst culprit – and banging through these films I keep buying but not watching.

In Bruges, V for Vendetta, La Femme Nikita and Captain America: Civil War filled our week nights nicely this week. With our own Nikita’s comic book film love spreading to asking for Spider-Man films, I’m starting to regret letting her watch them. But I can’t help it, I love the look of amazement on her face when she watches them. As shit as some of these films are; more for the list. Finally managed to find time to rewatch the awesome Krampus too.

A pretty productive seven days that ended with a triple-bill at the local Odeon. A family trip to see Sing, followed by Jackie and Lion that evening.


ghost in the shellWeek Four

Now things are getting complicated. It’s the first big game release of the year and I’m dying to play it. I now have to figure a way to balance playing Resident Evil VII with film watching this week. I’ve watched plenty so I’ve got some wiggle room, but this is where I got complacent last year. So a balancing act it has to be.

But a ton of MCU films in the evenings means that once the kid is in bed, it’s guilt-free xbox time! I’ve racked up an unbelievable number of films in the last few weeks, but it’s not over for January yet. For the first time in years I sat down and watched the classic Ghost in the Shell, a film that never stops being good. For the first time I watched it with the English dub and the voice work actually did more to persuade me that Scarlett Johansson will be worth watching in the remake.

This week also saw the Oscars nominations released, which gave me an enormous list of films to source and watch before the awards in a few weeks’ time. In a roundabout way, this led to chat about documentaries, which led to me rewatching (and the wife watching for the first time) last year’s Zero Days and the thoroughly depressing, life ruining 13th.

Cinema trips felt limited this week though. Although I finally got to see the outstanding Hacksaw Ridge and the thoroughly crap Denial; they were both overshadowed by last film I saw this month, the brilliant Moonlight – a film whose review I start writing the second I’m done with this.

Overall, a solid month. Saw some amazing movies and some real dross. But my count is looking good and healthy.

One month down, eleven to go.

Films seen this month: 60

Current count, as of 31st January: 60 of 365.

Hacksaw Ridge

“I’ve never been more wrong about someone in my life.”

Well here’s a thing we never thought we’d see, huh? Mel Gibson back in the director’s chair for a big budget film. More impressive, by the time the film had been released in the UK, the film has been nominated for a slew of awards, including that of Best Film and Best Director. Honestly, I never thought I’d see the day.

Hacksaw Ridge is the unbelievably true story of Private Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), the son of a veteran and a man compelled to enlist in the army in 1942 once the Japanese became a part of World War II. Signing his life away to the military and wanting to serve as a medic, Doss actively defied orders in the name of his religious and moral beliefs by refusing to pick up a rifle. Refusing to be beaten out of his unit, the young Private passes basic training with his squad mates. His refusal to carry a rifle because of his pacifist beliefs lands him in a court martial that could end his career in the military before it has even begun. With a little help from a higher-up, and an impassioned plea from his father, Doss earns the right to head into battle armed with nothing but prayer.

Despatched to Japan, Doss and the 77th Infantry division are sent to Hacksaw Ridge; a key strategic point that the Americans need to take in order to further their campaign to Okinawa. Starting with a 400 foot climb heading directly into the battlefield, the American forces are at a severe disadvantage against an entrenched Japanese army. As the battle becomes unwinnable and the Americans retreat in a hail of artillery fire, Doss finds himself stuck at the top of the ridge, refusing to leave a single casualty behind.

In the hours that follow, Private First Class Desmond Doss shows a level of bravery most people could only imagine when he singlehandedly rescues 75 stranded soldiers from the field with very little care for his own safety.

War films as a genre have been done to death. There’s no denying their impact in today’s climate, but they always run the risk of being preachy more than entertaining; and that’s not why we go to the cinema.

We all know that being a pacifist idealist would make you a better person than most, but in this world it’s hardly ever possible. I was expecting to come out of Hacksaw Ridge thoroughly annoyed that I had been preached at for two and a half hours for not being a better person. Instead, I came out just a little bit sad that I am most certainly not as good a person as Doss.

Mel Gibson has taken this over-used genre and made it something worth talking about again. Clearly he was inspired by a few other greats of the past – namely half-inching Kubrick’s hilarious and genius opening forty minutes of Full Metal Jacket, letting Vince Vaughn be his own Gunnery Sergeant Hartman for a bit, with outstanding results – but he’s also taken as much inspiration from the history books as he has from films like Hamburger Hill and unashamedly made them into something worthy of its award nods.

Gibson proves his worth behind the camera by crafting a slow paced opening hour that tells you everything you think you need to know about Doss and his reasons for his conscientious objection to combat. He tells the story of his father’s time in the Great War, with Hugo Weaving on superb form as the forgotten veteran. We see Desmond hastily fall in love with a nurse (Theresa Palmer) at the same time as he’s inspired to become a medic; a not totally coincidental crossing over of these passions.

None of this build up seems slow or drawn out; it all feels necessary as we head into the young Private’s basic training where his objections are ignored and ridiculed. You don’t necessarily feel for his predicament either, which speaks to the lack of being preached at in this film. You do have moments where you feel “oh for Christ’s sake, kid. Don’t be there if you don’t want to fight in a war”, and the greatness of Gibson’s filmmaking (and Garfield’s acting) is that we are allowed to be convinced he’s doing the right thing at the same time his Commanding Officers are. We’re not preached at, we’re taught that the Private’s purpose may not be to kill, but to help those who are signing up to do just that.

Once we get to the war and the terrifying fight ahead of Doss’s platoon, we see the full effect of the now veteran director’s skill as every shot fired, every grenade thrown and every body that falls to the floor is a chilling and visceral reminder of the horror facing these men taking on an enemy with perhaps more fortitude and conviction than any American forces have ever faced. Shown in frightening detail in a scene destined for that “One Perfect Shot” twitter account we all follow, we see what seems to be an endless stream of Japanese soldiers running from bunkers and underground caves like a river running down a mountainside. In a film with near perfect direction throughout, this scene stood out to me as one of the scariest moments I’ve seen in a war film in quite some time.

What I found equally as impressive was Andrew Garfield’s performance. Outside of Silence I haven’t cared for him much and after Hacksaw Ridge I might just start calling myself a fan. His portrayal of this soldier that’s the very definition of a hero is nothing short of brilliant. I thought his hillbilly accent would annoy me for two and a half hours; instead it made him a little endearing. After the first twenty minutes or so, I didn’t even realise it was still there – concentrating more on what he was doing than how he sounded while he did it. The young actor amazingly had me believing his convictions on screen and rooting for him as the world was against him. As he fought and struggled to rescue his comrades, I was scared for him and praying along with him. A sublime performance from a guy a have only recently lambasted for being a shit Spider-Man.

Clearly the star of this film, I would consider Garfield the lead here the same way Charlie Sheen is the lead in Platoon. Of course he’s the guy in top billing and the guy whose story is being told; but he has such a fantastic group of actors behind him that to cheer and marvel over each of them would be another two thousand words. Much like you would when reviewing Oliver Stone’s Vietnam epic, you have to pick a few key performances from the line-up. In this case though, the people you’re almost forced to focus on are more deserving because of who they are and their generally poor standing in the eyes of a lot of people who would be going to see his film.

I’m speaking, of course, of Vince Vaughn’s Sergeant Howell and Sam Worthington’s Captain Glover. Both guys aren’t particularly well known for their acting chops nowadays (although I’d argue that they are usually decent) but they seemed to make special effort to put across a good performance. I certainly give credit to them both for being more than just watchable – they were great. Vaughn’s channelling of R. Lee Ermey might seem derivative and cheap when he first breaks into it, but by the end of his first stint of yelling at the young recruits, he’s brought his own flavour of abuse to the scene and made it his own. Worthington’s performance is a little more run-of-the-mill as the captain going up against Doss, but once he’s in the heat of battle with the medic at his side, he’s as good as any on-screen soldier you’ve seen before.

All of this rolls into a two-and-a-bit hour-long film that doesn’t feel half as long as that once you reach the end. Hacksaw Ridge has hit the top of my favourites list so far this year when it comes to Oscarbait movies. A war drama that isn’t just a gruesome story about how horrific that (or any) war is. It’s a film that might actually restore a little faith in humanity; and considering I went into this flick expecting to be preached at, I can honestly say we need a film like Hacksaw Ridge in our cinemas more than we probably realised before it came out.

Finally, if you don’t know the subject very well, I believe that a film that’s “based on a true story” like this one should make you want to go out and read about the thing you just spent over two hours watching. Hacksaw Ridge definitely made me want to learn more about the battle it was based on and the man whose story it was telling.

Let me tell you: You might not believe everything you see on screen and a certain amount of completely acceptable poetic license has been applied to the story, but it’s nothing compared to the amazing things Desmond Doss accomplished in real life.