Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Hacksaw Ridge (2017)

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Image is property of Lionsgate, Pandemonium Films, Permut Productions, Vendian Entertainment and Kylin Pictures

Hacksaw Ridge – Film Review

Cast:  Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving, Teresa Palmer, Luke Bracey, Vince Vaughn, Rachel Griffiths

Director: Mel Gibson

Synopsis: Telling the incredible true story of Desmond Doss, a Devout Christian who signs up for the US Army and serves as a medic in the heart of World War II, all while refusing to carry a gun.

Review: For many of us, the horrors of war are something we are all too familiar with. From learning about terrible wars of the past to the brutal wars of the present, war is rarely anything other than a very dark time for humanity. Yet undoubtedly in such dark times, acts of incredible bravery and selflessness are committed, and for director Mel Gibson, the telling of one remarkable true story is in many ways his redemption, and a superb return to form for a man who it would be fair to say had something of a fall from grace, never being too far away from controversy.

Yet, despite all that controversy, Gibson has come out fighting with his first stint in the director’s chair after directing 2006’s Apocalypto. Set in the heart of Japan in 1945, the USA is battling the Japanese at the Battle of Okinawa and after some troubling times with his training Desmond Doss enters the fray of war, and never fires a single shot or carries a gun. It seems such a ludicrous decision to enter the hell of war without anything to protect yourself but the screenplay, penned by Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan helps you understand where Doss is coming from, he’s a man who resolutely sticks to his principles. His superhero days may be behind him, but with this performance and his sterling work in Silence, Garfield is showing himself to be a tremendous actor and his performance is extremely powerful, ensuring a well earned Oscar nomination as well.

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Garfield is the leading light of an extremely well polished cast, that includes Hugo Weaving as Doss’s alcoholic father who witnessed the devastation of World War I and is loathed to lose his sons to the horror of warfare. Teresa Palmer is equally excellent as Doss’s love interest Dorothy. The scenes between the two could have been a real stumbling block and detriment to the plot, but the chemistry between Garfield and Palmer is superb and their romance is far from a hindrance, instead adding real depth to Doss’s character. Vince Vaughn also turns in an excellent performance as Doss’s stern Sergeant who certainly does his best to add the humour while all of the recruits undergo some intense army training. At the same time, all the new recruits look down on Doss for his beliefs, and make his life a hell on Earth, and this is before they are even in reach of the war zone.

For Gibson, a nomination for Best Director might have seemed far-fetched but his work here is extremely deserving of a nomination. He helms the film superbly well, the action is extremely tense to watch and the work that he achieves, along with his sound team, fully capture what it must be like to be in the middle of a war zone. The film’s editing also helps add to the gritty realism. The violence is not glorified in the slightest, it’s just very frighteningly realistic. Be under no doubt, this is not a film for the squeamish, the bullets fly by their thousands and the blood and guts flow. Yet through all of this, the film shows to the audience that it can really pay to stick by your principles, even if everyone is trying to belittle you for holding on to those beliefs.

Though this is for all for all intents and purposes a war film, the themes of anti-war and pacifism are strong, as well as being true to one’s beliefs, and the themes and messages that the film conveys should hit home with the audience and leave a lasting impression on them. War certainly is hell, but the actions of brave men like Desmond Doss should and will hopefully never be forgotten. Furthermore, they can serve as a great lesson for all, of the true valour of bravery and heroism, even in the most desperate and hopeless of situations.

An explosive, and quite brilliant return to the director’s chair for Gibson, with Garfield giving arguably the performance of his career, and just maybe the best war movie of the 2010s thus far.

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Avatar (2009)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox, Lightstorm Entertainment, Dune Entertainment and Ingenious Film Partners

Avatar Film Review

Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, Stephen Lang, Giovanni Ribsi, Joel David Moore, C. C. H. Pounder, Laz Alonso

Director: James Cameron

Synopsis: A paraplegic former marine is recruited as part of a mission on the alien world of Pandora, to drive a hybrid body known as an Avatar, and soon finds himself with conflicting thoughts as to where his loyalty truly lies.

Review: If ever you were to talk about certain directors and their passion projects, then for the mastermind behind Aliens and the first two exceptional Terminator films, James Cameron, Avatar is most certainly his passion project. Back in 1994, the director wrote an 80 page vision for the film, yet his vision could not be realised due to the limited technology that was available to him at the time. As such, the project was put on the back burner, but years later after going through much effort to create a rich and immersive world, and finally that vision was truly realised, and it certainly was worth it.

The world of Pandora is immediately visually absolutely stunning and breath taking to look at, it looks and feels as though Pandora could be a place somewhere out there in the universe. The terrain and the wildlife are all so rich in detail, it is incredible to watch, and the indigenous people of Pandora, the Na’vi are also equally beautifully realised, again they feel as though they could be a species that actually inhabits a planet somewhere out there in the reaches of the universe. Cameron went to great effort to create their language and his endeavour absolutely pays off. It is so authentic and so beautiful, if it was a real place, admit it, you would want to go there. The visual effects are truly magnificent and the film absolutely deservedly bagged an Oscar for its astounding visual effects, it was a game changer when released back in 2009 and remains the absolute pinnacle of what a film can achieve in terms of visual effects.

Of course, a film with pretty visuals looks great but, being all style and no substance wouldn’t be any good to anybody. Fortunately, that isn’t the case as the screenplay, penned by Cameron does have substance to it. At the heart of the story is Jake Sully (Worthington) who after a death in the family is recruited to the Avatar programme, an arm of the human operation on Pandora which is seeking possession of an extremely rare mineral. With use of said avatars, Jake becomes a part of the Na’vi clan and soon falls head over heels for the fierce and strong willed Neytiri (Saldana). Yet the love story is only one facet of the story, with many themes running through it, some of them could be perceived as being very political, but it drives home the message in an emphatic manner, carrying plenty of emotion and suspense with it, and James Horner’s score, is equally brilliant.

As a leading man, Worthington is functional, but he could have been a lot more compelling and less monotone would have been helpful. Saldana though shines as Neytiri, she’s very well developed and a very capable warrior who certainly can hold her own against anyone. The chemistry between the two leads is for the most part, solid, but it is a bit iffy in other parts. Signourney Weaver is also excellent as Grace Augstine, the head honcho of the Avatar programme. The humans here though are the main baddies with Parker Selfridge (Ribsi) and Miles Quaritch (Lang) the principal antagonists, with Lang being the standout as a gruff colonel who won’t take any bullshit from anybody. Cameron is one masterful director and here he helms the action to an impeccable quality. It is a rare feat to make the audience want to see members of its own species fail, but everyone watching should definitely be on Team Na’vi when the shit starts to go down.

Avatar certainly was responsible for the resurgence in 3D, and that certainly helped boost its numbers at the box office, as it smashed records here, there and everywhere taking just seventeen days to make one billion dollars, before eventually ending up with a total of nearly THREE billion, or 2.788 billion to be exact, to earn the title of the highest grossing film of all time, a title it has retained to this day, and it will take an almighty force (Star Wars?) to take that title away. Or maybe given Cameron is planning on return to Pandora at some point down the line, that title will remain with this franchise, whenever that sequel will eventually arrive in cinemas.  One thing is for sure though, is when that sequel does arrive, there will be no shortage of people out there, keen to make a return to the vast and incredible world of Pandora.

An absolute visual masterpiece, rich with gorgeous and vivid detail, with some great characters and a for the most part compelling story with some powerful themes, Avatar remains a wonderful, breath-taking cinematic achievement.

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