Hacksaw Ridge (Spoiler-Free Review)

Movie Review

Verdict: 8/10

Synopsis

Directed by Mel Gibson, HACKSAW RIDGE is the extraordinary true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) who, in Okinawa during the bloodiest battle of WWII, saved 75 men without firing or carrying a gun. He was the only American soldier in WWII to fight on the front lines without a weapon, as he believed that while the war was justified, killing was nevertheless wrong.

The Review

It’s always welcoming when Hollywood produce true stories of real life heroes you most likely would never have heard of in your life (most certainly not in UK schools). The film becomes more than just a two-hour watch. It becomes a great history class you wished you attended when you were growing up. Hacksaw Ridge does that for most of it’s running time, with a second half having some of the most visceral battle sequences caught in film, with the veteran direction (and resurrection) of Mel Gibson, led by a poignant central performance by Oscar Nominated Andrew Garfield.

It’s very hard to make this a spoiler-free review given it’s based on a true story (the synopsis alone from the film distributors sums up the second half of the film). It truly is remarkable to think that there was ever a man like Desmond Doss. The film is a tale of two halves. We begin with a young Desmond who after doing a very terrible act as a child, vows to follow the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” till the end of his days. Years later, nearing the end of WWII, he sees other men around his town going off to war and sees that its his right to go fight as well. The only issue is that he’s a conscientious objector and has vowed that he will never carry a gun. This doesn’t fall well with his new sergeant in command and brothers-in-arms, seeing him as a threat to let them down at the heat of the battle.

Many more things happen within this half, with Desmond falling in love with nurse Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer), and the battle he has to go through to be allowed to travel with the soldiers to Japan. It’s a great set up for a polar opposite second half, but the issue I have with the first half of the film is how terribly clichéd it is at times. Some of the dialogue feels straight out of daytime soap operas. It’s really cheesy at some points with some scenes being downright cringe, making some moving moments for me to be not as powerful as Gibson intended them to be. Yes you can argue that the first half was intended to be played out like that to balance out the brutal second half, but for me it was one-too-many whiffs of cheese.

So…the second half. Wow. The moment the soldiers walk on to Hacksaw Ridge till the ending of the film grabs you by the throat and never lets you go. It’s the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan turned up to 11. Blood and guts everywhere. Bombs exploding off. Screams echoing around the battlefield. It’s visceral and relentless and definitely not for the faint hearted. It’s what Gibson does best. Memories of Braveheart with the brutality of Apocalypto and The Passion of the Christ is littered throughout. It perfectly captures Desmond’s beliefs and why Hacksaw Ridge is actually an anti-war film. Garfield provides his most human performance as Doss, giving you a hero that will live on in your memory after you leave the cinema. By the end of the film, Doss becomes a shell of himself and you can’t help but tear up knowing what he’s just gone through and done for his brothers. And the supporting cast is wonderful, especially Vince Vaughn as the no-nonsense drill sergeant and Hugo Weaving as Desmond’s estranged father.

Final Word

Putting aside the near cheesy first half which does well to build up why we should support the beliefs of Desmond Doss, this is a decade-long welcome return for Mel Gibson behind the camera. He gives us a visceral and brutal war film for the ages led by Andrew Garfield’s best performance in front of the camera.

Split (Spoiler-Free Review)

Movie Review

Verdict: 2/10

Synopsis

While the mental divisions of those with dissociative identity disorder have long fascinated and eluded science, it is believed that some can also manifest unique physical attributes for each personality, a cognitive and physiological prism within a single being. Though Kevin has evidenced 23 personalities to his trusted psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher, there remains one still submerged who is set to materialize and dominate all the others. Compelled to abduct three teenage girls led by the willful, observant Casey, Kevin reaches a war for survival among all of those contained within him – as well as everyone around him – as the walls between his compartments shatter apart.

The Review

Oh M. Night Shyamalan. What happened? You made great films like The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs…but then went on to make films such as Lady in the Water, The Happening, and After Earth. And don’t get me started with The Last Airbender, given you ruined my all time favourite anime series on the big screen which I still hate you for. So when I start reading from multiple respective outlets that “Split” is a return to form for Shyamalan, it got me all excited. Has he really written something again that was as unique and memorable as The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable?

No. No he has not. Not by a mile. Split is a mess of a movie. I’m angry just thinking about it while writing this review.

James McAvoy plays Kevin, a man who has suffered with dissociative identity disorder all his life, giving him the burden of having 23 distinct personalities. At the beginning of the film, we see one of his personalities, “Dennis”, kidnap three teenagers: Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula), and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy). From there we get to see glimpses of his different identities, most notably Barry, a wannabe fashion designer (only appearing in front of his regular sessions with his psychiatrist), Hedwig, a little child, and Patricia, a stern and authoritative woman. It’s the personalities of Dennis and Patricia who have “worked” together to kidnap these girls as they need to ready them for the inevitable appearance of Kevin’s 24th distinct personality, known only as “The Beast”.

The film is littered with so many glaring mistakes it’s shameful, given that it doesn’t help that the plot is extremely stupid as well and can’t keep up with its own unique concept. The second half is down right ridiculous due to how clearly irrational it is.The first quarter of the film is intriguing, unravelling the mental issues Kevin has been suffering all his life, keeping you captivated to understand the purpose of why he has kidnapped these girls. But when the personality of “The Beast” begins to get mentioned, it becomes way too predictable but at the same time doesn’t realise how insulting it is that it’s ending up representing people with similar mental issues to be extremely dangerous human beings in real life.

Another is the portrayal of women in this film, notably the three kidnapped teenagers. One of the personalities, Barry, loves to watch naked girls dancing. Using that as plot point, he asks one of the girls to remove their pants, and another to remove their top. REALLY?!  It’s just an infuriating sexist excuse to ensure they remain like that for the rest of the film. Taylor-Joy’s Casey is the only girl out of the three given a back-story around an abusive past which is handled poorly. There’s even little moments in the film that proves the difference between a good director and a bad one. An example being one of the actresses having gone through a terrifying ordeal just minutes ago, has full on make-up on and looking like they’ve just got of the shower. The only saving grace and why I’m even giving any score is James McAvoy as he is incredible in this film. A performance more crazy than his turn in “Filth”. It’s just a shame his talent is wasted away here.

Final Word

Three words: Split is Shit.

T2 Trainspotting (Spoiler-Free Review)

Movie Review

Verdict: 7/10

Synopsis

First there was an opportunity……then there was a betrayal. Twenty years have gone by. Much has changed but just as much remains the same. Mark Renton returns to the only place he can ever call home. They are waiting for him: Spud, Sick Boy, and Begbie. Other old friends are waiting too: sorrow, loss, joy, vengeance, hatred, friendship, love, longing, fear, regret, diamorphine, self-destruction and mortal danger, they are all lined up to welcome him, ready to join the dance.

The Review

21 years ago, a little film called Trainspotting got released to the UK public. Based on the same novel by Irvine Welsh, the film shocked audience members everywhere for its brutal and honest portrayal of drug addiction, but also how culturally relevant it was of that time, taking on topics such as class status, youth culture, and poverty. The first time I watched it it felt like a punch to the gut. The kinetic direction by Danny Boyle with a soundtrack for the ages lives on in your memory, rightfully placing it as one of the greatest movies of the 90s. Decades later, T2 has arrived, returning Renton (Ewan McGregor), Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) back on our screens.

After the events of the first one, we see Renton has been living in Amsterdam for the past 20 years. Spud still can’t let go of his heroin addiction which is affecting his relationship with his wife and son, whilst trying to get a stable job. Sick Boy is still finding dodgy ways of making money, pursuing the life of blackmail on the side, even if he is a pub landlord. And Begbie is still in prison, serving his 25-year sentence and being denied parole.

If you’re expecting the thrill of the first one to be captured again in this sequel then think again. This is a film about memories. Memories of the past that you can’t let go. Even if years have gone by, it hasn’t healed the mistakes that you have made. The main purpose of this film is to show the toil that age takes upon you. We see flashes of the first film stitched into poignant moments reflecting the “best of times” (even with echoing snippets of the first soundtrack), but really shows that our characters aren’t young adults anymore and have wasted their lives away.  It’s also a film about friendship, having moments showing children representing our characters when they were young and how the bond between them began. It’s a more emotional film with a desperation of our “heroes” trying to hold on to what they can of their past, even if the world around them has moved on to a more modern era. It’s welcoming to see that the film embraces the changes that have occurred in the real world these last two decades.

Out of all the main characters, McGregor’s Renton is definitely the one who has aged the most, with Renton being less brash and energetic like he was in the first film. He’s ultimately seeking forgiveness, given what he did at the end of the first film has taken a toil on the rest of the people he is connected with. Miller and Carlyle are still the Sick Boy and Begbie (respectively) that we know, schemers and back stabbers. But it’s Ewen Bremner’s Spud that will carry on being in your head as you leave the cinema. He was my favourite character from the first one and still is in the second one. It’s heartbreaking to see Spud with where he is in his life, given that he is the most likeable of them all.

And that’s one of the issues I have with this film. Other than Spud, none of these characters are likeable at all by the end. You don’t care whether or not they get killed for their actions throughout the film. Another issue is the film doesn’t really have much of a plot. It really becomes some sort of a story near the final 30 minutes. Before that, its a collection of scenes put together (even if some of these scenes beautifully captures the surrealism of the first one), with an okay soundtrack, but Scotland still looks it’s beautiful self on screen.

Final Word

 T2 Trainspotting is about lost youth, broken friendships, and the acceptance of a different era. It’s a welcome return of some of the most iconic characters from film, but never captures what made the first one so unique and special.