Category Archives: 4 Star

The Great Wall – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Starring global superstar Matt Damon and directed by one of the most breathtaking visual stylists of our time, Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers), Legendary’s The Great Wall tells the story of an elite force making a valiant stand for humanity on the world’s most iconic structure. The first English-language production for Yimou is the largest film ever shot entirely in China. The Great Wall also stars Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe and Andy Lau.

Did you see The Great Wall?  Did you hear about the controversies?  Before it even came out there were accusations of racist whitewashing, of cultural appropriation and of being a “white-saviour” story with one heroic white man saving the day.  These accusations mainly came because Matt Damon, a white, American actor was cast in the lead role, but director Zhang Yimou defended The Great Wall and Damon’s casting. He said the movie’s narrative couldn’t be further from a white-saviour story: “For the first time, a film deeply rooted in Chinese culture, with one of the largest Chinese casts ever assembled, is being made at [a] tentpole scale for a world audience.” Yimou also explained that Damon’s character was always intended to be white. “Matt Damon is not playing a role that was originally conceived for a Chinese actor. The arrival of his character in our story is an important plot point. There are five major heroes in our story and he is one of them — the other four are all Chinese,” Yimou said in a statement to Entertainment Weekly.

This is the biggest American-Chinese co-production ever, and probably one of the most expensive movies ever made in China.  Casting Matt Damon in the lead role of your movie is usually a pretty good idea.  Matt Damon sells tickets.  Plain and simple.  He is a bankable movie star known and recognized the world over.  The film employed hundreds, if not thousands of Chinese actors and crew, which probably wouldn’t have happened if the film wasn’t greenlit by the studio.  Having a bankable star in the lead is probably what helped “sell” The Great Wall to those studio executives in the first place.

The Great Wall takes place during China’s Song dynasty and follows two European mercenaries — William (Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal) — who accidentally find the Great Wall as they’re searching for black powder (gunpowder) to bring back to Europe. William and Tovar are taken prisoner by the “Namless Order” that staffs the Wall, and learn that the real purpose of the 5,500-mile long structure it is to defend China (and the rest of the world) from the Tao Tei, alien monsters who crashed on earth on a meteor centuries ago and attack every sixty years. The Nameless Order is led by General Shao (Hanyu Zhang), Strategist Wang (Andy Lau) and Commander Lin Mae (Tian Jing) and broken up into five colour-coded, special military units: the melee-specialist Bear Troop (black), the acrobatic-specialist Crane Troop (blue), the archer-specialist Eagle Troop (red), the siege engine-specialist Tiger Troop (yellow), and the horse-mounted Deer Troop (purple).

Originally slated to be executed, William and Tovar are set aside when the Tao Tei attack the wall. Fearing the Tao Tei (and being crushed in the skirmish) they are freed by Ballard (Willem Dafoe), another European prisoner who we learn has been a voluntairy prisoner for some years when he was captured also looking for black powder. (I say he’s a voluntary prisoner because he has free reign in the Wall, but is not allowed to leave because he knows their location, their secrets, and about the Tao Tei.) Once freed, William and Tovar help the Nameless Order fight off the Tao Tei on the wall, and prove themselves worthy warriors. After the fight, William joins with the leaders to fight the Tao Tei, while Tovar and Ballard focus on escaping with the black powder.

The film was visually stunning, and the colour coding of the armies really worked to make the action scenes stand out on the screen. There were three separate battles, and the filmmakers did a very good job of not making them repetitive or just a rehash of the previous scene. The stunts and the effects were excellent.  The acting was also quite good, I thought and I enjoyed the story. I really enjoyed Andy Lau as Strategist Wang and Tian Jing was great as Lin Mae. While they may have hinted at a romantic sub-plot, it didn’t really happen. I’m glad they didn’t, because I think that would have really diminished a strong, female character. Sure there were a few lighter moments in the film, such as Tovar bullfighting with a Tao Tei, and the scenes with the Emperor, but this to me was a popcorn film, so I was fine with it.

As for the “white-saviour” issues, I don’t think it really applies. Usually that means the white hero teaches the other culture how to be better and that the white culture is superior. William doesn’t teach the Chinese how to be better Chinese — it’s William who must redeem himself by risking his life to serve the greater good, which is a popular theme in both Chinese culture and entertainment. In other words, it’s William who has to learn to be more Chinese. William and Tovar are in awe of the technology that the Chinese possess, that’s why they’re there in the first place. They are essentially greedy and “dumb” foreigners in search of gunpowder and fortune, who know nothing of the Great Wall, the Nameless Order, or the Tao Tei.  Sure they are capable warriors, but they are not bigger than the whole Chinese army.  The story was largely a redemption story, because William talks about how he’s fought for money and fought for different causes before, but never really fought for the greater good or for himself. Fighting this fight makes him a better person, and they’re not just saving China, they’re fighting to save the whole world.

Bottom Line: If you’re asking me to believe that the Great Wall of China was constructed to keep alien monsters at bay, I can also believe that a white European was in China searching for gunpowder.

A Man Called Ove – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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A Man Called Ove is based the book by Fredrik Backman and starred Rolf Lassgård as Ove, a grumpy old Swedish widower and Bahar Pars as Parvaneh, his new neighbour, a pregnant woman from Persia.  Ove is a typical “grumpy old man”, he fusses about his neighbourhood, and has rules that he thinks everyone else living there should live by too.  He works at the train yard, as his father before him did, or at least he did work there for today was the day he was told he was no longer needed.  Progress has eliminated the need for the old man.  He berates the neighbours unfortunate enough to meet him as he walks to his house where he puts on his suit, ties a cord to a hook in the ceiling and prepares to hang himself.  The rope breaks, so he heads back to the store to complain about the rope’s falsely advertised weight bearing capabilities.  Armed with some new rope he tries again, but is disturbed by the sound of someone crashing into his mailbox.  Parvaneh, her husband and two children are moving in, and her husband Patrik (Tobias Almbord) is not very good at backing up the trailer.  Taking charge Ove deftly navigates the vehicle into their driveway for them.  He doesn’t do this to be nice, no, he does it because their own attempts would bother him.  When the task is complete, he’s just to tired to kill himself that night.  We learn a lot about how Ove came to be the way he is through flashbacks, where we learn about his late wife Sonja (Ida Engvoll), how they met, and fell in love, and what happened afterwards.  Ove was really happy with Sonja, but cancer came and took her, and he spiralled away too.  As his backstory is revealed, you begin to change your opinion of Ove.

At first, I  found his behaviour somewhat funny, but ultimately he was just a rude, angry old man, but as the character was fleshed out and developed, you really begin to like him.  The addition of the neighbours was just what he needed to initiate the character shift.  Though Parvaneh herself is competent, her husband really isn’t.  We already know he cant backup a car with a trailer, he can’t hook up a dishwasher, and he breaks his leg when he falls off the ladder he borrowed from Ove (who did tell him to read the instructions).  With a broken leg he can’t teach Parvaneh to drive either, so Ove steps in.  Not out of compassion or friendship, but out of frustration at the lack of efficiency with which the family is living their lives.  Eventually though his assistance does come from friendship, and love.  Throughout the story, (between suicide attempts) Ove has been building up a circle of friends and softening in his ways, and we realize what a nice guy he can be.

A very well told story, and I’ll admit that more than a few times my eyes may have gotten a little misty.  I think that really says something about a “foreign film”.  If a film where you have to split your attention by reading the subtitles the whole time can emotionally move you, it really is a good film.  The plot may be a little obvious, it is a “feel good story” after all, but it was still a rewarding and entertaining watch, and I think it was really a bit more than that, I think it was actually a love story.  A rom-com almost, about this grumpy old man who you think no one could love, but eventually everyone loves.

Bottom Line: A Man Called Ove was kind of like a Swedish Gran Torino, it even used cars as a plot point!  Ove loves Saabs.

Solace – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review


Anthony Hopkins working alongside the FBI to catch a serial killer? Hmmmm…… and he’s a psychic?  Yeah, I was hooked by the premise of this one.

Hopkins plays John Clancy, an actual psychic who assisted the FBI.  Though he’s retired after losing his daughter to leukemia, his former handler agent Joe Merriwether (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) calls him to assist with a string of unsolved murders that look to be the work of a serial killer.  Though he clashes at first with Merriwether’s partner (Abbie Cornish playing FBI Agent Katherine Cowles) they soon learn that the killer is also psychic and one step ahead of them all the time.

Okay, it should come as no surprise that the killer is Colin Farrell.  If you’ve got a big named actor listed in the cast and they don’t make an early appearance, 99% of the time they’re the bad guy.  This isn’t really a spoiler because when his character is introduced to us it is only as the killer.  When we find out how he’s choosing his victims and why he’s killing them, Solace turns from a standard crime thriller into a clever, thoughtful crime thriller. The casting was excellent as was the acting, but what I really enjoyed were the visuals.  When Clancy was having a vision, the way they showed events that happened in the past and possible events to happen in the future was really well done.  In one scene where they’re investigating a woman found murdered in her bathtub, you get to see the events leading up to the murder, but you see the person splitting into multiple versions of herself as the events unfold.  In a foot chase a vision of the killer splits into multiple versions, each taking a different path, representing the different choices he could have made as the psychic follows him.  I thought it was a very unique way of telling a story dealing with psychics.  If something like this has been done before, I don’t remember seeing it, so I really enjoyed this facet of the film.

At the end I think Solace works because even though it can be brushed off as a simple crime thriller, it leaves you with something to talk about, but it’s something I really can’t touch on because I think it would be a really big spoiler.  It will definitely raise questions about euthanasia and murder.….

Bottom Line: Kind of reminded me of Red Lights from a few years ago, which I really should re-watch.

Hidden Figures – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Hidden Figures is another “real life story” movie, this time based on the true story of the African American women working at NASA in the 1960s working to put the first American into space.  The movie focuses on three women, Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) a mathematician, Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) a supervisor, and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) an engineer and their struggles to get by in the segregated world of the southern United States.  Following a successful Russian satellite launch, pressure to send American astronauts into space increased. When the Space Task Group needed another “computer”, Katherine was assigned by her supervisor, Vivian Mitchel (Kirsten Dunst), where she worked under Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) and his team.  She becomes the first African-American woman in the team.  We follow the paths of these three women as they advance in their lives and in their careers.

Okay, I really enjoyed this one, and it was one that I had hoped to catch before the Oscars.  It was nominated for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Spencer was nominated for Best Supporting Actress.  The subject matter fascinated me, because I love space stuff.  I’ve got books about it, and newspaper clippings that my grandmother saved for me from the space race and the moon landing.  This was a look behind the scenes to see how it all happened, and I loved that.  Seeing the race and gender barriers slowly being broken down was great too.  This was NASA, and they were there for science, they were there to put someone into space.  They weren’t there to be racist or sexist, the mission was what mattered.  Or at least that’s how it was supposed to be, and for the most part it was, but the movie showed that there was racism and sexism.  Jim Parsons’ character was obviously threatened when a woman excelled at a problem he was trying to solve.  Kirsten Dunst’s character was more racist than she believed she was.  Eventually though, through strong leadership, those feelings were put aside in favour of the greater good of the job.  Kevin Costner as Al Harrison really brought that feeling to life. When he questions why Katherine is absent from her desk so often and for so long, he is furious to find out it’s because she has to run half a mile away to use the toilet as the only bathrooms in their building are “white only”.  The next scene where he breaks down the bathroom sign with a crowbar declaring  “here at NASA, we all pee the same colour” was great.  The speech that Taraji Henson gave about the bathrooms was equally memorable, even if it was maybe exaggerated for the screen.  That aside, you really did love when Johnson repeatedly showed herself to be the smartest person in the room at every turn.

My only complaint with the film was that I thought it spent too much time telling me about the personal lives of the three ladies, which I personally didn’t find that interesting.  I know I will never “know” what it is like to be an African American woman in the 1960s and I understand that these looks at their lives personalizes the characters and humanizes them and brings home the racism and the sexism, but I didn’t want to see them going to church or picnics or dating or putting their children to bed or finding a boyfriend.  I’ve seen that before in movies, I haven’t seen all the space stuff.  I wanted to see them calculating re-entry trajectories, building heat shields and putting rockets into orbit!

Bottom Line: Really a great film, and I don’t want to make light of the issues they dealt with, I just thought as a movie it ran a little long and a little slow at times.

Standoff – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review


A young girl nicknamed Bird (Ella Ballentine) is taking nature pictures while visiting her parent’s grave at the cemetery when she witnesses a gangland style execution at a nearby burial.  The priest, the widow, her bodyguards are all killed by a masked assassin (Laurence Fishburne), who Bird manages to photograph without his mask on.  Naturally the professional killer has a strict “no witnesses” policy when it comes to his work, chases the girl (killing her aunt’s boyfriend along the way) who runs to a lonely house occupied by Carter (Thomas Jane).  Confused, the former soldier takes a bullet in the leg as the killer approaches.  Carter’s wife had left him after tragedy befell the family, and even though he had turned to alcohol and was actually readying to kill himself, he is determined to protect this little girl who ended up on his front step.  Carter manages to blast the killer with one of his two shotgun shells as he herds Bird upstairs.  Both wounded, killer and guard; both armed, one at the base of the stairwell and one at the top of the stairs.  Standoff.

Nearly the entire film takes place in Carter’s house on the stairwell.  Very limited locations, an extremely small cast, probably a limited budget, but Standoff really delivered.  The tension was incredible, almost claustrophobic at times.  The entire cast was spectacular, but you can’t help but notice parallels between Jane’s Carter and his Frank Castle from 2004’s The Punisher.  The storyline was really quite simple, but it still kept me on the edge of my seat.  You might think that an eighty minutes of two guys shouting at each other up and down a staircase would be tedious, but there really wasn’t a wasted minute and any slower segments were filled with suspense.  The psychological battle between the two men was fantastic and really kept the story rolling.  Both Fishburne and Jane are very good actors, and a small piece like this, with its restrictions really highlights how strong they are. 

Standoff was intelligent, and a really good, solid suspense thriller.

Bottom Line: It reminded me at times of a western.

The Accountant – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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It took me months to watch The Accountant, and an equally long time to finally review it!  Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff, on the surface an accountant and a math savant, but underneath he’s something more.  When a low level accountant (Anna Kendrick) at a major robotics and prosthetics company discovers some discrepancies in their financial records, the head of the company (John Lithgow) brings in Wolff to “uncook” the books and perform a forensic audit on his company to figure out where funds are being leaked to and by whom.  Wolff is a highly functioning autistic math savant so solving the numbers case is simple to him; much simpler than dealing with the staff of the facility, especially Kendrick’s character Dana who shows genuine interest in the problem and wants to help.  But Wolff prefers to act as a “lone wolf” and it takes barely a day for him to confirm the findings and get a lead on who might be behind them.  As he gets closer to the truth though, the suspects start dying.  Unknown to his employers, Wolff is not just an accountant, he’s also a professional assassin who likes to take matters into his own hands when he sees a wrong that needs to be righted.  As the plot thickens Wolff is brought into conflict with another assassin hired by the person responsible for stealing the company funds.  Unbeknownst to Wolff, the other assassin is his estranged brother Brax (Jon Bernthal).  Naturally the two meet in the film’s climax, but what will be the results?

Very few actors are as polarizing to audiences as Ben Affleck.  He’s one of those actors who it seems people either love or hate.  I’m probably in the minority here, because I’m more “middle of the road” with him.  I haven’t seen that many of his films, but of those that I did see, there were some I liked, and some I didn’t.  I really liked him in Gone Girl where I think he did a tremendous job of making me forget he was Ben Affleck.  I didn’t really like him in Argo, where I found his directing solid, but his own performance very bland, and very “Ben Affleck”.  Here though I enjoyed him.  His performance was confident, and once again, he didn’t seem too “Ben Affleck” for the part.  He clearly did his research when it came to playing an autistic character, and he was very expressive in his performance.  The action scenes too were very good, and kept me entertained and engaged.  I really like Anna Kendrick, and she was her usual fun and slightly quirky self in the role as a junior accountant, but she may have been a little underutilized, and at the same time a little forced into the script.  J.K. Simmons as a director at the Treasury Department who has been on Wolff’s trail for years (but not exactly for the reasons we expect) was excellent as always.  I’ll go out of my way to watch any movie with J.K. in it, no matter how small his role.  A real treat in The Accountant was Jon Bernthal as Brax.  I had only known him as Shane from the first few seasons of The Walking Dead, and didn’t really have an opinion of him one way or another.  Here, he really shined, and I don’t think the part could have been any better cast.  I’ve heard good things about his performance as the Punisher in the Marvel Netflix Daredevil series which I believe has earned him a spin-off solo series, so I look forward to watching those too.

Quite entertaining, and it threw a few twists at you along the way as the suspense and the mystery deepened.  Who was eliminating the fraud suspects?  Wolff?  Brax?  It wasn’t 100% clear until the end.  What were Agent King’s interests in Wolff?  Did they have a past?  Who was the computerized voice that appeared to be working for Wolff, but was also seemed to be giving tips to the Treasury Department?  All these led to a very solid action-thriller….which is nothing what real accounting is like I’m told.

Bottom Line: The final shootout scenes reminded me a lot of John Wick, which is never a bad thing.

Moana – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review


Disney’s Moana was nominated for Best Animated Feature, and I think it was very much a “classic” Disney film.  The story was essential a fable, as the old Disney stories were; it had clever humour; plenty of catchy songs; spotless animation and even openly stated in the film that if the female lead wears a dress and has an animal sidekick she’s a princess.

Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) is the daughter of the chief of a Polynesian island.  Their people stay close to their island, and never venture out past the reef that harbours them, for out beyond the reef the world has been cursed and is plunging into darkness.  A long time ago the demigod Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) stole the heart of the goddess Te Fiti which unleashed Te Ka, a fire demon who struck down Maui and his magical fishhook and brought the darkness to the world.  Moana’s people seemed safe, but when their fishermen bring back no fish, and their crops start to die, it appears the darkness has reached their island too.  From a tale passed on by her grandmother, Moana learns that Maui is the only one who can defeat Te Ka and return the heart to Te Fiti (which Moana’s grandmother happens to have).  Learning that her people are actually descended from wayfaring voyagers and not sheltered farmers and fishermen as she has been led to believe, Moana steals a boat that was hidden in a series of island caves and sets out beyond the reef to find Maui and save the world, with Hei Hei….a very dumb rooster as her animal sidekick.  Braving challenges, defeating monsters and embracing her destiny on their way, Maui and Moana set off to return the heart.

As I said, this one was lots of fun.  I particularly enjoyed Moana reminding Maui how to be a hero, and how she turned him to her side.  When first she meets him, he is just a selfish person, but he is also very dejected.  Ever since he lost his magic fishhook he can no longer shapeshift into animal forms.  Moana helps Maui recover it, which immediately returns his confidence; and Maui teaches Moana to sail the seas like her people did generations ago.  The two do develop a friendship, and would willingly sacrifice themselves for each other as they finally face the lava demon in their quest to save Te Fiti and save the world.  As I think I’ve mentioned before, the “returning hero” storyline is one of my favourites, so I really enjoyed that part of Moana.  Once Maui got his “powers” back, there was some pretty good humour as he got used to shapeshifting again.  And we got to see the true heroic demigod in action once he worked out all the kinks.  Moana herself saved the day in the end with the tried and true “brains over brawn”, as she had completed her own journey of self discovery.

Very fun, quite funny, quite musical, and they did a very good job animating water which is always a difficult task.  If you’re in the mood for a nice light bit of myth, fable and storytelling, you can’t go wrong.

Bottom Line: I think I liked this more than Zootopia…

Hell or High Water – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Another of the films that was up for Best Picture this year, Hell or High Water tells the story of two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) who set out to rob some banks, but are being tracked by soon to be retired Texas Ranger Jeff Bridges.  Tanner (Foster) is a career criminal, and recently released from prison.  Toby (Pine) is the “good” brother but he teams up with Tanner to rob a series of banks to pay off the various liens against their family farm, monies owed to the very same bank chain they are robbing.  On the side of the law is Marcus Hamilton (Bridges) a cranky, old Texas Ranger who delights in the chase almost as much as he does insulting his half-Comanche, half-Mexican partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) with as many racial stereotypes and slurs as he can think of.  Despite this, Hamilton is a good cop and good at his job, soon he and Alberto are on the trail of a pair of mysterious bank robbers.  The bank robbing brothers are also good at their job, laundering their money in a casino across state lines but each robbery gets more and more dangerous as the take, the stakes and the violence all increase.

This was a very good heist movie (which I always enjoy) and it had a good dramatic core story.  Hell or High Water was very well acted, and Jeff Bridges was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.  His character was humourous, intelligent,  and a great foil to the violent, and erratic Tanner.  Toby was also a great character, and also a clever opposite to his brother.  Though their reasons are leaning towards noble, the brothers’ methods certainly are not, but it does make the whole film a little grey, at times I didn’t really know who to root for.  At times I wanted the brothers to get caught (they were the “bad guys” after all) and at others I really wanted to see them get away with their scheme, and beat the bank.  The film did a really good job showing the poverty and the emptiness in those small Texas towns, which also kind of helped feed the conflicted feelings I had towards the robbers and the banks.

Full of action, full of drama, brimming with interesting characters, dark humour, and an engaging purpose behind the plot.  I really had a good time with this film!

Bottom Line: Remember how I questioned how Michelle Williams could be nominated for Best Supporting Actress with minimal screen time?  Jeff Bridges’ nomination made perfect sense to me, because he was in roughly half the film.

Manchester By The Sea – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Lee Chandler is a handyman working in the Boston area who gets the call that his brother has died in nearby Manchester, the town they both grew up in.  Lee goes back to settle his brother’s affairs which unbeknownst to him, include becoming guardian to his teenage nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges).  There are reasons Lee left Manchester, one of which is his ex-wife (Michelle Williams) and the emotional reasons why she is his ex-wife.  Now Lee is forced to return to the town, family and memories he left behind.

The movie felt very real to me, just like a slice of somebody’s everyday life.  Lee falls asleep on the couch and burns the spaghetti sauce; he has to drop off and pickup his nephew from school, from band practice, and from his dates; he has to deal with his brother’s business; and he has to sort out his life whether it is in Manchester or not.  The routine, day to day things were part of the movie, which I liked.  Affleck was pretty good in the lead, good enough to win the Best Actor Oscar.  Michelle Williams was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, which surprises me because even though she was very good in the film, she was only on the screen for maybe fifteen minutes.  Is there no minimum time requirement to be nominated for a supporting role?

While the movie did feel very real, it also felt very slow at times.  I suppose life doesn’t always move at the quickest pace, but I like my movies to move a little faster than the everyday.  It took about three quarters of the movie for me to really become invested in these characters, and finally once I was hooked, the movie ended.  There was no real resolution to things, you don’t really know the characters’ futures, life just keeps on going, but it felt like the story ended mid-paragraph.  A good story leaves you wanting more, and I really did want more but I think that was because I wanted closure to the characters.  Was I a little disappointed with the ending?  Yes.  Did I enjoy the film for the entire run?  No.  But, once they revealed a few key plot points, the preceding hours of the film suddenly became a lot more enjoyable to me.  Definitely worth watching, but I’d say be prepared for a slow burn, and some boredom before the film actually gets good.

Bottom Line: Casey Affleck mumbles a lot… Apparently that gets you an Oscar now.

Hacksaw Ridge – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Hacksaw Ridge is based on the true story of WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), a pacifist who joined the army and served during the Battle of Okinawa.  Doss refuses to kill people and even refuses to carry a weapon, but he still receives the Medal of Honour without every having fired a shot. Doss thought it was his duty to serve his country, but his religion (he was a Seventh Day Adventist) clearly stated “thou shalt not kill”, so he enrolled as a medic.  Doss suffered through the hardships of basic training where his fellow soldiers hazed him to drum him out of their outfit, a court-marshal hearing because he would not pick up a weapon for any reason (including training), and finally to the battlefield where he witnessed the horrors of war first hand.

This was one of the better looking “war films” that I have seen.  The visuals were graphic, but authentic looking.  The sound was incredible.  The tone of the story and the pace of the action were both exceptional.  I’m not a big fan of Andrew Garfield (I really didn’t like his Spider-Man, or more specifically his Peter Parker), but he did a very good job playing Desmond Doss.  The performance came across as very real and very believable.  Teresa Palmer was very good as his wife Dorothy, as was Hugo Weaving as his father.  A pleasant surprise came in Vince Vaughn as Sgt. Howell who we first met at basic training.  Howell originally seemed to be against Doss, but you could see that he was really just acting out of concern for all the soldiers in his company.  He may not have agreed with Doss’ thoughts or morals but he did always treat Doss fairly, even if he was a little rough.  Eventually he does understand Doss and recognizes the courage inside him.

The film wasn’t perfect of course, there were a few liberties taken.  The film makes it appear as though Doss rescues 75 injured men in a single night, but in actuality this occurred over the course of several weeks and many battles.  I understand making that change, it does make the story flow better.  I though the film looked very authentic, but was disappointed to see that a lot of the battle “blood” appeared to be CGI.  I think for all the trouble they went to of making practical effects for the fighting and the stunts, they would have used old fashioned blood packets too.  Ah well, CGI blood is a lot cheaper than fake blood and squibs, and the film was done on a relatively small $40 million budget.  All in all, it was a very interesting look at a story I didn’t know anything about.

Bottom Line: It’s safe to say that Mel Gibson has had some problems over the last ten years or so, but Hacksaw Ridge shows that he is still one heck of a director.

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