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Hacksaw Ridge: Mel Gibson Returns to Direct Moving War Drama
The true story of Desmond Doss - a conscientious objector who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his selfless contribution in the WWII's infamous battle of Okinawa - comes to life in one of the most anticipated returns of the year, seeing that the film is directed by the one and only Mel Gibson, in the visually stunning, mercilessly blood and utterly moving, Hacksaw Ridge.
The story is centred on Desmond T. Doss (Garfield); a young man who grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia in a working-class Christian family with an abusive alcoholic father, Tom (Weaving). Having grown up into a kind, responsible and a religious young man, Desmond soon falls for Dorothy; a young nurse who is instantly taken by his unassuming ways and the couple soon gets engaged to be married.
However, before they are able to take their vows, Desmond decides to enlist in the army as he is unable to sit back and watch while his fellow men fight for their country. Joining with the intention of serving as a medic, Desmond - a devout Seventh-day Adventist - is quick to take a proud stand as a conscientious objector; a decision, which naturally puts him at odds with his supervisors, Howell (Vaughn) and Glover (Worthington). Having endured a gruesome hazing period, Desmond's faith is soon put to the test when his unit is deployed to the island of Okinawa, where they are tasked with an almost impossible mission of taking the gruelling frontline known as Hacksaw Ridge.
It's been ten years since Mel Gibson was last seen behind the camera and the two-time Oscar winner shows no sign of rust – o the contrary, Gibson's strong return to the silver screen proves that he is still a quite a skilled storyteller. He spends the first half of the movie establishing base and allowing the audiences to get to know Desmond before eventually diving headfirst into the second half where an impressively ruthless and gory depiction of war awaits.
Notorious for his love of graphic imagery and R-rated violence, Gibson doesn't shy away from the carnage in what proves to be one of the most harrowing battle scene sequences since Saving Private Ryan. Ensuring that each frame is given its own importance, the attention to detail is sublime with cinematographer, Simon Duggan, making sure that the audiences are able to keep up with the piling bodies and flying bullets at all times.
Garfield's casting raised a few eyebrows, but the young British actor gives his character a self-effacing appeal and quiet determination that ensures the audience is on his side from the start.
Despite on-the-nose religious imagery and undertones, Gibson delivers a grisly and moving cinematic experience; but deep at the heart Hacksaw Ridge are universal messages of courage, belief and a relieving return for the controversial Gibson.
Marking the fifth instalment in the Underworld franchise, Blood Wars rests in the hands of a first-time feature director, Anna Foerster who, although managing to create a few notable moments of action, fails to bring any ingenuity or freshness to its now exhausted vampires-versus-werewolves narrative.
The story begins with a brief recap of events from the last four films where we learn that everyone’s favourite vampire death dealer, Selena (once again fully embraced by the leather-clad, forever sulking Kate Beckinsale) has been betrayed and banished by her kind.
Still trying to cope with the pain of having given up her vampire-werewolf hybrid daughter Eve for everyone’s safety, Selena is surprised to be summoned back into the vampire community - now led by the scheming Semira (Pulver) - who wish to make use of her skills in order to train the new generation of fighters, while still escaping her own chasers and searching for her daughter.
Taking quite a bit of time to get going, Blood Wars – written by Cory Goodman – is filled with lots of politics and nonsensical dialogue between characters who seemingly have a hard time in conveying any emotion, thus, making it all that difficult for the viewer to get invested in what they have to say. Drenched in a seemingly cold, metallic-blue tint, Blood Wars – although certainly not heavy on the action front – does manage to offer a couple relatively exciting action set-pieces. However, considering that this is a vampires-verses-werewolves kind of a movie, there just isn’t enough of that that specific mythology to set it apart from any other action movies – no wooden stakes or silver bullets to see here folks, just plenty of swirling swords and guns that can’t hurt anyone.
Another problem here is that the mythology behind the franchise in general – something the keeps spinning around aimlessly with no real focus or ending in sight – is a little hard to take seriously.
All of the characters, including the PVC-wearing Kate Beckinsale, who thinks that scowling her way through the scenes will get her anywhere, are all without an ounce of charm or personality – which sadly, brings us to a conclusion that there is no fun to be had in this rather forgettable cinematic offering and generic continuation of a franchise which, perhaps, might be ready now to close its doors and call it a day.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.