Hacksaw Ridge


Viewed – 30 May 2017  online-rental

It would be easy to be a little bit cynical about ‘another war movie’ after how many we’ve had over the years, and comparisons with some of the greats are inevitable.  However this based on a true story drama at least has an interesting perspective of one such time in the second world war.  Andrew Garfield plays Desmond Doss, a pacifist war objector and medic who refuses to carry a weapon despite being part the battle of Okinawa … and becomes a hero when he saves the lives of more than 70 soldiers during a brutal siege against the Japanese. 

Hacksaw-Ridge

Director Mel Gibson’s movie for me began familiar…Desmond leaves his sweetheart to join the army, his drunk father is against him signing up, and we also get a shouty drill instructor played by Vince Vaughn doing his best R Lee Ermy impression.  So initially I was thinking this was just going to be a re-tread of say Full Metal Jacket or Saving Private Ryan.  Thankfully though with the focus on Desmond this became more than simple war movie cliché and actually an enthralling story of one man’s fight to stand by his beliefs whilst still managing to make a difference.  The war scenes that come fairly late on are unashamedly brutal yet visceral showing that Gibson has lost none of his flair for gruesome battles that he showcased so well in Braveheart.  Also add to this that the movie has some interesting, humbling character arcs, such as certain characters starting out unlikeable and then becoming someone I cared about etc.  Also I was glad to see that the otherwise ruthless Japanese army were not painted entirely one dimensional, with a few welcome moments showing soldiers scared or not entirely wanting to be a part of what they were involved in.  It made for a well rounded and well written account of a what must have been a horrific time in history. 

I was left a little puzzled by where Desmond’s elder brother disappeared to considering he signed up to join the army before Desmond but then the movie forgot about him.  Just an observation.  However, Garfield not exactly an actor I’ve ever warmed to, who was miscast in Spiderman is thankfully a revelation here, convincing and probably a career best from him … helped by several solid supporting turns. 

Simply put – a must see.

Verdict:  5 /5

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Man On A Ledge


Viewed – 16 June 2012  Pay-per-view

Sam Worthington is steadily becoming the go-to actor for big budget event pictures with a quality list of titles behind him including Avatar, Terminator Salvation and to a lesser extent Clash Of The Titans.  So I was happy to see him in something a (little) more down to earth, even if for the duration he’s stuck on a ledge looking down over Manhattan.  You see, he plays a wrongly convicted escaped felon hell-bent on proving his innocence, and a female negotiator with a few of her own problems is on hand to help … if she chooses to believe his story.

This is a fairly decent concept, borrowing it seems from similar one location scenarios like Phone Booth.  Yet here as revealed in the trailer something else is afoot and the ledge thing is more a decoy to take attention off a diamond heist happening in the building across the street.  Co-starring the gorgeous Elizabeth Banks (30 Rock) as well as Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot), this is thrilling and enjoyable.  It lacks a bit of credibility in its diamond heist plot device and supporting actors including a grimacing Ed Harris are fairly clichéd.  Also the back story leading up to why Worthington goes to such lengths to prove his innocence and just how he got set up are poorly explored, and towards the end it does get very far-fetched.

The performances are solid however and the film looks stylish and does crack along at a good enough pace to mean I never checked my watch.  For such a concept though, this should have been a lot smarter than it actually turned out to be.

Verdict:  3 /5

Avatar


Viewed – 22 December 2009  Cinema

It has to be said, the wait for director James Cameron’s next film has been waaaaaay too long.  Having swept the boards at the Oscars with Titanic, and more importantly being responsible for arguably the best sci-fi action movie ever made – Terminator 2: Judgement Day, I went into this with high expectations.  Sort of a throw back to the likes of Aliens and the aforementioned Terminator franchise, but given a personality and story very much its own, this epic fantasy / sci-fi movie places us on the forest world of Pandora, where tall, lithe blue beings known as the Na’Vi inhabit a world full of strange creatures, danger and spirituality.  Then comes along mankind in its usual bull in a china shop way, hell bent of mining the planet for its resources, and to hell with whoever lives there.  Yet thankfully, in amongst the army of gung-ho marines are a bunch of scientists who have developed a technology to artificially grow their own Na’vi, where they can transport the consciousness of a human volunteer, enabling he or she to walk amongst the tribe as one of them.

Sam Worthington plays paraplegic marine Jake Sully, who is drafted into the Avatar programme after his own twin brother is killed in action.  Soon he becomes a Na’vi and his goal is to befriend the tribe and persuade them to move village before the military arrive, whilst at the same time learn about their behaviour for scientific research.  Worthington is joined by Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Rodriguez, as well as Steven Lang as a trigger happy Colonel.  Worthington carries the film well, but lacks a little presence (especially considering that mostly he’s a big, tall blue dude with a dawky grin), and Weaver is her usual, dependable self.  Yet it’s the performance of Zoe Zaldana as female Na’vi Neytiri who steals the show, and her personality brings the story to life. 

The world of Pandora is so beautifully realised, that it no longer feels like an effects film; the emotion on display from mostly computer generated people is astonishing, and their similarly CGI’d surroundings an incredible achievement, with every minute detail stunningly crafted and breathing with life.  Thankfully Cameron backs up the lush visuals with a decent story full of emotion and substance, but also doesn’t falter on the action, delivering some amazing sequences that made me want to shout out with delite.  It was also interesting to see a movie where we, the humans are the alien invaders, the change in perspective refreshing, and certainly got me thinking about the ruthlessness of mankind.  

So yes, it’s long, your arse will be numb as hell, but I assure you, you won’t be bored for a minute.  The concept alone is worthy of your ticket price, and it’s probably the best looking movie to come out this year – with a professional touch as expected from a director of such acclaim.  So welcome back James Cameron.  You have been missed.

Verdict:  5 /5

Terminator Salvation


Viewed – 09 June 2009  Cinema

Well what can I say here?  Lets begin by my thoughts on the Terminator franchise.  The first is a genre defining thriller that set the bar for chase movies.  The follow up is one of the most well executed, jaw-dropping action movies ever made.  The belated third film certainly has its moments, and hey, a naked Kristana Loken in place of Michael Biehn or Arnie’s naked butt is gonna be a keeper every time.  But let’s be honest here.  T2 wrapped up things so well, I don’t think for a second director and series creator James Cameron envisaged further sequels, and therefore I am always left wondering how on earth the war against the machines is still playing out, than for any other reason than a money making scheme?

terminator-salvation-christian-bale

So here we are with the latest entry.  Arnie is out of the picture this time round, and the setting is the near-future apocalypse of a desert landscape and rebel resistance headed by John Connor (Christian Bale).  This time we have a mysterious drifter seeming from the past (Sam Worthington), who befriends a young Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn’s character in the first film, and future father of John Conner … please try and keep up).  Meanwhile John himself is searching for Kyle after discovering that Skynet have his future father targeted, and he therefore must rescue him and keep him safe if he himself is ever to exist and eventually save the day.

This is convoluted stuff that seemingly relies on the viewer having a cast-iron memory of the previous films, no easy task when they were complicated enough to begin with, and Bale although looking the part adds very little to an iconic character that Edward Furlong didn’t deliver much better in T2.  Thankfully new hot-property Sam Worthington lends some emotional weight to proceedings and pretty much steals the show.  Director McG handles the brilliantly realised action with style & panache, and is definitely an action director to watch, coming fresh off his fun but brainless Charlie’s Angels movies into something, that at least on the surface has more depth.  I say on the surface, as there are some majorly stupid plot developments here, especially Skynet’s ridiculous plan to capture Kyle when killing him would much more easily solve their problems with Connor (but then again, we wouldn’t have a film, would we?).  Yet we do have some great tongue-in-cheek references to the earlier films that made me smile, and it ticks along at a cracking pace that even if this does feel pointless as far as the whole Terminator mythos is concerned … it remains great entertainment.

Verdict:  3.5 /5