The sport of Wrestling has ever really appealed. The most exposure I ever had to it was seeing Big Daddy lay the smack down on World of Sport when I was a kid. However it has to be said, the sports movie has often been surprisingly great, and this little gem is no exception. The true story of the rise to fame of female wrestler Paige, who from humble beginnings with her wrestling obsessed family in Norwich, gets plucked by a coach who sees something special in her and gives her a chance to try out for a place in the WWE.
Florence Pugh, who first caught my eye in the unsettling Midsommer is great here as is her support cast including Vince Vaughn and Nick Frost. I especially enjoyed the bond Paige has with her brother and how it gets tested through the course of the story, leading to some quite heart-wrenching moments. It’s also laugh out loud funny in places, helped by a sharp script from Stephen Merchant (who also directs).
As a rise-to-fame journey, yeah it’s cliched with a believing in one self ark and a coach / mentor who’s tough yet secretly a nice guy … but that’s not always bad if it’s handled as well as this. A highly entertaining, well acted and feel good experience I couldn’t wait to talk about. A must see.
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.
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.
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