Hacksaw Ridge is the new war film from Mel Gibson and tells the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a conscientious objector who served in WWII as a combat medic, and managed to save 75 people without ever using a weapon.
In the lead up to Hacksaw Ridge I watched all four of Mel Gibson’s previous films he’d directed. I have mixed feelings about him as a director as I think all the films he made are beautifully shot and are very visceral experiences, but at times I think his storytelling can become unfocused and the brutal violence can be over the top. The war scenes in this film are excellently filmed and quite shocking as they move at such a frenetic pace it is hard to see what is going on at times, which is what it must have been liked for these soldiers.
Andrew Garfield, who was great recently in Silence, gives another really solid lead performance here. It is great to see him in these kinds of roles after the time he spent playing Spider-Man. The movie really fleshed out his character and we learned a lot about his family dynamics. A stand out is Hugo Weaving, doing a very convincing accent, who plays the father of Desmond Doss. He gives an emotionally gripping performance that only helps you understand the character of Desmond more. Vince Vaughn also surprised me as although he does get to be comedic in the film, he also nails the more dramatic moments in the film, showing that he can do more than just comedy.
My problem with the film was mainly the first act. It felt so cliched and the dialogue was so formulaic that all the scenes felt cheesy. I also thought the war scenes sometimes were a bit too gory, which Mel Gibson is known for, and the violence did feel excessive at times. I think Hacksaw Ridge is a solid war film with a great central performance from Andrew Garfield, but I am surprised that the film has achieved so much acclaim as I did not think it was up there with the classic war films.
Let me know what you thought of the film in the comments, and check out some of my other reviews for this years Oscar frontrunners!
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Lion is the directorial debut of Garth Davis and tells the true story of a five year old Indian boy Saroo (Sunny Pawar as young Saroo) who gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, where he is faced with many challenges to survive before eventually being adopted by an Australian couple. 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family back in India. Dev Patel plays adult Saroo.
I’ve just been watching this years Oscar nominations being announced, and Lion has done very well, earning a nomination for Best Picture. It is a really touching film and tells a story I was unaware of, but it is a really interesting and both uplifting and tragic. It is essentially a film of two halves, with the first half of the film taking place in India. The young actor Sunny Pawar, in his first ever acting role, is superb as young Saroo, as his performance is so innocent, which makes you instantly love his character. The film establishes how close he is to his family early on as it is clear that all they have is each other, and when he is split up from them it is heartbreaking to watch. The film also has a fantastic original score (which has also been nominated for the Oscar) which captures the emotion of the drama perfectly.
The second half of the film follows Dev Patel as a grown up Saroo in Australia, where he is studying hotel management. He meets a girl on this course, played by Rooney Mara, and is still close to his mother and father, played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham, and his adopted brother Mantosh. Dev Patel changed physically for this role to look more like an “alpha-male” according to Patel himself, which I think is the director wanting to show that he has had a great life growing up in Australia, but emotionally he is really suffering with guilt that his mother and brother are still looking for him. He is really convincing as Saroo and feel for what he is going through. I would have liked to see more development for Rooney Mara’s character, as she is only used really to support Saroo, and then is cast aside pretty quickly. Nicole Kidman has one scene where she steals the show and is so breathtaking, and it is that scene that earned her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
I thought Lion was a really well made film with strong performances across the board, and it is really great to see a smaller film like this doing so well at awards ceremonies as well as the box office.
Let me know what you thought about the film in the comments!
Other 2017 Oscar-Nominated Best Picture Movie Reviews:
Manchester by the Sea
La La Land
La La Land is the new musical from director Damien Chazelle and starts Ryan Gosling as Seb, a struggling jazz pianist, and Emma Stone as Mia, an aspiring actress. The two meet and fall in love whilst pursuing their dreams.
I’m not a big fan of musicals in general and it is not a genre of film I would often choose to watch, but I was looking forward to La La Land a lot as Chazelle’s previous film Whiplash was my favourite film of 2015, and I loved Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone together in Crazy, Stupid, Love. What I really liked about La La Land was how Chazelle has adapted the classic musical formula into the modern world, while it still manages to feel like a more old school Hollywood film. The dance and music sequences were fantastically put together and performed by the whole cast, and the director clearly wanted to make a film that was also a tribute to Los Angeles, as the LA setting plays a big part in the story.
I loved seeing Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone back together on screen again, and they just seemed to have this natural chemistry as soon as they were together. I think Emma Stone steals the show as Mia, she is such a likeable actress and you really want her character to succeed because her character has clearly been trying to be noticed for so long, and you feel for her when she is knocked down over and over.
I really enjoyed La La Land overall as a film and it made me want to go back and see classic Hollywood musicals. I thought it felt a bit too long towards the end but that was my only big flaw with the film, I expect that the film will be a big winner at the Oscars.
Let me know what you thought about the film in the comments!
Manchester by the Sea is the third film by writer-director and Kenneth Lonergan and stars Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler, a janitor living a reclusive life in Boston. When his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) dies, he returns to his hometown of Manchester where he is asked to be the guardian for his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). I was looking forward to this film a lot as it earned rave reviews when it first premiered at Sundance earlier this year, and Affleck just won the Golden Globe for Best Actor.
I knew that the film was going to be emotional at points due to what I had heard, but that’s not all this film is about. The film is also very funny at points despite the dark tones in the film. The performances across the board are all fantastic. Casey Affleck is fantastic as Lee, its a very subdued performance and it is very clear that he is struggling with some demons, but Affleck never gives anything away up until the horrendous thing that has happened to him and his ex-wife, played excellently by Michelle Williams, is revealed. There is a scene that takes place shortly after this which is the best piece of acting I have seen in a long time, and he actually made me tear up watching it. I would say that he has a very good chance of winning the Best Actor Oscar.
Lucas Hedges also gives a really strong performance as a character who develops a lot throughout the film, and as we learn more about his character he also has some emotional moments which he plays very well. Some of the funniest moments in the film are between Lee and Patrick as there personalities are so different and the little arguments they have with each other are brilliantly written and well performed. It was really interesting how Lonergan so effortlessly included flashbacks to help flesh out these characters and they would often switch back and forth between the present day and the past to inform us about what had happened in the past. I did feel at time during the more gut-wrenching scenes that the score was over bearing and I found it to be a distraction from what was happening on screen. Overall, Manchester by the Sea is a deeply affecting film with great performances from the entire cast, and I predict it will be a film that stays with you for a long time.
Ler me know what you thought about the film in the comments!
A Monster Calls is directed by J.A. Bayona who made The Orphanage which is a horror film I really liked, and he is also attached to direct the upcoming Jurassic World sequel. The film follows young boy Conor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall) who seeks the help of a monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) who visits him. He wants his help as his mother (Felicity Jones) has a terminal illness and he is struggling to cope with it.
This film has had very strong reviews overall but I had mixed feelings about the film. The film is structured in two different ways, as the scenes with the monster are a series of stories told through excellent artwork. However, I personally found the more human side of the story much more compelling, thanks to the terrific performances by Lewis MacDougall and Felicity Jones. You feel like they have this mother-son bond and that they love each other so much that they are both aching at what is happening. Sigourney Weaver is solid in the film, but I didn’t find her character very likeable and her English accent was very off at certain points.
The special effects created to make the monster were fantastic and it looks incredible. But I often found myself losing interest in these scenes as I just didn’t find the stories compelling and I wanted to get back to Conor’s story. I think there is a lot to like about A Monster Calls but overall the story just didn’t work for me.
Let me know what you thought about the film or my review in the comments!
Silence is the new historical drama film from legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese. The film tells the story of two Jesuit priests, played by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver, who face violence and persecution in seventeenth century Japan as they try to locate their mentor (Liam Neeson) and propagate catholicism. Scorsese’s last film was The Wolf of Wall Street, which was released in 2013. It is fair to say that this film could not be more different to that film.
Watching Silence on the big screen was an incredibly visceral experience. It is shot beautifully by cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto; I love how he uses long takes that combine with amazing scenery to fully immerse you in this world. The plot outline that I used is very basic because the film is very plotty itself so I did not want to over explain. It often feels like a series of set pieces as these priests move throughout Japan on their search for their mentor Father Ferreira. The film is so brutal in its violence and torture scenes that it is at times very hard to watch, but it never felt gratuitous as you see it through the priests eyes, and they are the ones that convey the horrors of what it was like in this place at that time.
All three stars are an important part of the story, but this is definitely Andrew Garfield’s film. He is the character that you follow throughout the whole film and he gives a great performance, as his character goes through so much and is tested in so many different ways, and Garfield portrays this excellently. I do feel that the film was a bit too long and I thought at the end of certain scenes that they weren’t needed. I also thought that there could’ve been more explanation into something that happens to one of the characters which I won’t spoil, but one of the characters does disappear from the film very abruptly and it felt strange to me.
Overall, I enjoyed the experience of watching Silence in the cinema as it was brilliantly directed by Scorsese and is definitely a film you need to see on the big screen. It is an interesting story that will make you think a lot after you see it, I just felt that the running time was too long and certain characters weren’t developed enough.
Make sure you tell me what you thought about my review and the film in the comments! Check out some of my recent posts below
Best of 2016
Most Anticipated of 2017
Here is a quick list of the films I am looking forward too this year! A few notes about my list:
- UK Release dates
- Only including films that have a set release date
- Not including films that have been released anywhere to the public in 2016
Kong: Skull Island – 10th March
Free Fire – 31st March
Thor: Ragnarök – 27th October
10. Justice League – 17th November
9. Despicable Me 3 – 30th June
8. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 28th April
7. Fast & Furious 8 – 14th April
6. Logan – 3rd March
5. Kingsman: The Golden Circle – 29th September
4. Baby Driver – 11th August
3. Dunkirk – 21st July
2. Spider-Man: Homecoming – 7th July
1. Star Wars: Episode VIII – 15th December
Make sure you comment on what films I should have included and what you think of my list!