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Review: The Last Word

March 10, 2017

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

Some films really feel like they are trying too hard to please, and The Last Word is guilty of this.  This is the sort of cliche-riddled Sundance dramedy that follows its formula to a tee, trying to tackle potentially poignant subject matter through a sunny disposition.

The film feels so calculated in its attempts to be sweet and funny and inspiring and emotional, that it’s hard to really buy into or enjoy any of it.  Even the considerable charms of its two seasoned leading ladies, Shirley MacLaine and Amanda Seyfried, can’t overcome the cloying tone of it all.

Harriet (Shirley MacLaine) is an elderly former businesswomen who insists on being obsessively in control over every aspect of her life.  So fearing that her time is coming to an end, and prompted by worries over how or if she will be remembered, she bribes the local paper and hires aspiring writer Anne (Amanda Seyfried) to help pen her obituary under her watchful eye.

Harriet concludes that there are a few key factors behind a good obituary, including quotes from friends and family, the example of a life she touched through good deeds, and a “wild card.”  But a lot of people don’t really like her, and she hasn’t spoken to her daughter (Anne Heche) in years, so Harriet has a lot of catching up to do so Anne will have enough material.  The two end up forming one of those “unexpected friendships” that only really exist in movies, with the two initially butting heads, before Anne starts to realize that Harriet actually has much wisdom to impart beneath her crusty exterior.

It’s all very predictable, but worse than that, the actual circumstances of the plot feel sort of sloppy.  For the “wild card” slot on her obituary, Harriet decides to become a DJ at a local indie radio station, after Anne discovers her stash of carefully curated old records hoarded away in a cupboard, creating a subplot that comes out of nowhere.  And suddenly we have the romantic entanglements between Anne and her favourite radio host (Thomas Sadoski) to keep up with.

For her good deed, Harriet decides to go to an underprivileged school and take a young black girl named Brenda (Ann’Jewel Lee) under her wing, in an ill-guided plot point that The Last Word unfortunately plays completely unironically.  The relationship that forms between Harriet and Brenda is supposed to be sweet in a sort of surrogate grandmother-granddaughter way, and I’m sure the filmmakers had good intentions, but the specifics of it end up feeling kind of racist and offensive.  Let’s face it, a rich old white lady imparting unlikely wisdom upon a poor black girl who she thinks could use some manners, can’t help but feel like a tired and outdated stereotype.

Although Shirley MacLaine and Amanda Seyfried often can’t help but light up the screen, this only speaks to how good they are as performers, and the film around them falls almost completely flat, despite their genuine likability.  The whole thing, from the narrative beats, to the often overly obvious dialogue and trying to be hip song choices, gives off a sickly sweet vibe that is almost cringe-inducingly twee.  I’m all for a sappy feel good movie if done right, but The Last Word is contrived to the point of feeling cynical, and is so saccharine that it ends up coming across as completely disingenuous and almost crass in its false attempts to be uplifting.

The Last Word is now playing in limited release at Cineplex Cinemas Varsity in Toronto.

Review: Hello Destroyer

March 10, 2017

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The most revealing character moment in Hello Destroyer comes when star hockey player Tyson Burr (Jared Abrahmson) lies in a dimly lit hotel room, icing his knuckles after a fight during the game, and tells one of his teammates about how he could never stand silence as a child.

The haunting scene becomes telling throughout this Canadian drama when, after a particularly brutal hockey fight lands another young player in critical condition and leads to his athletic career being threatened, Tyson is left doomed to exist in the silences of being perpetually on the sidelines.

At this point, Hello Destroyer goes from being a sports drama complete with locker room hazing and on-ice excitement and turns into a quiet study of the real life impacts of violence, that stands in stark contrast to the raucous celebration of hockey fighting that is Goon and its sequel set to open next week.

The rest of the film follows Tyson as he struggles to piece his fragmented life back together and find work.  He takes less than desirable jobs salvaging scraps from his family’s old farmhouse that is set to be demolished, and working at a slaughterhouse where he finds somewhat of a friend and confidante in an older Indigenous man named Eric (Joe Buffalo), who also understands social ostracization.  It’s in these often quiet and mundane extended scenes that Hello Destroyer finds its impact, as we watch Tyson reach the creeping realization that he is no longer the athlete being celebrated for his brash fights on the ice, but is suddenly a pariah who is feared by others who would rather just sweep him away.

The film’s point is that we don’t really talk about or confront the realities of violence in sports, and when things get too real we often choose to ignore them instead of fixing the systemic problems.  At times the film is too purposely vague in terms of character details and plot points, allowing its dramatic reveals to come sparingly, and Hello Destroyer does feel somewhat overlong at nearly two hours.  While I do think the film could have used a bit of tightening up, a more action-driven approach to telling this story likely would have taken away some of the film’s gritty impact that comes from the slow moving pace and minimalistic tone.

Built around an excellent and quietly nuanced performance by Jared Abrahamson, who speaks volumes with minimal dialogue, Hello Destroyer is a hard to shake if somewhat uncomfortable to watch drama that explores the repercussions of violence, and how one moment can lead to someone’s life spiralling out of control and into deafening silence.  This is an undeniably affecting work that presents a promising feature debut for writer-director Kevan Funk, reaching an appropriately bleak ending, set to “O Canada” no less, that is quite admirably pulled off.

Hello Destroyer is now playing in limited release at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.

Blu-ray Review: Moana

March 7, 2017

By John Corrado

Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) is a restless teenager in the South Pacific who wants to follow in the footsteps of her explorer ancestors.  When the crops on their island start to die due to an ancient curse, she sets out on an ocean journey in search of demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson), in order to restore balance.

Nominated for two Oscars, both Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for the big ballad “How Far I’ll Go,” Moana is a thoroughly entertaining and beautifully animated musical adventure that continues Disney’s current winning streak.  For more on the film itself, you can read our three views right here.

The Blu-ray also includes commentary with directors John Musker and Ron Clements, the theatrically released short film Inner Workings and the brief but amusing new “Mini-Movie” Gone Fishing, as well as deleted scenes and a solid selection of “behind the scenes” stuff.  The meatiest of the featurettes is the half-hour Voice of the Islands, an excellent piece that shows how the filmmakers had their lives changed by their research trips to the Polynesian islands, and the aspects of the film that were added or changed in order to provide a respectful and authentic representation of the culture.

Because this is a musical in the classic Disney tradition, ample attention is also paid to the music.  The featurette They Know the Way: Making the Music of Moana is a thorough and engaging piece that has interviews with songwriters Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i and Mark Mancina talking about their creative process.  There’s also a deleted song entitled “Warrior Face,” presented with an introduction by Lin-Manuel Miranda, as well as a music video for “How Far I’ll Go” performed by Alessia Cara and a video of the song in multiple different languages.

The featurette Island Fashion focuses on the costume design, which again had to feel authentic to the culture.  The four-part feature The Elements Of… showcases brief but worthwhile looks at the specific animation of the water, lava and hair in the film, as well as the traditionally animated “Mini-Maui” character who appears as a tattoo.  The bonuses are rounded out by Fishing for Easter Eggs, a brief bit with Auli’i Cravalho pointing out some of the hidden references in the film, and a pair of puff pieces entitled Things You Didn’t Know About… that feature the filmmakers and cast sharing some fun facts about themselves.  It’s good stuff all around.

Moana is a Walt Disney Home Entertainment release.  It’s 107 minutes and rated PG.

Review: Before I Fall

March 3, 2017

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

before-i-fall-posterThe easiest way to describe Before I Fall would be as a sort of YA Groundhog Day, but this richly textured and wholly engaging high school time loop drama still has enough originality and smarts to become something really good on its own terms.

It’s “Cupid’s Day,” and Samantha (Zoey Deutch) is a popular small town teenager who goes to school with her trio of mean girl friends, led by queen bee Lindsay (Halston Sage).  Roses are handed out in class, and the quartet of besties go to a party that night, only to have their car flip over on the way home after an unfortunate series of events causes them to leave.

The next morning, Samantha wakes up in bed, and the whole thing starts all over again, dooming her to keep repeating the same day until she gets it right.  Maybe Samantha just needs to make amends with outsider Juliet (Elena Kampouris) who her friends relentlessly bully, and finally acknowledge the affections of her sweet childhood friend Kent (Logan Miller) who harbours a not so secret crush on her, in order to actually break the cycle.

In addition to the obvious and clearly unavoidable Groundhog Day comparisons, the film also takes its inspirations from Mean Girls, Donnie Darko and Carrie at any given moment, with a look and tone that sometimes calls to mind the best parts of the first Twilight.  But Before I Fall is much more than just the sum of these comparisons.  Director Ry Russo-Young injects a moody emo feel into the material, right down to an edgy soundtrack of indie rock songs, that ultimately makes Before I Fall more interesting than a lot of other teen fare.  Major props also go to horror movie cinematographer Michael Fimognari who gives the whole thing a compellingly dark and foreboding feel.

The film also functions as a standout showcase for Zoey Deutch, leaving no doubt of her capabilities as a leading star after memorable supporting work in Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! just last year.  The young actor handles Samantha’s character arc brilliantly, showing impressive range between playing the passive mean girl at the beginning, to a stone cold seductress in the “no longer give a damn” part of the time loop, before finally showing compassion and empathy in the redemptive finale.  It’s a bravura showcase for her highly expressive dramatic talents.

As the day keeps repeating itself, with Samantha making different choices and small changes in attempts to break the cycle, Before I Fall becomes surprisingly thought provoking and also moving.  The film uses its time loop premise to explore the importance of embracing the time you’ve got and treating others with kindness, because we never know how the lives of others are intrinsically linked to ours through fate, and that’s a moral we can all benefit from, even if we aren’t high schoolers in need of redemption.

Blu-ray Review: Moonlight

March 1, 2017

By John Corrado

moonlight-blu-rayDays after winning a trio of much deserved Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali’s immaculate performance as a kind drug dealer, Best Adapted Screenplay and finally Best Picture, Moonlight is now available on Blu-ray, and at this point I couldn’t recommend it any more highly.

The story of a young black man growing up gay in a rough part of Miami, that focuses on three key times in his life as a child (Alex R. Hibbert), teenager (Ashton Sanders) and adult (Trevante Rhodes), the film was my pick for the best movie of 2016, and its resonance and importance has only grown over the last few months.

By now, we all know the story of how Moonlight won Best Picture in a thrilling turn of events after a mixup with the wrong envelope initially led Warren Beaty and Faye Dunaway to mistakenly announce La La Land as the winner, in the most memorable and exciting moment I have ever witnessed watching the Oscars.  The moment felt cathartic, an example of justice finally being served and the right film being awarded at the very last moment in a twist that saw the underdog candidate literally overtaking the expected winner in the most dramatic fashion possible.  For multiple reasons, it almost felt like karma.

But this historical footnote of how the award came to be announced, as exciting as it may be, shouldn’t take away from the conversation around the film itself.  This is the first film with an all black cast to ever win Best Picture at the Oscars, as well as the first film about openly gay characters to win the award, and now more than ever diversity like this matters.  The fact that Moonlight is also one of the finest films that the Academy has ever awarded their top prize also shouldn’t be understated.

This is a film that feels both intimate and expansive in the way it captures the story of a life and how it is changed by defining moments along the way, a work that is beautifully shot and masterfully performed, ending on a note that is as blindingly powerful for what it represents as it is for all it leaves unsaid.  It’s a true work of art that you should seek out as soon as possible on Blu-ray, especially if you haven’t seen it yet.  For more on the film itself, you can read my full review right here.

The Blu-ray also includes a commentary track with director Barry Jenkins, as well as a trio of very well done featurettes.  The first one Ensemble of Emotion: Making Moonlight offers moving interviews with the cast and crew discussing their personal connections to the story, Poetry Through Collaboration: The Music of Moonlight offers a fascinating look at Nicholas Britell’s inventive and minimalistic score that mixes elements of classical music and hip hop, and Cruel Beauty: Filming in Miami discusses both the challenges and unique benefits they faced in shooting on location.

Moonlight is an Elevation Pictures release.  It’s 111 minutes and rated 14A.

Blu-ray Review: Doctor Strange

February 28, 2017

By John Corrado

doctor-strange-blu-rayThe most recent piece of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange introduces us to Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a neurosurgeon who injures his hands and searches for healing in Nepal, leading him to be trained in the dark arts of being able to manipulate space and time by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton).

Chock full of visually stunning set-pieces, and even mixing in some elements of pure psychedelia, Doctor Strange is more unique and interesting than the average blockbuster, providing an incredibly entertaining ride that takes the Marvel Cinematic Universe in some pretty exciting new directions.  We were fans of the film, and you can read our three views right here.

The Blu-ray includes a commentary track by director Scott Derickson, as well as deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel, and five solid featurettes showing different parts of the production.  There’s also an exclusive look at Marvel’s upcoming slate of Phase Three films, which are all building towards next year’s Avengers: Infinity War, as well as the charming little short film Team Thor: Part 2 which catches us up with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his earthly roommate Darryl (Daley Pearson).  It’s good stuff all around.

Doctor Strange is a Marvel Studios release.  It’s 113 minutes and rated PG.

Blu-ray Review: Allied

February 28, 2017

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

allied-blu-rayMax Vatan (Brad Pitt) is a Canadian paratrooper who is sent to Morocco during World War II, and teams up with French Resistance fighter Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard) on a mission to assassinate the German Ambassador.

Posing as husband and wife, the two embark on a steamy love affair in real life.  But their love is further complicated when they flee to England as a couple to start a family, and Max is informed that Marianne is under suspicion of being a German spy, putting him in the middle of a moral dilemma.

Director Robert Zemeckis does capture the feel of an old fashioned romantic melodrama with Allied, modelling the film after many wartime classics with Casablanca being chief among its many inspirations, but the results are somewhat mixed.  The film itself is a bit staid and takes far too long to reveal its true hand, but Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard are good and share enough sizzling chemistry together to keep us watching.  This is a decent film overall, just not a classic in its own right.

The Blu-ray also includes an extensive collection of ten featurettes that all focus on different aspects of the production, from Robert Zemeckis’s direction, to the story, performances and Oscar-nominated costumes.  It’s a solid set of “behind the scenes” material that is worth digging in to after the film.

Allied is a Paramount Home Media Distribution release.  It’s 124 minutes and rated 14A.

Three Views: Get Out

February 27, 2017

Get Out Review By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

get-out-posterChris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) have been dating for several months, and the time has finally come for him to meet her parents.  But he is black and she is white, and Chris is worried about how her rich and very white family will react to her dating a black guy.

Rose’s parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) go out of their way to let him know how much they love black people, and her unstable brother (Caleb Landry Jones) is overly preoccupied with Chris’s athletic possibilities.  But Chris almost instantly senses something is off about the whole thing, growing suspicious about the presence of the family’s black housekeepers (Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel), who act almost like robotic slaves.

Written and directed by Jordan Peele, Get Out nails a tone that is perched on the precipice between horror, comedy and social satire, and the film is effective on all fronts at weaving these things together.  The film takes a standard “meet the parents” premise and twists it into something much deeper and eerily relevant, becoming an incisive commentary on the way black people are still treated in America.

The film’s stroke of genius is that it focuses on a very specific brand of racism, namely the white liberals who go out of their way to drop references to black athletes to prove how good and accepting they are, and brag about how they “would have voted for Obama for a third term.”  The film builds with a creepy and unsettling tone throughout, taking moments of racial tension and micro aggressions, and bringing them to an extreme boiling point in the tense and suitably disturbing finale.

Daniel Kaluuya does an excellent job of carrying the film, providing a window for the audience as he starts to uncover what is really going on around him and grows increasingly terrified.  The rest of the cast does a fine job of bringing subtle creepiness to their roles, and Lil Rel Howery delivers great comic relief as a TSA agent who suspects Chris might be in trouble, and is instantly suspicious of the white people who have embraced his best friend a little too fully.

Like all great satires, Get Out uses the extremities of its story to hold a mirror up to real societal ills of how many white people still view black people.  Yes, this is a horror film, but Get Out is precisely so effective because the subtle and overt racism that our protagonist faces feels all too true.

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Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) in Get Out

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Get Out Review By Erin Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Directed by Jordan Peele, Get Out is a thriller-horror-comedy about a guy named Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), who is going from the city to suburbia to meet his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) family for the first time.  Chris is concerned at first how they’ll react to him, since he is black and Rose is white, but she assures him that her parents are progressive and ‘love black people.’  Of course his friend Rod (LilRel Howery) warns him not to go, but out of love for his girlfriend, he goes anyway.

Once at her parents house, Chris immediately feels like a fish out of water and the whole household vibe just seems off.  Her parents have black servants who are acting strangely, almost as though they are in a trance, and everyone is acting so ‘perfect’ it is weird as f*ck.  As the film goes on, things only get weirder, and it turns out (of course) that Chris should have heeded Rod’s advice and never gone to the house in the first place.

The performances are brilliantly creepy from the actors playing Rose, her parents, and everyone else who frequents the house.  On top of that, Kaluuya really carries the film with his performance providing the perspective for the audience.  The whole film plays as sharp satire on racial ideas and tensions, taking the whole thing to the next level.  Chris is the hero of the story here, and we watch his fears of meeting his white girlfriend’s family be literally realized in the worst over-the-top way imaginable.  The film is entertaining, but also a commentary on how we treat people and even how false ‘acceptance’ sounds – the amount of ‘compliments’ and ‘I know of this black person’ comments Chris receives from Rose’s circle are both hilarious to hear how dumb they sound, and painful to listen to at the same time.

As Get Out opened this weekend, check it out if you get a chance.  It’s a really well done February release, and gives just the right amount of everything from scares to commentary.  I saw it at a packed theatre and the crowd seemed to thoroughly enjoy it as well.

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Missy (Catherine Keener), Dean (Bradley Whitford), Rose (Allison Williams), Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Georgina (Betty Gabriel) in Get Out

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Get Out Review By Tony Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Get Out, the first film written and directed by Jordan Peele, the mixed-race performer best known as part of the sketch comedy duo Key & Peele, strikes a nice balance between comedy and horror, with lots of examples of microracism and worse.

Following a creepy prologue, the story begins harmlessly enough, as African American Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is being taken by his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Wiliams) from the city to the isolated country estate of her overfriendly parents, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy Armitage (Catherine Keenor), a neurosurgeon and psychiatrist respectively, and disturbingly hostile brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones). As one’s grandparents might say, the “coloured help” (Marcus Henderson & Betty Gabriel) are not all there. Chris takes this all in stride, but after he is hypnotized by Missy and wakes from what seemed like a strange dream having lost the urge to smoke, he checks in by phone with his dogsitting friend Rod (LilRel Howery), an airport security guard who comically warns him in no uncertain terms to escape whatever horrible outcome awaits.

A cortège arrives for an annual garden party. Except for one “old brother” (Lakeith Stanfield) who turns out, save for an eponymous lapse, to be just as weird as the help, the very white guests of a certain age all admire Chris as a fine specimen. A Bingo game and charade by Dean add to the mystery. Chris decides to bolt, but it is not to be, hence the horror.

Being unfamiliar with Key & Peele and not a big fan of horror films, I wouldn’t have seen Get Out based on the trailer which may give away too much while scaring away people like me. I am really glad I did, however. Beginning like Annie Hall with an awkward country trip full of culture clashes and even (recalling Chris Walken) a strange brother, the film has a slow burn reminiscent, according to Peele, of Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives (and I would add, Seconds), leading to a cathartic finale.

The brilliant British actor Kaluuya leads the excellent supporting cast, carrying the audience coolly through experiences that in one way or another African Americans face daily. Days later, I am still thinking and talking about Get Out, always a good thing.

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Consensus: Mixing elements of horror, comedy and satire to great effect, Get Out is a very entertaining and also appropriately unsettling film from writer-director Jordan Peele that offers sharp social commentary on race relations. ★★★ (out of 4)

Review: The Girl With All The Gifts

February 24, 2017

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

the-girl-with-all-the-giftsMelanie (Sennia Nanua) is a young girl who is kept locked up in a cell, being fed worms and strapped to a wheelchair so she can attend classes with her sympathetic teacher, Ms. Justineau (Gemma Arterton).

You see, human civilization has been all but destroyed by a zombie virus that turns people into cannibalistic “hungries,” and Melanie represents the next evolution of it, being kept alive so that she can be harvested by Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close), a clinical scientist who plans to use her organs to create a cure.

But when their safe military compound comes under attack, Melanie goes on the run with Ms. Justineau, Dr. Caldwell and a tough Sergeant (Paddy Considine), and starts to figure out her true place in this evolving world.

Although this might sound like a contradiction, The Girl With All The Gifts is a zombie film that has humanistic overtones, with the central moral question being if it’s right for the highly autonomous Melanie to sacrifice her own life in order to create a cure that could potentially save others.  You can take from this what you will in terms of real world allegories to animal testing.  Newcomer Sennia Nanua carries the film with impressive maturity, making us feel sympathetic towards Melanie, even as her zombie impulses threaten to take over.

Moving at a quick pace, The Girl With All The Gifts has some expectedly gory zombie kills and pulse-pounding set-pieces, that are highlighted by haunting imagery in the climax.  Even if its impact is undercut slightly by a needless final scene, the film still has enough suspense and interesting ideas throughout to keep us watching.

The Girl With All The Gifts is now playing in limited release at Cineplex Cinemas Yonge-Dundas in Toronto, and in other cities across Canada.

Blu-ray Review: Hacksaw Ridge

February 23, 2017

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

hacksaw-ridge-blu-rayDesmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) was an army medic from Virginia, who enlisted in World War II on the condition that he wouldn’t have to carry a rifle or take any lives.  Despite initially facing accusations of cowardice from his fellow soldiers, and the threat of being court marshalled, he become the only conscientious objector to earn the Congressional Medal of Honour.

Supporting the war while holding steadfast to his beliefs that killing is wrong, and propelled by his unwavering faith in God, Desmond Doss was able to save the lives of 75 wounded soldiers, fearlessly rescuing them from the throes of battle and bringing them to safety.

This incredible true story is told in Hacksaw Ridge, a good old fashioned war movie that strikes an inspiring tone, despite the brutal authenticity of its extended battle scenes.  The first half of the film largely focuses on Desmond’s life back home in Virginia, where he is courting a young nurse (Teresa Palmer), whom he has to leave behind to go to war.  The second half focuses on his deployment to Okinawa where they are trying to overtake Hacksaw Ridge from the Japanese, in what turned out to be one of the most gruesome battles of the war, and it’s here that his heroics are put on display.

Nominated for six Oscars, Hacksaw Ridge also offers a comeback story for director Mel Gibson, who is still seeking atonement in Hollywood for his past sins.  The film shows off his true prowess behind the camera, crafting a solid character drama that is bolstered by technically proficient battle sequences that are the stuff of nightmares.  Pulled off with mostly in-camera practical effects, the scenes of war are some of the most realistic ever put on screen, exploding with harrowing images of men being ravaged by bullets, explosions and flames.

The film never shies away from showing the grotesqueries of war, and the visceral battle scenes become almost numbing in their brutal depictions of violence, with bodies being exploded apart and ample blood spurting out.  It’s hard to watch, and some have argued that Mel Gibson’s approach to the material borders on exploiting this violence, but the film serves to depict the realities and ugliness of war and how they stand in sharp contrast to the protagonist’s heroic refusal to take part in the killing.

Desmond is a man of deep faith who never backs down from his own principles, a quiet man who refuses to carry weapons due to his beliefs, and at times seems equally worried about what might happen if he does pick one up.  Andrew Garfield delivers a fiercely committed performance in the role, bringing subtle nuance to his portrayal of this fascinating real life subject.  The actor is backed up by a solid supporting cast, including excellent work by Hugo Weaving as his alcoholic, PTSD-stricken WWI veteran father, Luke Bracey as a fellow soldier who initially doubts his bravery, as well as Sam Worthington as the captain and Vince Vaughn as the drill sergeant.

Although Hacksaw Ridge is at times an overwhelming experience to watch, the film strikes a good balance between the more sentimental scenes at home and the brutality of the battle sequences to offer a compelling war movie that functions as a well rounded portrait of its fascinating hero.  Desmond Doss’s story is ultimately an inspiring one, and it’s been recreated through gripping performances, excellent production design and muscular battle sequences.

The Blu-ray also includes the very worthwhile documentary The Soul of War: Making Hacksaw Ridge, which at 69 minutes offers a complete look at the production of the film, as well as deleted scenes and a brief Veterans Day message from Mel Gibson.

Hacksaw Ridge is an Elevation Pictures release.  It’s 139 minutes and rated 14A.

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