Hacksaw Ridge – Review

Hacksaw RidgeI finally had the opportunity to watch a movie that I had long wanted to see: Hacksaw Ridge. I must confess that I’m generally a fan of war movies, especially those set during World War Two. However, it was difficult to “enjoy” this movie in that context.

That is not to say that I didn’t like the movie. I thought the story was very powerful, the acting impressive and the movie to be one of the best that I have seen in a long time. I would also say that it is an anti-war film, or at least one that puts the spotlight on the horrors of war.

Hacksaw Ridge is the true story of Desmond Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist and pacifist who enlists in the military to be a medic. Doss is happy to participate in the rigours of basic training but refuses to even train with a weapon. This brings him into conflict with his officers.

Ultimately, Doss makes it to combat, participating in the battles at Okinawa, specifically at Hacksaw Ridge. Mel Gibson does not use this as a showcase for military glory but as a means of highlighting the gruesome violence of war. I recently rewatched Saving Private Ryan and it does not begin to compare to Hacksaw Ridge when it comes to graphic battle scenes.

Although I am a Christian, I am not a Seventh Day Adventist. Nor am I a pacifist. But this movie is a moving portrayal of a man with convictions who refuses to back down, even in the face of tremendous pressure. Andrew Garfield does a great job of portraying Doss as a man who on the surface seems simple but is in truth one who has reflected on what he values and is willing to sacrifice comfort for the sake of integrity.

Hugo Weaving does an amazing job as Desmond’s father. Without spoiling anything for those who have not seen the movie, he is a complex man, deeply scarred by his experience in the First World War and is a flawed husband and father. Yet, he is more than that. He is able to choose to rise above his weakness.

I don’t normally like Vince Vaughn as an actor, perhaps because of the movies that he is in. But he does a great job as the sergeant who is in charge of the basic training and who accompanies Doss into combat. He brings some humour that does not disrupt the rest of the story, but rather deepens the relationships among the marines.

If you have not seen Hacksaw Ridge yet, I highly recommend it. It is a powerful story of faith, strength and integrity.

This review originally appeared here.

My Favourite War Movie

SaharaI grew up watching war movies. I don’t want to date myself but our first TV was black and white and I didn’t know any war movies were in colour. I still have a soft spot for old black and white movies. Especially war movies.

There are some great classics but I will say that my favourite is Sahara. This was a 1943 movie starring Humphrey Bogart. It also includes an early appearance by Lloyd Bridges in a role much different from the Airplane movies.

Not surprisingly, it takes place in the Sahara. For some time the only military action with the British and Americans took place in North Africa. It started with an Italian invasion and then, in a pattern often repeated, the Germans had to step in.

This movie takes place after an Allied defeat, as an American tank crew meets up with some stranded British infantry led by a medical officer. Survival depends on finding water, with the advancing Germans making things very difficult.

This motley crew grows as they encounter a Sudanese soldier with an Italian prisoner, as well as a German pilot whose plane they shot down.

Some of the interesting aspects of the story include the positive portrayal of the Italian soldier (remember this is filmed during the war) and of the Sudanese soldier. Bogart has no sympathy for the German prisoner who doesn’t want to be be frisked by a black man.

The action and special effects are pretty good considering it was filmed in the 1940s. Ah the days before CGI.

The story is good and the acting is great. Sure it is filled with propaganda being a war-time film but that adds to its value.

I have watched Sahara more than any other war movie. I watched it again just a month ago and loved it just as much.

There was a remake done with Jim Belushi taking Humphrey Bogart’s role. I haven’t seen it and am not interested.

Dunkirk – Review

DunkirkOne of my biggest interests is that of military history. When I saw that they were making a movie of Dunkirk, I knew that I wanted to see it. The rescue of the soldiers at Dunkirk was one of the most dramatic events of the Second World War.

Although I wanted to see the movie simply because of the topic, I was not prepared for the final product.

Dunkirk is one of the best movies that I have ever seen. I say this not as a fan of war movies. I say it as someone who recognizes a movie done with excellence.

If you don’t know the story of Dunkirk, it takes place near the beginning of World War Two. The Germans had invaded and defeated France. The remnants of the French army and the British army were pushed back to Dunkirk. The Germans fully expected to destroy them at Dunkirk and they took their time to do it.

What the Germans didn’t expect was a fleet of civilian ships and boats crossing the channel to bring back as many soldiers as possible.

I knew the story, but this movie captured more than the facts. It captured the emotions.

It took me a while to realize that not everything in the movie was happening at the same time. There are three perspectives that slowly work toward each other. Christopher Nolan masterfully uses visual and audio elements to draw the audience into the story. The movie has some of the least dialogue of any recent movie and yet the audience is brought into the story by what they see and hear.

I understand that many people don’t like war movies. People don’t want to glorify war. Dunkirk cannot be accused of glorifying war. It portrays it in all of its horror, but does so without the gore of many other war movies.

This film is really about what it means to be human. It is about courage in circumstances that demand despair. It is about compassion and nobility, rising above the easy way.

Even if you have no interest in military history, I highly recommend that you see Dunkirk.

This review originally appeared here.