I imply you to heed the following warning – Cynicism and sarcasm are laced throughout one of the following reviews. Read at the risk of your own patience level. Don’t worry; the Hacksaw Ridge review is pretty genuine.
This weekend, Benedict Cumberbatch joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a brilliant neurosurgeon who seeks to heal his body through mystical arts. Also, Andrew Garfield plays real-life hero Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector in WWII.
Doctor Strange tells the story of a man who is at the top of his game. He is flippant with women and sees no one else as his intellectual equal. Yet, a horrible accident changes everything. He is forced to go on a personal journey that allows him to transcend his disability and eventually use it to save the world. So, it’s pretty much Iron Man.
The visuals are astounding. Entire cityscapes fold in on themselves to show the audience that reality is not quite what it seems. As long as the characters look deeper and realize that they have the power to affect everything around them, the physical universe will bend to their will. This also leads to an impressive hallway fight scene where gravity cannot be trusted. Oh wait, that sounds exactly like Inception.
There are certain dimensions in this universe where intense training happens, while not damaging the world around it. This is where the bald master teaches the young apprentice to master their own perception and become the chosen one. Woah! There is no spoon.
You get the point. I’m a cynical jerk who can’t appreciate a fun movie for what it is.
Doctor Strange must be magic. It is basically the equivalent of being a half-decent Beatles cover band, playing their greatest hits and tricking people into thinking they’re watching the actual Beatles. In addition to the previous borrowed ideas, it also takes from Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Green Lantern, Edge of Tomorrow, and Aladdin. Yes, Aladdin.
I know that my opinion has done little to influence the majority of my readers. If you like the standard formula that’s been presented in 13 movies previous, you will devour this movie. Basically take my letter grade and raise it a 1 ½ grades and this is where Doctor Strange will fit for you. However, if you’re one of the chosen who’ve seen the truth of mediocre doppelganger villains, weak plots that revolve around McGuffins and non-stop one-liners, I’d urge you to not see this in the theater.
Benedict Cumberbatch, in terms of looks and status, is perfect as Doctor Stephen Strange. This role seems crafted for him. Yet, that’s largely undone due to the smartest-man-in-the-room writing. It’s almost as if Doctor Strange has read every motivational book written by Tony Stark and has pulled a single white female on him. The only difference between the two guys is that half of Tony Stark’s jokes actually land.
Now, for some good. Tilda Swinton is as reliable as ever. The depth she gives The Ancient One, in a short amount of screen time, is great. I would prefer her movie to this. Also, the mid credits sequence is clever and actually gives a solid tease of what’s to come.
Doctor Strange focuses so much on origin, that it has the quality of a phase one Marvel movie. It has the impossible task of setting up an interior/exterior universe that may become the playground of the MCU to come and it does it well. However, in doing so, Doctor Strange may, himself, become the biggest Deus Ex Machina this side of Doctor Who. C-
No, Hacksaw Ridge is not a horror flick, contrary to how the title sounds. Though war is horrific, so perhaps it is after all.
Hacksaw Ridge tells the story of Desmond Doss from early childhood to his time spent on the Pacific front during World War II. It tells the story in a familiar three act structure that works beautifully for the film, showing three distinct mini-movies in one flowing story.
The first hour shows Desmond (Andrew Garfield), a product of a southern family where not much is expected. His father (Hugo Weaving) is a broken man due to his experiences in the First World War. Desmond quickly finds blissful happiness in his romantic pursuit of local nurse, Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer).
The entire first hour is charming and endearing. Doss’s reactions don’t seem quite natural, but he isn’t quite like anyone else. He is the most genuinely kind character I’ve seen since last year’s Brooklyn.
His upbringing leads him to choose to join the war effort. Yet, he only intends to do so as a conscientious objector, not even willing to touch a rifle. Here, we are introduced to the men in his boot camp, led by a surprisingly great Vince Vaughn.
His medical training eventually does take him to the warfront and this is where the movie almost leans too much into standard WWII cinematic territory. However, what Private Doss does in the battle is what elevates this material and makes it unique.
After an obvious long hiatus from the director’s chair, Mel Gibson returns to deliver a satisfying return to the battlefield. He is at his best when he deviates from the clichés of boot camps and gunplay. He occasionally slows down to focus on what makes characters tick. Gibson has an eye for capturing the simple human reactions that show the beauty, terror, hope or doubt that this type of story demands. It’s a very simple story that proves anyone can be a hero, given their integrity and motivation. Also, a little bit of luck doesn’t hurt either.
Andrew Garfield is as solid as ever. The character can often be frustrating, but Garfield makes him so relatable that you cannot fault him. The supporting cast – from Teresa Palmer, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Rachel Griffiths and a number of stellar character actors – elevate the movie built around Garfield.
The main disconnect lies in the extremes Gibson tends to work in. This is essentially an R-rated faith-based picture. This is war and you will see terrible injuries for a good chunk of the movie. Though, if you’ve seen Saving Private Ryan, this is no different. Basically, this is the kind of war movie that your dad will make an exception for.
I was enthralled by the story of Desmond Doss, even with its most simple moments. It’s a great love story followed up with an exceptional battle. It’s not flawless, but it’s one I’d happily put in my war movie rotation. B+