Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

I remember wanting to see Hacksaw Ridge in theaters but not following through on my impulse. The film garnered some buzz towards the end of 2016 for a number of reasons, mainly due to its grisly depictions of warfare. This did not surprise me because I am familiar with the work of Mel Gibson as a director and an actor. You could say that Gibson is a bit eccentric in his tastes. I have found Gibson’s films to be entertaining for the most part so I was excited to see how Hacksaw Ridge would fare.

The film tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a soldier who refused to carry any weapons in combat and who was awarded the medal of honor for his efforts during the Battle of Okinawa.  The film focuses primarily on the reasons behind Doss’s decision not to carry a weapon in combat and the consequences that this decision had for Doss.

Hacksaw Ridge has the look and feel of a big-budget movie. There are recognizable actors and the soundtrack is well-produced. Clearly a lot of effort went into making this movie. I would say that this movie did fairly well for itself in the 2016 Oscars. It actually won the awards for best sound mixing and best editing. While Hacksaw Ridge is an entertaining film, it’s probably not the sort of film that deserves a nomination for best picture. Hacksaw Ridge doesn’t really provide anything other than entertainment value.

I came away from this film with a greater appreciation for Andrew Garfield’s skill as an actor. He carries this film from beginning to end. There’s also a feeling I get from war movies that I can only describe as a longing for the bond shared between soldiers. I am clearly the demographic for this movie. If you are similar to me (white, male, interested in movies) then you will probably enjoy watching Hacksaw Ridge. Although it is hollow movie in terms of intellectual depth, it provided enough for me that I can safely recommend to anyone who shares my taste for movies.

You should watch Hacksaw Ridge but please do so with tempered expectations. It’s not that its a bad film. Its just that there’s nothing special about it aside from Andrew Garfield’s performance. Unless you have an interest in war movies, you ought to skip this one.

At this point, these kinds of movies feel more tiresome than anything else. I have seen enough great films depicting World War Two that another one simply doesn’t add anything significant. The best thing that I can say about Hacksaw Ridge is that it shines a light on Desmond Doss who was unknown to me before this film. Hacksaw Ridge is proof that Gibson has settled for low-hanging fruit.

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Manchester by the Sea is Tragic, Hilarious Oscar Bait.

Manchester by the Sea stars Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler, a janitor who must become the guardian of his nephew when his brother dies of a heart attack. The film is written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan.

The film begins with Lee Chandler’s daily janitorial routine. Chandler comes across as quiet yet competent. However we also see Chandler’s dark side when he loses his temper with a customer and he gets into a fight at a bar. One day Lee learns that his brother Joe has died of a heart attack so Lee moves in with Joe’s teenage son Patrick.We learn through a flashback that Lee accidentally caused the deaths of his three children when he drunkenly forgot to place a screen in front of his fireplace. Lee and Patrick must figure out where Patrick will live following the death of Patrick’s father.

Manchester by the Sea is an easy watch due to the strength of its characterization. It’s the kind of film that makes you uncertain whether you should be laughing or crying while watching it. I’m always impressed by movies that can pull off this kind of tonal balance.

While Manchester by the Sea is clearly successful at what it attempts to do, I find myself questioning how much I should champion this film. The film is being marketed as an award-winning film and it looks the part. Manchester by the Sea is the type of film that fits so easily into an award ceremony. If it doesn’t win at least a few awards, then it will at least garner several nominations. For this reason I feel that I should avoid giving Manchester by the Sea more credit than it will most likely seem to possess during award season.

Manchester by the Sea is a great film with some serious emotional gravity. It will feel incredibly powerful while you watch it but it will disappear from your memory shortly after you leave the theater. The more I think about Manchester by the Sea, the more I want to conclude that the movie is fluff, a simplistic story that fits into an existing system that fails to present anything new or noteworthy. Manchester by the Sea is not a film that will challenge you or make you aware of something from a new perspective. Its film that knows exactly what it needs to do and does so in a workmanlike fashion, catering to your desires like a butler in a rich man’s house.