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Oscars 2017 Review: Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

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Director: Mel Gibson

Writers: Robert Schenkkan (screenplay), Andrew Knight (screenplay)

Stars: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving

 

During the Second World War American troops tried in vain to overcome Japanese forces in Okinawa as they battled to take control of a cliff top area known as Hacksaw Ridge. Part of that troop was young soldier, Desmond Doss. A solider that many believed should not be there as he refused to handle a weapon. His purpose instead was to help his colleagues in his role as medic and his sheer determination to fight in the war makes for a truly unbelievable story. For Desmond Dross was awarded with the Medal of Honour, the military’s highest honour, after the war was over for saving the lives of 75 wounded infantrymen, despite the fact that he didn’t fire a single shot.

American troops moved in on Hacksaw Ridge, scaling the rope netting that led up the cliff face to the top where many Japanese soldiers were waiting for them. It was a battle that the Americans struggled to overcome and were forced to retreat when casualties became too high. Desmond Doss, however, stayed. Even though he had to spend the majority of his time keeping undercover, Doss completed a miraculous mission by himself as his refusal to leave any soldier behind drove him on. He single handily lowered injured soldiers down the face of the cliff using his rope and a homemade pulley system. His hands ravaged, his life at risk, nothing deterred him from his mission.

It was a mission that may never have taken place. Doss’ refusal to partake in any weaponry combat very nearly led to him being imprisoned and kicked out of the army. His fellow soldiers turned on him and even his captains as he continued to refuse instruction. They barred him any leave in which he was due to get married and made life difficult for him, but Desmond Doss was a man of his word and with God by his side, he would go to war.

Director Mel Gibson has already carved out a very impressive name for himself in Hollywood for not only his acting, but also his direction. Not an easy piece by any stretch of the imagination, Gibson really thrusts us into the world of Desmond Doss and the rigours of war. There are scenes that have been compared to Saving Private Ryan and sequences of violence that he has not held back on, nor should he. There is no way that you can sugar coat war and Gibson hasn’t done that at all. Instead, he has produced a piece of cinematic brilliance.

 Andrew Garfield portrays the role of Desmond Doss and earnt himself an Oscar nomination in the process. It is not surprising why when you see his performance as it is magnificent. Garfield nailed every key aspect of Doss’ personality and character and the highest accolade he received was from Desmond Doss’ own son who praised Garfield on the performance.

Strong support came from Vince Vaughn as Sergeant Howell in an unusually serious role for the comedy actor, but one that was believable and showed the versatility of his talent. Sam Worthington played the often warming character of Captain Glover. Desmond Doss’ future wife, Dorothy, was played with such conviction and sincerity by  Teresa Palmer, but it was another standout role of Desmond’s father, Tom Doss, played by the charismatic Hugo Weaving that played a key part of the story and also Desmond’s life decisions. Weaving is an actor of great ability and this is certainly one of his best performances.

Praise must be given to Mel Gibson and his team for not only telling this story, but in doing so, producing one of Hollywood’s great war stories that deserves to sit alongside the classics. It is hardly surprising that the movie has been nominated for Best Film and Best Director and, although competition will be tough, this has every chance of winning.

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Review: The Imitation Game

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Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode

 

Mr. Turing, do you know how many people have died because of Enigma? Three. Whilst we’ve been having this conversation.”

 

It is remarkable to think that because of the actions of one man we are all here today. If it wasn’t for the brilliant mind of mathematician Alan Turing then Germany could have prevailed in the Second World War and the country we live in now could be a very different place. It was down to his actions that historians believe the war lasted two years shorter than it could have done and approximately 14 million lives were spared in the process. But the country he saved turned its back on him and did so for nearly seven decades until in 2013 when Queen Elizabeth II granted him a posthumous pardon for the way he was treated simply because of who he was and not what he did.

During the Second World War the British Government employed a team of expert mathematicians and problem solvers to try and decipher one of the greatest codes in World History used by the Germans, The Enigma Code. Coded messages would be sent giving detailed briefs and instructions for planned attacks on the British. Alan Turing applied for a role and, despite showing a great deal of arrogance during his interview with the Commander in charge, was reluctantly accepted into the programme purely on the basis that he believed you’d need to build a machine to defeat a machine.

It is later revealed that Turing was to work for a team, but he wanted to work alone and slowly and reluctantly agreed to it, later developing a bond with his new colleagues. When Turing was refused the funding to back his machine he went to the highest source possible, Winston Churchill, who granted the funding and also placed Turing in complete control of the operation which began to take more and more time to develop.

With threats of closure and dismissal aimed towards him, he and his colleagues had to fight for the right to continue the project as pressured mounted on them to succeed. The machine, now fully built, was struggling to obtain any relevant information until one day when it all became clear to Alan Turing.

Despite his heroics, Turing lived in a time where laws were strict. He also hid a dark secret from a lot of the people he worked with for fear of repercussion. For Alan Turing was a homosexual and had a history that he wished to keep secret, for if the truth came out, then Turing could be in serious trouble.

Director Morten Tyldum has portrayed the chronicle of Turing’s life beautifully choosing to drift the story from present day, to his childhood at school and during the building of the machine. It allows important elements of Turing’s upbringing and personal affairs play to the forefront providing important information about Turing the man as opposed to what he achieved.

Benedict Cumberbatch portrays the role of Turing superbly with the detailed expressions and renown stutter captured beautifully in a performance deserved of the highest accolades. Cumberbatch ensures the unintentional humour and occasional arrogance are present throughout the role encapsulated into the timid surroundings of Turing as a person. Kiera Knightly plays the role of Joan Clarke, the only woman to apply for and succeed in being part of Turing’s new team. She shares a special bond with Turing and even goes to the length of agreeing to marry him in order to ensure she could continue working with him. Knightley’s performance is well polished and stable showing signs of strengths throughout the story in a performance born of experience and dedication to her art. Matthew Goode plays the role of Hugh Alexander, a fellow code breaker who doesn’t see eye to eye with Turing at first, but plays a relevant role in the success. Goode withheld the performance of the good-looking, intelligent Alexander with such ease allowing the talent of his work to glow. Other support was strong with the legendary Charles Dance playing the role of Commander Denniston and Mark Strong playing the head of MI6, Stewart Menzies.

The factual elements of Turing’s story and subsequent success are fascinating. The achievements alone that one man could do simply with his mind, but the fact he could take little credit for what he had done is admirable. Despite breaking the enigma code, the job they were doing still had to remain a secret for if the Germans found out it would mean years of work wasted.

You may already be aware of Turing’s achievements and there maybe more you will learn from watching this movie and with the combination of a well told story and strong performances it will be more than just the truth behind the story that will impress.

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