Me, Popcorn and The Oscars: Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge” Is Everything You Look For In A Comeback

Hacksaw Ridge is not your typical action film. It is red, it is real, it is revoltingly hypnotizing. This will not be, I hope, a film that will be either ignored or soon forgotten.

*Obvious Spoilers Ahead*

And I will say an extra warning. Honestly, if you are not older than 18, or if you don’t usually like violent movies, DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE! It is tough, violent and gut-wrenching.

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    The good things (what I liked)

  • Wow, well this was a surprise. I generally don’t like Mel Gibson, and with a cast of actors who are generally far from great (protagonist Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving and Sam Worthington stand out in my mind), I didn’t expect much from this biopic. But I can honestly say that, from what I’ve seen, this is this year’s best picture, with “Arrival” as a close second (of the frontrunners, I’ve seen “Moonlight”, “Arrival”, and “Manchester by the Sea”, but I have still to see the year’s most talked about film “La La Land”, or other strong contenders such as “Fences”, “Loving” or “Hell or High Water”).
  • Andrew Garfield gives one of his best performances yet, and one of the best performances of the year. He portrays Desmond Doss, a war hero who refused to even touch a gun. This is a story based on true events, which only makes his story more impressive. Even if you’re not religious, it’s hard not to feel empathy for this guy, and Garfield goes above and beyond with this part. It’s hard to know if he’ll win because he’s going against Ryan Gosling and Casey Affleck, both of them in movies that are getting more Oscar buzz than “Hacksaw Ridge”.

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  • There are so many great scenes in the movie. I think there are more great scenes than okay scenes, which is a good thing, especially in this year, where movies haven’t necessarily been great. “Moonlight” and “Nocturnal Animals” needed more screen time, and “Manchester by the Sea” needed less; however, “Hacksaw Ridge” does everything it needed to do, tells everything it needed to tell… everything falls into place, everything is cohesive, everything is controlled.
  • Both Teresa Palmer and Hugo Weaving give memorable supporting performances. The first portrays a devoted (and beautiful) girlfriend/wife who struggles from afar to be okay with what is happening, and the second is an abusive father, a drunk and a veteran, who somehow manages to redeem himself. They probably won’t get nominated, because both categories are crowded and have fan-favorite contenders like Mahershala Ali, Dev Patel, Naomie Harris, Viola Davis, Michelle Williams; and neither performance has the ugly-cry, screaming-at-the-top-of-your-longs  scene that the Oscar loved from supporting roles like this year’s Michelle Williams’ final scene in “Manchester by the Sea”, or Anne Hathaway’s “Les Misérables” big scene, or like Max von Sydow in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”. The Oscars like that big scene, especially from Supporting Actors, and neither of this characters have that (although, I would argue that the dinner scene when Weaving’s character asks his son to get out of his sight is quite excellent).

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  • I loved that this movie doesn’t glamorize war, but actually showcases the real horrors of this savage, human tradition. And I believe that is what it does best, making the audience cringe and suffer, almost as if one were there. The first fight scene (that is probably between 20 to 30 minutes long) is one of the movie’s best. It’s hard to watch, and I understand why they asked me my ID when I bought the ticket.
  • Something is definitely up with this year’s movies. I usually prefer the independent, soulful or more emotional movies to the typical, mainstream Oscar-loved movies (I preferred “Carol” and “The Danish Girl” to both “The Revenant” or “Spotlight”; I preferred “American Hustle” and “Her” to “12 Years of Slave”; I preferred “The Master” and “Zero Dark Thirty” to “Argo”), but this year, I think I prefer this movie to “Moonlight” or “Manchester by the Sea”. Maybe it’s just me.

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    The bad things (what I didn’t like)

  • I didn’t like the last scene. I would’ve liked Desmond to meet with his family again, and his wife. I felt both Dorothy and his father’s characters were left a bit on the air.
  • Again, as with most war movies, for example: “American Sniper”, it makes America look good. This movie doesn’t do that as much because it focuses more on Desmond and his incredible amount of integrity and bravery and faith, but it still does it once in a while. However, Desmond is someone admirable, contrary to Chris Kyle, so again, I don’t feel they did this as much as they usually do it. But it does make America look like a hero, in a way.

    Who would I (or wouldn’t I) recommend it to

Do not watch this movie if you don’t like gory and/or devastating films. This is probably one of the most violent mainstream movies I’ve ever seen, it makes “Saving Private Ryan” a chick flick.

    Best scene or dialogue (if there was any that stood out)

  • As I said, this movie is filled with great scenes. Off the top of my head, the first battle scene, the fight when they were kids and the moment when Desmond’s frenemy tells him he’s scared. However, my two favorite scenes were before Desmond was even at war.

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  • The first is when his brother enlists, and his father tells him how he should take care of his suit when he dies, and then asks him to go away. This scene was excellent. Not too theatric, but it didn’t simplify the horror of war either: the dialogues were exceptional and the acting was on point (especially on Weaving’s part).
  • My second favorite scene was the awkward marriage proposal, just because I enjoyed how this tells the viewer so much regarding historic context. Something like that would be ludicrous nowadays, and yet back then it did happen. The scene was real and believable. From the way it was written, the way Garfield portrayed Desmond so awkwardly and silent and joyous all at once, the way Palmer portrayed both love and hate instantly…. Everything fits.

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    Who stole the show?

Andrew Garfield was exceptional. I doubt he’ll get an Oscar, being this his first Oscar worthy movie (well, this and “Silence”), and his first probable nomination. However, the category isn’t that outstanding this year so I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled off an Eddie Redmayne and won it on his first try. In addition, everyone here was great, and both Palmer and Weaving are scene stealers (especially Palmer, for she takes both Desmond’s and our attention since the first scene she’s in).

    Do I predict this movie will have any actual nominations?

Yes, I do. The Oscars loves drama-action movies with a strict American point of view (American Sniper, Argo, etc). They don’t feel like The Oscars without a war or terrorist movie among the contenders. Will it win any? I’m not sure. God, I hope it does, though.

    Overall thoughts

Hacksaw Ridge is not your typical action film. It is red, it is real, it is revoltingly hypnotizing. This will not be, I hope, a film that will be either ignored or soon forgotten.

    How many stars?

4.5/5

Me, Popcorn and the Oscars: Moonlight, the Low-budgeted Big Promise that Failed to Surprise.

There is promise here, but overall, not so much art as plain sentimentality.

*Obvious Spoiler Alert!*

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The good things (what I liked)

  • Personally, what I found most original of the movie was the use of names and nicknames. They are a symbol carried throughout the movie that represent the struggle in the characters of deciding who they are, and it’s a deeply human struggle. Who are we? Who do they think we are? Are we letting them define us?
  • I enjoyed the division of the movie in (literally) three acts, or three parts.
  • The homosexual tone in the movie was also something I didn’t expect (I hadn’t watched the trailer), and I thought it was original for a sort of ghetto black character to also be gay.
  • The first two acts were interesting, and Chiron was a compelling and promising main character.
  • The directing is decent, although nothing too great. What’s impressive is the budget of the movie (only $5 million dollars).

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The bad things (what I didn’t like)

  • Now, I don’t want to be mean, but I expected more from the movie. The first bad thing in the movie would be the palpable inexperience of director/writer Barry Jenkins, especially as a writer (for his directing was actually good). This is in no way his fault, for he will probably get better with time, but his writing does need work.
  • The script is bad, not terrible, just bad. It had a lot of problems.
  • First, dialogues. I think there was a dialogue that actually went something like this: “you know the ocean, now I’m going to show you fire.” And the movie is plagued with bad, pseudo-profound lines and conversations. Rarely did a dialogue shock me here. It reminded me a lot of the movie “The Neon Demon”, where dialogues are simply horrendous.
  • Second, still regarding dialogues, but more in terms of how characters spoke, rather than what they spoke, I found the ghetto dialect to be cliché and forced. I felt as if the writer thought just by writing “ain’t” instead of “isn’t” and “is” instead of “are” he was going to sound realistic, but it sounded plain and stiff.
  • Third, the plot was too over the place. There was little continuity between plot line and plot line to feel like an actual Aristotelian plot style (explained in the image below), to mean, there were so many small stories, there wasn’t really just one climax or one introduction, however it was too overly dramatic to be Slice of Life, and too large in plot-time and short in screen time to feel like an actual coming-of-age tale (every time there was a time jump, I felt there were lots of things missing in-between).

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  • Another bad thing was that the portrayal of the ghetto is melodramatic, two-dimensional and stereotypical. All you can expect from a story like this was here. An absentee parent? Check. A drug addict, alcoholic and/or neglectful parent? Check. A run-in with the law? Check. A drug dealer? Check. An injustice? Check. The male-ghetto version of the girl-taking-off-her-glasses-and-having-a-make-over-and-suddenly-being-pretty scene? Check. That is why I found the gay thing so original and refreshing. Because you don’t normally see that type of storyline in these movies.
  • The movie tried to cover so many things, I think it lost itself halfway there. We have the main character, and then we see all his problems: being gay, his neglectful mother, him being bullied, his absentee father, his lack of protection either with the law, at school and at home, his relationship with the drug dealer and his wife, etc. During the first act, the centre is in Juan, this new “father figure”; in the second act, the centre is in the mother’s addiction, the bullying and the secret, gay love affair; and by the third act, there are so many plot lines opened, there is no actual emotional centre (is it so we can see how his relationship with Juan affected him? Or how his mother affected him? Or how the bullies affected him? Or how Kevin affected him?). There are so many things in this movie, and so many emotional questions in the character, it feels too broad and overwhelming for just two hours.
  • Probably because of that, the third act was simply horrible. In a cliché and yet unbelievable turn of events (how can a cliché not work? I’m not really sure yet), Chiron is now a drug dealer with the typical (and expected) hard exterior, wanting to make you believe he’s not the shy, emotional kid anymore. But then, rather quickly we find that this is not true (not that we really believed this cliché act anyway). If Jenkins wanted to make him cold for a while, he should’ve at least made it last more than five minutes. This new “hard armor” is quickly destroyed by a simple call by Kevin (an exquisite scene, with surprisingly good dialogues, may I add),  and further destroyed then by a climatic visit to his mother, and finally the long-awaited unsurprising, forced, long and overly-emotional set of scenes with his long-lost love from High School (who’s now married and has kid), Kevin.

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  • This leads me to the unbelievability of this relationship. Kevin, this boy, was introduced too quickly by the end of the first act, and then is reintroduced in an awkward scene at the start of the second act (almost just so that we know he’s still there), then they meet randomly on a beach, smoke, kiss and well, I’ll leave some stuff to the imagination, and then he beats the hell out of Chiron (so the bullies don’t know he’s actually in love with him). Then comes the third act, many years later. From the quickness and superficiality of their relationship in the second act, I couldn’t believe they would actually still be in love with each other. It’s unrealistic. People move on. I sort of believed Chiron might still be affected by this other man, because of his shy and introverted nature (which apparently he hadn’t overcome it as he’d thought). But the fact that both of them are still in love, is just too sentimentalist from the writer’s part.
  • Finally, Chiron’s relationship with Juan and Teresa, although promising, ended up being flat, and totally forgotten (thus useless) by the end of the film.

Who would I (or wouldn’t I) recommend it to

  • Even though this movie didn’t mesmerize me, and even though I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to, I would still recommend it to some people, after warning them I didn’t find it as good as everyone else apparently did.
  • I would recommend it to activists (or anyone with  activist ideals), people who like low-budget movies that surpassed expectations, people who like good movies, people who like the representation of minorities in movies, and people who like the games with colors and lights in movies (cinematographically speaking).
  • I would not recommend this to people who like movies more for writing than for direction, people who don’t like movies about controversial topics, and people who prefer simple movies like chick flicks and superhero movies.

Best scene or dialogue (if there was any that stood out)

The last scene with Chiron and his mother was honest, simple and heartbreaking. Probably the best and most effective scene in the movie. I could imagine a real mother telling this to a son.

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Also, the scene at the beginning when Chiron is not speaking was good.

Who stole the show?

Naomie Harris, and not because she was great the whole time, but for that last scene. That scene could get her the Oscar much like Patricia Arquette’s last scene in Boyhood gave her an Oscar (although Arquette’s performance throughout the film was more stable and better than Harris’). Too bad she is going against powerhouses who’ve had an Oscar coming for longer like Viola Davis, Michelle Williams, Felicity Jones, and even Greta Gerwig.

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Do I predict this movie will have any actual nominations?

Yes, and what’s more, I believe it has a chance of winning some. Not so much because I believe it deserves them, but because of last year’s Oscars-so-white controversy. This movie is perfect to balance this out, with an all-black cast. However, there is also Fences to cover the spot that could’ve been covered by “Straight Outta Compton” or “Tangerine” last year.

Overall thoughts

The concept and idea of the movie was deeper than the actual execution. There is promise here, but overall, not so much art as plain sentimentality.

Stars

2.5/5