We’re all aware of the phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) for posts on the Internet. This is a segment called TLDNW (Too Long, Did Not Watch). It’s for people that just don’t have time to go to the movies. Now, I work pretty hard every year to see the entire list of films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. You probably won’t get to all of them, because I assume you have a social life. Luckily for you, it is my goal in the following weeks to post reviews of the 2017 Oscar-nominated best pictures so that you can be caught up before the big night.
However, I know even reading a whole review is time-consuming and not for everyone. Many people just look at the star rating and don’t bother with the rest of the review. Even now you’re probably bored of this introduction.
So I’ll make it short and sweet. For every movie I review, I’ll include three sections: 1) A 1-word review, because frankly most people are lazy. 2) A 20-word review so you have things to say about the film when your friends ask if you saw it. 3) An in-depth 500-word review.
TLDNW: 1 Word
TLDNW: 20 Words
We forgave Mel Gibson?! Really? With this (NOT) surprisingly racist film? Andrew Garfield open hand slapping a grenade. I laughed out loud.
TLDNW: 500 Words
Two out of Four Stars
I don’t want to get too deep into war film history here but there hasn’t been an anti-war movie since 9/11, which I get. America, especially now, can’t handle an anti-war movie. Can you imagine if Full Metal Jacket was released this year? Trump would implode. America would crumble in on itself. We can’t handle an anti-war movie right now. Sure, there have been lots of “War is hell” movies, and even some movies that are anti-war but NEVER anti-soldier. Mel Gibson’s newest feature Hacksaw Ridge is no exception. In fact it’s probably the rule.
The film revolves around Desmond Doss who was the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor. Now, even in that summation you would think that there could be some anti-war messaging. SOMETHING. You’d expect some sort of commentary on questioning authority or the use of weapons – BUT NO. You got some pseudo-religious nonsense and some over the top speeches about what it is to be an American.
The film is broken into three very distinct acts. Act one sets the scene of Desmond growing up in Virginia and why he won’t pick up a gun. This act is slow and schmaltzy and relies entirely on the constantly underrated Hugo Weaving. Weaving carries the emotional weight of the first act and makes a cameo in the second act. That is how separate the three acts feel- it feels like a cameo when a character returns.
Act two takes us to boot camp which picks up speed a little bit and is the one part of the movie that does a little bit of questioning. It prods at the idea of what it means to be a solider. Doss is ostracized for not using a weapon and his drill Sergeant played by *record scratch* VINCE VAUGHN? What the hell is he doing here? Anyway, act two is boring and pretends to be really philosophical but is mostly boring.
Which brings us to the top of act three. Act three the company is shipped out to Okinawa and they climb over Hacksaw Ridge to face the Japanese. This is the strongest part of the film. It is about 25 continuous minutes of absolute mayhem. It was as if Mel Gibson went, “you think ya bettah then me Spielberg? Saving Private Ryan, that’s cute. Here’s 25 minutes of gore.” The decimation of the American troops by the Japanese is relentless. It goes on forever and is feels like it’s somewhere between a porno and a dance of gore and explosions. The actually interesting and amazing part of the true story is that Desmond Doss stayed after the fighting and rescued over 75 men. He spent the whole night rescuing guys one by one and lowering them off of the ridge. It’s absolutely incredible. This stretch, from the top of act three to the last ten minutes of the movie (about 45 minutes of actual screen time) is really great.
Then it all goes to shit. The last ten minutes are weirdly racist, and completely idiotic. First of all, as with all modern war movies, the enemies are faceless “others”. The Japanese, in this case, are portrayed as savage killing monsters with no discerning personality traits or character. THEN there is a really weird moment where a Japanese general??? kills himself by having a solider cut his head off. It’s a very strange and totally unnecessary moment and its only purpose is, as far as I can tell, to other the Japanese further.
Finally, the last action sequence is weirdly short compared to the long one previous and the whole army waits for Desmond to pray. There is one slow mo shot in the last ten minutes where Desmond slaps a grenade out of the air in the most comic flail I’ve ever seen. I laughed out loud in the movie theatre. It’s ridiculous. That’s how I would describe this movie- ridiculous. It’s boring for a while, and then it’s really boring, and then it’s great and then it’s terrible.
It’s also a shame that Andrew Garfield was nominated for best actor. Though I think he was great, and maybe the only reason worth watching this film, it is too bad that someone like Joel Edgerton who was so subtle and beautiful in Loving was overshadowed by ol’ slappy grenade.