Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

There are a few film genres I’m biased towards and War films are definitely no exception. And I’m just going to go ahead and say that Hacksaw Ridge is the best war film I’ve seen in a long long time.

World War II American Army Medic, Desmond Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people and is considered a “conscientious objector.” But, his acts of courage and the choices he makes in war means that he might be braver than them all.

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Hacksaw Ridge is true to it’s genre: bloody and brutal. It’s not shied away from, and at times, really shocks and scares. But, Director Mel Gibson has created a film that shows us war doesn’t have to be pain, sorrow and dehumanising. It’s not just the brutality of war that stays with us, it’s the perseverance and love that Doss has that inspires and hits deeper on an emotional level.

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Andrew Garfield is riveting and humble as Desmond Doss; he really shines in a role that’s extremely well suited to him. The supporting cast, also, are brilliant. Hugo Weaving as Desmond’s father, is compelling and emotional. Vince Vaughan brings a smile and typical military banter as Sergeant Howell, yet isn’t too comical, and Sam Worthington too is commanding as Captain Glover.

Overall, Hacksaw Ridge is a truly gripping and great war film and will stay with me for a long time. Perhaps, though, what is even greater, is the real man Desmond Doss himself and his acts of humanity in a time of horror.

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Fury (2014)

The only word to sum up ‘Fury’ is brutal. This is a brutal film of a brutal portrayal of warfare, human nature and becoming a man the hard way. When the credits roll, you need a minute to take in what you’ve just witnessed.

I love war films. When done right, they are some of the best films you’ll see, as it puts the past into perspective with the right amount of action and drama. And you appreciate how lucky you are to be alive and sat in a cinema watching it instead of living it.

‘Fury’ is set in 1945, nearing the end of the war. We follow, Wardaddy (Brad Pitt), an American army sergeant who captains a Sherman Tank and it’s crew of four other men through a deadly operation behind enemy lines. They attempt a heroic mission, outnumbered and outgunned and with a newbie (Logan Lerman) thrown in at the deep end and trying to cope with the harshness of it all.

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The opening scene sets the tone for the film to come and is bookended: death at the start, death at the end. Director and writer David Ayer is to the point and makes it incredibly matter-of-fact. You have to admire his ambition too. I recall one of the first scenes in the tank, with four men inside. Highly claustrophobic and chaotic, it’s a terrific opening, and yet I’m sat there thinking “how did they film that?” I am still wondering, and the more I think, the more I am amazed; these men live in that tank, you get a sense of family, you see the machinery, where they sit, how it works, how it’s tended to and how it protects. The Sherman tank is almost a character in it’s own right. I applaud ambitious film-making and so I applaud David Ayer!

Of the men of the tank, a stand out from the five is of course Brad Pitt as war-hardened Don “Wardaddy” Collier. He is ruthless, neither the hero or the villain and Pitt plays him incredibly well. Shia Lebouf impressed me at first as Boyd “Bible” Swan, but his character soon becomes tiresome, quoting scripture. Logan Lerman has come a long way and is brilliant as new recruit Norman Ellison, who later is nicknamed “Machine.” We see war through his innocent eyes and, like us, he is exposed to a lot of violence very quickly and has to get used to it fast. It was a pleasant surprise to see Jason Isaccs too, hardly recognisable in voice and appearance as Captain Waggoner.

This is the best war film I’ve seen in a long time. But as Wardaddy says, “ideals are peaceful. History is violent,” and this film often reminds you of that.

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