Hacksaw Ridge: Mel Gibson Should Make Films For PureFlix.

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

This film follows the life of army combat medic Desmond Doss, Andrew Garfield, as he serves during World War II without ever using a gun.

This was an incredibly uplifting film. Yes the violence and the death of war are grizzly and are on full display here, but underneath that is a story about a young man just doing what he thinks is right and saving lives, even when those same people call him names and abuse him for his beliefs.

I could have done without the constant religious framing of everything in the film, but hey it is a Mel Gibson picture so what do you expect? I understand the real life person this was based on was deeply religious and it is fundamental to the story, that is not what I am complaining about. What I am complaining about is the use of shots, to give an example the final shot of the film before it cuts to credits sees Doss being carried away on a stretcher, the camera is below and zooming out giving the impression that the stretcher is rising into the heavens- a saint ascending. This bothered me for two reasons one, the character doesn’t die and two, it is far too on the nose.  

Moreover, the writing in this film is not good at all. The opening scenes, not the ones when they are children but the ones which show Doss’s early courtship before he went overseas, are so painfully cringe that I almost had to skip through them. The line delivery is off by such a huge margin that I can’t place the blame solely at Garfield’s feet clearly something must have been bad in the script or even the direction.

That aside the performances for the most part were great across the board. I enjoyed Vince Vaughn as a drill sergeant and I thought once again Andrew Garfield shone brightly, proving his clear talent with ease.

Overall, a solid and uplifting war film.

Pros.

Garfield

It is inspiring

It doesn’t shy away from showing you the horrors of war

The ending

Cons.

The heavy handed religious metaphors

The dialogue and line delivery during the courtship scenes  

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Star Wars Rogue One: The Front Lines Of The Star War

Star Wars Rogue One

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

By far one of the best films to take place during the Disney Star Wars period so far, this film not only has a personality and feel all its own, but crucially it also manages to exist without heavy involvement from the Skywalkers or other, big named characters: thereby proving that Star Wars as a franchise can move forward with new characters and does not need to stick to the same few characters.

I enjoyed the darker tone of the film, with it feeling more like a war film than a Star Wars film: I definitely think that the tone is the best bit of the film and it could only have been made better if it was taken further and made even darker.

I thought the core group of characters were all strong and had believable motivations. I thought Jyn’s, Felicity Jones, arc surrounding her father and the original Deathstar was inspired: by using this the story becomes important and rooted in cannon whilst also feeling fresh and like something we haven’t seen before. I also thought the emotional stakes of the arc were done well and Jones and Mads Mikkelsen, who plays Jyn’s father both have strong commanding performances.

Finally, I liked that they had the guts to end it the way they did with the characters dying, yes it was bleak, but it showed that the film and the creatives weren’t afraid to take risks and that is the attitude Star Wars needs to have going forward.

Overall, a dark, gritty and effecting Star Wars film. More like this please.

Pros.

The tone

The father-daughter arc

New characters

The ending

Cons.

A few pacing complaints and some needless humour  

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Shadow In The Cloud: The Next Ripley?

Shadow In The Clouds is a war time horror film directed by Roseanne Liang. The plot sees a stowaway female pilot (Chloe Grace-Mortez), board a plane with a mysterious object. During the flight paranormal forces seek to work against her and to steal what is inside the mysterious box.

Though coming out in the final days of 2020 this may be a strong contender for best horror of 2021, unless something truly exceptional comes out to dethrone it. The sheer level of creativity and originality that this film boasts is a sight to behold, I honestly don’t think I have ever seen a film quite like this.

The scares are well earned as well, whether it is coming in the form of distressing gore, such as when she has to mend her broken finger), or supernatural threat. Both of which help to add to the tension of the film as a whole and make it hard to look away from.

Moreover, I have complained about the female empowerment message in a lot of recent films for not feeling earned or for feeling forced in, but here it is spot on. Grace-Mortez’s Maude is a kickass unstoppable action hero very much in the vein of Ripley or Sarah Conner. Also much like those examples, the film does not feel overt in its messages or politics rather it all feels natural and well done. Honestly the final fight scene is a cheer worthy moment.

Overall, one of the best films I have seen in a long time, a must see!

Pros.

It is empowering

Chloe Grace-Mortez is terrific

There is nothing else quite like it out there

The supernatural WW2 mix

The ending

Cons.

None

5/5

Reviewed by Luke   

Blood Vessel: If There Is One Thing We Know It Is That Nazi’s Love The Occult

Blood Vessel is a horror film directed by Justin Dix. The plot sees a group of survivors adrift at sea during the closing days of WW2, they have abandoned hope of being rescued that is until they find a deserted Nazi war ship pass them by.

This film is a perfect example of subverting expectations in a smart way. When I first put this film on, I thought that it was going to be a ghost ship and that one of the survivors would probably go crazy and start hunting down the rest, turning the film into a sea-based slasher film. However, there is a reveal midway through the film, that I won’t spoil as I think it is worth seeing fresh, that totally takes things in another direction.

The lore of said reveal is quickly set up and is surprisingly in-depth, the film manages to tell us a lot about what is going on and who is doing it without giving us a lot of boring slow exposition. The gore and the kills are strong, gore fans will be pleased to hear, with an excellent and bloody final showdown to boot; the ending itself perfectly sets up a continuation of the horror.

My one complaint would be that none of the characters were particularly interesting and for the most part felt like standard war time cliches.

Pros.

The horror

The reveal

The lore

The ending

Cons.

The characters are all quite forgettable

4/5

Reviewed by Luke

Ghosts Of War: Dreaming Awake

Ghosts Of War is a British supernatural horror film directed by Eric Bress. A group of soldiers during the closing days of WW2 are tasked with holding down an old mansion in the middle of nowhere, that was formally a Nazi base. However, as their stay grows ever longer they start to notice that something is deeply wrong with the house.

Check this film out now! This is one of the best surprises I have had recently, I went in not expecting much and came away very impressed. I won’t say what it is, but the end twist of this film works incredibly well and adds a whole new layer to the film, that then begs to be rewatched and further thought about.

The horror elements are strong and you never quite know what is going on, is it Nazi occultism? Or was the family themselves, that owned the house prior to the Nazi takeover, into the dark arts?. There are a surprising number of layers to it. The horror is well done and creates a tense, unsettling atmosphere that leaves an impact.

Some of the questions this film raises are also quite interesting to think about, though that might be more of a personal taste thing on my part.

Overall, do not sleep on this! It is on Netflix right now check it out.

Pros.

The twist

The moral implications

The WW2 setting

Doing more with the standard haunted house narrative

The scares

Cons.

None

5/5

Reviewed by Luke   

Ironclad: A Very American British War Film

Iron Clad is a British war film directed by Jonathan English. The plot sees a group of medieval swordsmen, some knights, some Templars, and some criminals, hold a fort against the mercenary army of King John (Paul Giamatti). Fighting desperately to uphold the Magna Carta, and to defeat a tyrant.

This is one of those films, very much like Iron Sky, that I have on my watchlist and like to put on when I feel the mood for pulpy violence or fantastical nonsense. Did it deliver on those fronts? Yes and no.

The violence I found to be bloody and brutal, which is what I was expecting and hoping for, but the camera kept cutting away in the heat of battle and it led to it feeling poorly shot, disjointed and oddly out of sequence. An example of what I am talking about is you would see something like a sword hit someone’s arm, then a cut to their eyes, then the arm would be hanging off. This to me screams of a film that was done on the cheap, which is not in and off itself a bad thing, but it is when it is this obvious.

The fantastical nonsense front was a bit better. I enjoyed the silliness of it all and how much of a blatant rip off of Magnificent Seven it is. I thought having Giamatti just talking with his normal accent and not even bother to do an English accent was a touch of genius, it pushed the film firmly into so bad it is good territory.

I am a big James Purefoy fan and I think he is trying his best here. He has a great amount of presence and he leaves an impact whenever he does something on screen, but his talents are wasted. His romance with Kate Mara’s character is also a little icky when you think of the age difference, but that’s just me.

Overall, it falls into so bad it is good territory and can be enjoyed for the sheer cheesiness of it, had the battles been shot better, it could have been genuinely good.

Pros.

James Purefoy

The stakes and the tension

It is almost comical at times

Cons.

The action is not well shot

It is highly derivative

3/5

So bad it is good for sure

Reviewed by Luke

American Sniper: Eastwood’s Epic

American Sniper is a biographical war film directed by Clint Eastwood. The plot recounts the life of the deadliest sniper in US military history Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), showing his service and the toll it took on him; based on the memoir of the man himself.

For the most part this is gripping and well done in near all regard there is just one thing I want to point out before I get into the review in full. If you read my Midway review then you know that I don’t like war/military films that force in raah raah patriotism and that glorify and romanticise the life of soldiers, this film does that. The film makes it seems like any able-bodied man or woman is honour bound to join the military and defend their country which is not true it is a clear choice. Also the film shows that Kyle is experiencing PTSD, but it doesn’t explain it, it chooses not to focus on it when it is an important part of the conversation. It also suggests that all Kyle needed to do to effectively beat his PTSD was to spend time with other veterans and help out, which simply isn’t true.

That said I thought this film was a tour de force, I think it portrayed war and its horrors in a very realistic way, I think it also benefits from focusing on these solider and the toll they inevitably end up paying for their service. Towards the end of the film two of Kyle’s friends die and it is incredibly impactful because it was so sudden, and we had spent time with these people. It shows the futility of it all.

Also I loved the final sequence of the film, as Kyle is saying bye to his family there is a distinct uncomfortable feeling that something isn’t right, you know something bad is about to happen, but you aren’t quite sure. I was on the edge during this whole scene. The truth of the ending is depressing, but life is.

Overall, this is a harrowing tale of war and sacrifice that could be better served with more of a focus on the mental toll.

Pros.

Cooper

The horrors of war

The final scenes

Tense and gripping throughout

Cons.

It needed to focus more on the PTSD side of things

4.5/5

Reviewed by Luke  

Greyhound: Yet Another Tom Hanks WW2 Movie

Greyhound is a war film directed by Aaron Schneider. The plot follows an inexperienced Naval Captain, Captain Krause (Tom Hanks), as he attempts to lead an Allied convey across the North Atlantic while being hunted by a pack of German U-Boats.

I will admit, this film has its moments and I can see what it was trying to do, but it falls short of being a good movie for me because of the incredibly, shockingly so for a big budget movie, bad CGI. The film is admirable for trying the way it does, but it just can’t escape the poor effects.

So, this film is set at sea, yet clearly not shot at sea. So therefore the water is CGI, this could be done in such a way as to be believable, other films have done it well enough before. In stark contrast to that the water effects in this film look like something out of a video game from about 15 years ago. They are so unrelentingly bad that they take you out of the film and become all you can see.

That said, the film outside of these poor effects is quite good. The tense hunting sequence where it looks for quite a while like Krause and his fellow seamen are going to die is well executed and captures your interest without having to try. My particular favourite scenes of the film are when the U-Boat commander calls Krause to taunt him, it reminds me of something from Silence Of The Lambs.

Hanks as Krause is fine, he is serviceable, but his character does not have much of a personality, the same can be said of the rest of the cast who are basically just set dressing. This is a shame as the film wastes the talents of the phenomenally talented Stephen Graham.

Pros.

Tense

It has you on the edge of your seat.

Hanks is serviceable

Cons.

It wastes most of the cast including Stephen Graham

The utterly horrific CGI

2.5/5

Reviewed by Luke    

Midway: A Tribute To Those Lost

Midway is a historical epic directed by Roland Emmerich. The plot retells the monumental battle of Midway during WW2 and shows the sacrifice of all involved.

Normally I would stay away from this kind of film because it is usually a toned-down form of propaganda. It normally is very quick to say X country is great and X country is bad and leave out any nuance and grey area. An great example of what I am talking about can be seen when the Japanese commanders are having a meeting and one says something to the extent of what have we done we have awoken a sleeping giant and it is almost cringey in its pro American stance, I highly doubt the Japanese would have said such a thing. Though the film does slip several times into this cringey form of very forced feeling patriotism being projected on a world audience it for the most part the film doesn’t do it.

That said I enjoyed the epic feel of this film very much, I am not going to lie I had given up on Emmerich as a director after his last few efforts, but this gave me pause. I truly believe that this film manages to capture the sight and the scale of such an endeavour and treats the events with the hollowed reverence they deserve; in that vain I enjoyed the final shot of the film and the closing message.

The acting was all very strong, Ed Skein was a very believable leading man, I am genuinely surprised that he hasn’t had more leading roles as he has proven himself to be a very strong actor. However, the standout of the cast to me has to be Alexander Ludwig, though his on screen appearance is very short he gives a very strong emotional performance that will hit you like a sack of bricks.

Pro.

Treating the subject matter with respect

The performances

Especially Skein, Ludwig and Wilson

The grand scale of it all

Cons.

The raar raar cringey patriotism

4/5

Reviewed by Luke       

Da 5 Bloods: Never Forget

Da 5 Bloods is a war epic directed by Spike Lee. The plot sees a group of Vietnam Veterans return to the country to find some gold they stashed away years earlier, as well as to find the body of their lost comrade and bring him home.

Before I get into it all I just want to say this is an incredibly powerful film on multiple different levels, especially in the current climate. Some of the points raised in the film hit very close to home and will affect you. I recommend taking some time at the end of the film to just sit and think about it, there is a lot to unpack.

The main foursome is made up of Paul (Delroy Lindo), Eddie (Norm Lewis), Otis (Clarke Peters), and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr). Each man gives a stellar performance and the chemistry between the four goes past believable to enthralling. You can genuinely see them all being old army buddies.

I think Paul is the most layered and interesting character of the group as he is a broken man. He highlights the effects of war that stay with a person long after the fighting has ended; he sees visons of his dead best friend and squad leader that haunt him. Also the dynamic between him and his son David (Jonathan Majors), is very nuanced and well developed.

This comes very close to being a perfect film, however there is one thing that drags it back: the fourth wall breaking. There are a couple of scenes towards the end of the film where Paul talks directly to the camera and recites a monologue to us the audience, the issue with these scenes is that they break the flow of the film. They take us out of the action and feel oddly jarring.

Overall, a masterpiece with only a few slight faults. A must watch.

Pros.

The themes.

The characters.

The bonds.

The impact.

Cons.

Addressing the audience.

4.5./5

Reviewed by Luke