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Movie Review: ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ Booms with Brutality, Faith and Pacifism

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Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

Hacksaw Ridge is brutal, emotional and poignant. Read our full movie review to get the details:

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s I watched Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge in a packed theater, the reaction was similar to that of The Passion of the Christ. The audience and I were on the edge of our seats, wincing with each explosion/gunshot and gasping at the aftermath. One woman flat out screamed in terror when a swarm of Japanese soldiers launched a surprise attack, shooting and gutting American soldiers.

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is brutally graphic.

These war scenes are violent, gory, disgusting and shocking, portrayed with the same grisly nature as Passion. It’s a suitable comparison the way Gibson seems to understand martyrdom and faith to a degree that he can make us understand as well.

Such themes are important when adapting the story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a boy who signs on to be a medic during World War II. He despises guns and has dedicated his life to pacifism after his rocky experience of violence within his own family. His father (Hugo Weaving) despises him entering the military as he’s served before and doesn’t want his children to experience the same terror he faced. Desmond’s aware of the danger having nearly killed his brother during a scuffle, but his father ensures him he’s not the least bit prepared.

Clutching close to the Bible, he vows non-violence during his training, objecting to taking part in rifle practice. His drill instructor, played with an offbeat tone by Vince Vaughn, tries to shame and later beg him to leave. Everyone in his unit despises his choice to the point of being beaten to a pulp and encouraged to quit basic training. But Doss believes he can still do well on the battlefield without firing a single bullet and keeps at it. A soldier mocks him for the value of turning the other cheek as Doss does just that when taking a beating. His convictions are so strong that you want to see this smiling little dork pull through.

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

Andrew Garfield stands his ground against his comrades.

The only one who seems to stick by his side is his fiancée nurse Dorothy (Teresa Palmer). She can’t help but fall for the lovable stumbling of Doss as he hopelessly tries to woo with his corny pickup lines and awkward attempts at romance. Their love is cute. But Dorothy’s loyalty to stick with such a man, even when stubbornly refusing to do something as simple as fire a rifle under threat of military prison, becomes such an important aspect of his drive, despite being mostly absent from Hacksaw Ridge. He keeps her picture as a bookmark in his Bible, thinking of both her and God while saving lives. I guess it doesn’t hurt to stack the deck with inspiration.

Aside from his faith, Doss’ pacifist nature plays a powerful role throughout, pressuring him at every turn to take the easy route in war. There are several points during the operation where he is told that he’s done enough and should pull out. And yet he sticks around until he’s retrieved every wounded soldier on the battlefield. Dragging each to the edge of a cliff and lowering them down with his own bruised hands and back, he presses on with a quick prayer in between to save one more soldier. He’d retrieve another, pray again and head back into the field crawling with Japanese soldiers slaughtering the survivors. He ended up saving about 75 lives. God was generous to him that day.

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

Desmond Doss saves one person at a time.

Though Gibson does become a bit too obsessed with the Battle of Hacksaw Ridge, favoring scene after scene of blood gushing and limbs flying, he still gets the message across as bluntly as it should be relayed. War is not a glossy bit of PG-13 action and, though we’ve seen similar sequences in other R-Rated war pictures, it’s a message that bears repetition.

There’ll never be a more memorable war scene of relentless brutality than Saving Private Ryan, but it never hurts to have a little refresher about the horrors of war where death and despair come often and without notice. I could do without the slow motion of soldiers burning alive and flying through the sky. There’s enough shock in such scenes that such a gimmick feels unneeded.

Read more for the rest of the movie review and to watch the trailer for Hacksaw Ridge:

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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Review: “Captain Marvel” is a Solidly Sensational Sci-Fi Adventure

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Captain Marvel joins the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a much different way. She slides into the MCU via a twisty sci-fi adventure of the 1990s, before the Avengers were formed. And though the film does serve as a strong bridge picture that answers a few more questions about the Marvel universe, the film quickly becomes its own thing and gives its hero a real identity as the powerful addition to the superhero ensemble.

Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers, a woman not sure if she’s a human pilot of Earth or a soldier of the Kree empire’s Starforce. There’s little time to explore these conflicting visions she’s having when there’s special energy powers to control and a war being waged against the shape-shifting Skrull alien creatures. A detour to 1990s Earth gives her a bit of time to find out more while also hunting down some more Skrulls, leading to some interesting scenarios when combatting aliens that could look like old ladies.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) ..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

Carol’s landing on Earth leads to treading down familiar Marvel timeline territory as well as evoking plenty of dated 1990s bits. What started drawing me into the picture was how the film holds itself back from the obvious. The 1990s setting is used for some gags of video stores and Windows 95, sure, but never goes the extra mile of becoming an aggravating reference fest, keeping a certain vibe the way Guardians of the Galaxy embraced the 1970s and 1980s. And just like that film, there’s a nostalgic soundtrack to boot, with choice tracks for just the right cue.

Samuel L. Jackson pops up in the film as a younger Nick Fury with his two eyes still intact. He teams up with Carol in her intergalactic spy adventure and thankfully never goes to the booming lengths he was known for that decade. And the filmmakers could have easily made this younger Fury go full Die Hard 3 or Pulp Fiction but he never does, always keeping that cool persona he has been known for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..L to R: Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

But the one aspect that is never shunned and built up grandly is the aspect of female empowerment. Danvers is established as a woman who doesn’t have a clear identity or mindful nature of galactic politics and has to build herself up when she realizes she may be a very powerful pawn in a big game of intergalactic chess. Her memories are that of always being told to back off from non-traditional activities for girls and, sure enough, she rises up to become the smirking and energy-shooting hero when the final piece of her character puzzle is pieced together. It’s just unfortunate that the film spends so much time doing the building amid a twisty sci-fi spy story that Brie never gets a moment to shine as brightly as she could, despite a very enthusiastic third-act closer.

If we’re being blunt, no, Captain Marvel doesn’t quite have the same gravity to be a cultural milestone of a comic book movie. Where others have pointed to Black Panther as not the first the most insightful and cultural of black-led superhero movies, I doubt many will look towards Captain Marvel as the grandest of female-led comic book movies, making its motives known with the power and subtlety of a supernova. But, in terms of what the film is aiming towards, it doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone and that’s perhaps the point. I just wish that Captain Marvel’s astounding powers to destroy starships and aliens had a much bigger punch for a picture that wants to obliterate the glass ceiling and merely cuts a narrow hole within the MCU. It’s a nice hole, mind you, and still weaves a capable and compelling sci-fi adventure with a surprisingly more engaging finale than most Marvel solos.

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