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Posts Tagged ‘Sam Worthington’

Andrew Garfield

Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss

“HACKSAW RIDGE” My rating: B+

131 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Old fashioned” in the best possible sense, “Hacksaw Ridge” is a real-life World War II combat drama that has it both ways.

It may be the most violent film ever released by a major studio, being horrifyingly realistic in its depiction of combat in the South Pacific.

At the same time it is soul-shakingly inspiring.

Brutality and spirituality are unlikely bedfellows, which makes the ultimate triumph of “Hacksaw Ridge” all the more remarkable.

In fact, the film instantly elevates director Mel Gibson back to his one-time status as a major filmmaker. Say what you will about Gibson’s misbehavior and misplaced beliefs, the guy has got the stuff.

Like “Sergeant York,” the reality-inspired classic about the World War I hero, “Hacksaw Ridge” centers on a conscientious objector who ends up winning the Congressional Medal of Honor. It even follows that earlier film’s basic narrative, dividing its running time between our hero’s life Stateside and his grueling combat experiences.

The difference is that unlike Sgt. Alvin York — who finally put aside his C.O. status and became a one-man juggernaut, killing at least 28 German soldiers and capturing 132 others — Desmond Doss practiced non-violence even in the midst of the most ghastly carnage imaginable.

With bullets whizzing around him — quite literally up to his knees in blood and guts — this Army medic singlemindedly went about his business of saving his fellow soldiers.

We meet young Desmond (Andrew Garfield) in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Dad (Hugo Weaving) is an unshaved alcoholic still tormented by the sight of his friends being blown to bits during the Great War. Mom (Rachel Griffiths) is often on the fist end of her husband’s anguish.

As a boy Desmond is traumatized after losing his temper and striking his brother  with a rock. Swearing to never again harm another human, he joins the the Seventh-day Adventist Church, whose pacifist doctrines prohibit its members from carrying weapons.

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Left to right: Hailee Steinfeld, ** and Britt Marling

Left to right: Hailee Steinfeld, Muna Otaru and Brit Marling

“THE KEEPING ROOM” My rating: B- (Opens Oct. 30 at the Alamo Drafthouse)

95 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The Civil War drama “The Keeping Room” opens with a quote from Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman to the effect that war is cruel — and that the crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.

Not a happy thought. Not a happy movie.

But despite a tendency toward preciousness, Daniel Bart’s period drama  effectively conveys the desperation, ugliness and moral vacuum of war — not by depicting the chaos of battle but by describing the plight of unfortunate civilians in its path.

Augusta and Louise (Britt Marling, Hailee Steinfeld) are sisters living on their once-prosperous family farm.  But all the men are off fighting for the Confederacy and things are slowly falling apart.  Their only companion is the slave woman, Mad (Muna Otaru).

In better days the sisters no doubt lived pampered lives — Louise, the younger, still exudes the attitude of a spoiled aristocrat — but the war has turned everything topsy turvey.  Now all three women must work the fields if they’re to keep eating.

Meanwhile a pair of  soldiers, Moses and Henry (Sam Worthington and Kyle Soller) are marauding their way around the countryside — raping, stealing and murdering with impunity. They claim they were sent by the Union Army to soften resistance, though it’s difficult to believe their murderous excesses are sanctioned.  Their clothing is a mishmash of civilian items and those scavenged from the dead of both armies. They may simply be deserters out to indulge their worst instincts.

A confrontation between the three women and the killers is inevitable — especially after Moses casts eyes on Augusta at a general store, determines to have her, and tracks her back to the homestead.

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A pre-Oscar Melissa Leo in "Streetwalkin'"

“STREETWALKIN’” (Available Aug. 2)

One of the downsides to winning an Oscar is that the home video industry starts digging through the movies you made early in your career, hoping to peddle some dross as gold.

That’s pretty much the story with “Streetwalkin’,” a 1985 innocent-in-the-big-city melodrama starring the then 25-year-old Melissa Leo.

This was, of course, before Leo registered with TV audiences as a member of the “Homicide: Life on the Streets” cast and, more recently, scored an Academy Award for her supporting performance in “The Fighter.” (more…)

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