Movie Review: Doctor Strange

The movie “Doctor Strange” once again answers the ongoing question about making money in Hollywood. Its name recognition (Doctor Strange is another well known Marvel Comic) and massive special effects enough to create a good movie that has a bad script and a bad story? For some movies I have seen in the past, this can sometimes happen, but in my opinion, this did not happen for this movie. The special effects in this film are spectacular throughout but all those special effects do not save what is a muddled and at times a rather stupid story that drags on too long and ends with a time loop scene with some kind of an evil cloud character that I thought did not work as an effective ending.

The story of this film is – a great surgeon, by the name of Dr. Steven Strange, who is almost killed in a car accident and because of the accident he has nerve damage that disables his hands so he can no longer operate. Through another patient who survived major nerve damage and walked again, Strange goes to Nepal to locate a sect that has mastered the art of using the spiritual world to heal the physical world. What follows is Dr. Strange slowly gaining abilities to bend time, space and transportation to different parts of the world through time portals. Of course, this ability also has a downside and there are evil people who have mastered the dark side of this ability, which seemed too much like the dark side of the Force in Star Wars. The actress Tilda Swinton does an effective job with her part as the head of a group of monks who hold the keys to these abilities along with the respected actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, but neither of these two acting performances or Benjamin Cumberbatch who plays Doctor Strange or Rachel McAdams who plays another doctor and Strange’s girlfriend is enough to rescue this mostly ridiculous movie that is all about special effects with very little story. For these reasons, I do not recommend Doctor Strange.

Movie Review: Hacksaw Ridge

For people who are disturbed by war movies that show extreme battles, horrible violence, gore, and death they should definitely miss this movie. For people who feel that movies about war should never depict any of the most extreme violence that show the harsh reality of war, they should also miss this movie. The John Wayne era of glorifying the horror of war is over forever. War movies should never glorify war, but instead, honor those who died and in some small way try to prevent future wars from ever happening again by accurately showing what war really is. In this regard, Mel Gibson did an outstanding job in his comeback to Hollywood with his direction of this outstanding movie.

For a director filming a war movie, the issue is will always be the same: if you do not show the true horrors of war then ultimately you disrespect all the young men who were slaughtered in battle on both sides. To truly appreciate what so many young men went through in World War 2 or any war, movies like “Hacksaw Ridge” are required to show it the way it really was. In my opinion, in the history of all war movies ever made, this one will rank as one of the best ever filmed, along with Saving Private Ryan that came out in 1998. I also believe that this movie even raised the bar when showing the extreme horror of war and reminds us all that the war in the Pacific was far worse that the war against Germany and Italy in Europe. This is because the Japanese soldiers did not care if they lived or died and they refused to ever surrender. The Japanese religious fanaticism and their belief that surrendering is not an option and would mean that they would lose their honor if they surrendered and their honor was far more important than their own lives. This is the main reason why the Unites States had no choice but to drop two Atomic Bombs on Japan to end the war in the Pacific. A great recent book about this issue is: Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan written by Bill O’Reilly.

The main character of Hacksaw Ridge is Desmond Doss, played excellently by Andrew Garfield who was the first conscientious objectorto ever win the Congressional Medal of Honor. During Bootcamp and the entire time Dos was in the United States Army, he refused to ever carry or even touch a gun, even to the point of facing many years in military prison after a court martial, beatings by his fellow soldiers and being called a coward during his term in the army. Desmond’s reasons for this were because of his childhood and his abusive family where he almost shot his own father to stop him from beating his mother and during a fight with his brother where he almost killed him by hitting him in the head with a brick during a fight. These two events in Desmond’s life changed him forever and made him so religious in his belief in God’s commandments, especially “though shall not kill”, that his only desire after enlisting was to save lives as a medic and never take a life. After the 7th failed attempt to take Hacksaw Ridge which was a battlefield on the Island of Okinawa, Doss remained on the ridge for hours and managed to rescue 75 men from certain death. How a war hero at this level is so largely unknown is a tragedy and unfortunately, the real Desmond Doss never got to see this movie as he died in 2006 at the age of 87.

The remaining cast includes Vince Vaughn who was outstanding as the Boot Camp Sargent and proved that he is an actor who can do both dramatic and comedy roles. Theresa Palmer is also great in her role as the nurse that Desmond Doss meets and eventually marries. Hugo Weaving was outstanding in his role as Desmond’s abusive alcoholic father and Word War 1 veteran who throughout this movie reminded his family that the aftereffects of surviving a war can ruin your life because those bad memories will never go away. What is most amazing about Mel Gibson is his great ability as a director, despite his huge fall from the highest heights of the filmmaking industry 10 years ago due to anti-semitic remarks and alcoholic binges. Gibson’s last war movie that came out in 2002 was also outstanding, “We were Soldiers” and is also one of the greatest war movies ever made and also accurately depicted the realities of war. There is no doubt that Hacksaw Ridge marks a great comeback for Gibson from the very high marks on IMDB and the critical acclaim when the movie was released. One can only hope that Mel Gibson does not make the mistakes he has made in the past because he is one great director.

While watching this great war movie I was reminded of what it must have been like to have been born at the wrong time during World War 2 and find yourself at age 19 fighting as a private in the Marines during the war in the Pacific. Bootcamp can never fully train any young man for an intense close range battle at the magnitude of those who were fought against the Japanese. Machine gun fire from all angles, explosions all around you as you try to advance and then watching others die by gunfire or dismemberment due to an explosion that could have easily killed you. The emotions for all of these young men during this battle and others like it had to include a level of total disbelief realizing their final minutes on earth even more than their own fear of certain death. For the battle for Hacksaw Ridge, the odds or survival seemed like only 10%, which was confirmed from some of the comments as the few survivors climbed down from the ridge. The Japanese dug deep trenches and tunnels underground that survived the intense bombing of the Navy before each attempt to capture Hacksaw Ridge and some of these amazing tunnels were shown in the movie as Desmond Doss tried to escape from the Japanese while trying to rescue some of the wounded.

The movie Hacksaw Ridge is one of the best movies I have ever seen, and almost the equal of Saving Private Ryan. This movie should definitely be nominated for an Academy Award and Gibson should be nominated for best director. I also think that Andrew Garfield should be nominated for best actor.