*NEW* HACKSAW RIDGE REVIEW *NEW*

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Brutal, gripping, hard hitting.

The true story of WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refused to kill people, and became the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot.

I was a little worried at first that Garfield was going to come off as a bumbling Forrest Gump with his bashful demeanour and Southern accent BUT he delivered enough charm and charisma to win me over. A strong performance.

The first 40-odd minutes was corny but easy going enough as we followed Desmond through his childhood years right up to his enrollment.

A good portion of that time was spent on wooing the local nurse Dorothy (Teresa Palmer – Lights Out). It may have been a little schmaltzy BUT the pair had good chemistry and I was happy to watch.

The flashbacks flicking back and forth into Desmond’s past broke up the cheesy romance as we discovered the reasons behind his refusal to carry a firearm.

It was great to see Hugo Weaving as Doss’ embittered drunken vet father. He played it with aplomb. A tormented man who had already “died” with his men in the Great War.

His survival nothing more than a curse. Punishing himself and his family. I was surprised at his reaction when he discovered that his two sons had enlisted.

The boot camp training montage was a little predictable. Especially when Doss had to compete with the macho hot head Smitty Ryker (Luke Bracey – Point Break).

BUT it still hit home as Desmond fought against the military hierarchy. Reserving his right to serve as a medic:

“No less danger, just . . . while everybody else is taking life, I’m going to be saving it. With the world so set on tearing itself apart, it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing to me to wanna put a little bit of it back together”.

I wasn’t sure whether Vince Vaughn would cut it as Sergeant Howell. I was hoping this role would be a change from his usual spiel.

BUT his Wedding Crashers style drill call and endless shouting was hit and miss. It was a little too OTT for my liking as he gave the privates nicknames. However, there were a couple of clever one liners.

BUT as Doss’ struggle worsened, Howell soon won me over as he realised the stubborn Virginian wasn’t going to back down. Fighting for his beliefs.

Sam Worthington (Avatar) was brilliant as the callous Captain Glover. Embarrassed to have a “conscientious objector” in his ranks. Ordering Howell to force the boy’s resignation.

Doss’ treatment was shocking. Beaten until he was black and blue by members of his own infantry. Pushed to the very edge. He was even denied a day pass to attend his own wedding. Unbelievable.

It went right up to a military tribunal and even during the first attack on Hacksaw, troops were still weary of the medic. The second half of the film was something to behold. A true act of honour and dedication.

I had no doubt on ol’ Blue Eyes taking the helm. We had already seen a return to form with his stellar turn in Blood Father and this latest entry from the Braveheart and We Were Soldiers director was a step in the right direction.

The violence was ridiculous. Gibson definitely didn’t hold back the punches. It was visceral, gory and bloody as hell. He really showed the true extent of what war can do to a soldier.

The only problem with all the CGI (especially with the flamethrower attacks) was that it came off like something out of Starship Troopers! And when Doss kicked that grenade like a football, I couldn’t help but tut. Hollywood had to put their stamp on it somewhere.

“Just give me one more”

I was on tenterhooks right up to the emotional and fitting tribute. As every one else had climbed back down off the ridge, Doss stayed to tend to the wounded.

Covering up the injured from the lurking Japanese. Evading capture and sniper fire. Discovering their hidden trenches.

Tense, gripping. I was completely transfixed as this young man, with no firearm, saved 70 soldiers who were already deemed lost by their superior officers.

He even tried to save several Japanese officers who didn’t quite make the journey back to the medical tent.

Despite a 139 minute running time, the pace didn’t test. Garfield impressed yet again, giving one of his best performances to date.

It was nail biting and enthralling. That final act when Glover apologizes to the crazy Virginian was heartbreaking.

The real life interviews and footage in the closing credits really brought it home.

A compelling drama as one man defied the odds and fought for what was right.

While not the greatest war film, Hacksaw is still worthy of your attention.

4/5

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*NEW* THE DRESSMAKER REVIEW *NEW*

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Winslet is dressed to impress in this quirky little drama.

A glamorous woman (Kate Winslet) returns to her small town in rural Australia. With her sewing machine and haute couture style, she transforms the women and exacts sweet revenge on those who did her wrong.

This one nearly slipped my radar. If not for a recommendation by a family member, I would have missed out on one of the better films of the year.

Winslet delivers a stellar performance as Myrtle ‘Tilly’ Dunnage. The shunned schoolgirl reformed and ready for revenge. As soon as she stepped onto the station platform, dressed like Mildred Pierce with her sewing machine in tow, you knew you were in for a treat.

I never expected to enjoy this at all BUT it was quirky, funny and engaging. Highly recommend. We join Tilly as she returns home to try and piece together the reasons why she was forced out of the small dust bowl in the first place.

The mystery behind her past helped break up the (surprisingly enjoyable) Desperate Housewives style melodrama in the community. BUT as well as having to deal with the locals, Tilly must also face her mother, Molly (Judy Davis).

Davis played the reclusive and volatile Molly superbly. She was a monster. Abusive and ignorant in one moment. Troubled, neglected and lost, the next. Davis and Winslet were a great pairing. Their fractious relationship certainly spiced things up as you soon realise that maybe Tilly wasn’t the only one traumatized by the incident. The more we delve in their troubled past, the more you feel for them.

Tilly’s dressmaking inevitably makes her the talk of the town as her dresses transform their owners. Changing how they are perceived. It made for interesting and comical viewing, most notably with Gertrude’s (Sarah Snook) transformation. It was unexpected but not surprising. The glamourous women strutting around the town was brilliant. Especially when the town looked like it had been plucked straight out of a Western.

I loved how colourful the characters were in the community. Hugo Weaving was superb as the flamboyant Sergeant Farrat. The man with a passion for fashion. The lecherous hunchback pharmacist Percival Almanac played repulsively by Barry Otto. I could go on.

Liam Hemsworth was very good as Tilly’s inevitable love interest Teddy McSwiney. It was good to see him NOT involved in a Hunger Games love triangle and have the chance to act. He had great chemistry with Winslet and they made a good pair.

I have to agree with Mark Kermode’s review that this film must have contained every genre bar science fiction. In fact, it almost came off like a Western. The little nods were fantastic. Especially when a rival dressmaker is brought into the mix to challenge the ‘gunslinger’.

However, the pace did drag and by the 90 minute marker things were starting to meander along. The unraveling was interesting enough BUT the big reveal was a little disappointing after all the lies and deceit. I expected something a little darker and more dramatic. I also expected Shane Bourne’s Evan Pettyman to be more of a villain. For all the talk from the town about the man, he didn’t live up to the hype. But then again, who does?

Despite being watchable, I did start to wonder where there was all going. BUT thankfully, the film took an unexpected change in direction. Delightfully dark, touching and macabre with everything coming to a head for a thrilling and satisfying finale.

I was pleasantly surprised. The Dressmaker was a breath of fresh air in the drudge of regurgitated rehashes and remakes filling up the film schedules.

It may not have been perfect BUT great characters, a fresh take on an old story, lots of humour and a whole load of quirkiness makes this one to put on the list.

3.5/5