Tag Archives: Andrew Garfield

“HACKSAW RIDGE” Review (✫✫✫✫)

Convicted by belief.

I don’t believe in God anymore.

The first time I heard those words uttered from one of my closest friends’ lips, I was shaken. Growing up in a deeply spiritual household, I’ve always held the notion that God was quietly watching over everything. The thought that he didn’t even exist truly frightened me. To me, it was as if hearing love doesn’t exist.

But as my friend continued his testimony, my shock turned into sadness as I slowly realized where he was coming from. Fighting in the Iraq war, he saw things nobody should ever see, not even soldiers. He saw his friends blow up right in front of his face. People he called his brothers, suddenly turned into small, bloody piles of meat laying on top of the dirt. He saw women and children killed daily, and in turn, he also saw women and children kill others. He does not exaggerate when he says he saw a very real picture of hell, and at the end of it all he looked at me and asked “How can a God see that and let it exist?”

I’ve never agreed with him, but I’ve always understood where he came from and why he held the position that he did. I’m sure he looks at other war films, such as Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Down, and is tragically reminded of the horrifying images he saw half a world away. I can watch a movie. He only needs to watch his nightmares.

I would like this same friend of mine to watch Hacksaw Ridge. It is a powerful, emboldening film, one that does not shortchange the horror of war, but equally does not shortchange the power of belief either. This is a movie that does more than strengthen the soldier’s spirit. It strengthens the human spirit.

Based on an incredible true story, Hacksaw Ridge tells the story of Desmond Doss (Portrayed by Andrew Garfield), a combat medic during WWII that saved the lives of over 75 American soldiers during the battle of Okinawa. That much I already knew. What I didn’t know was that he exhausted and nearly killed himself saving most of those men in one single night. The number of lives that he saved is impressive enough on its own. The fact that he did it within a 12-hour period makes his story seem impossible.

And yet, Desmond Doss did exist, he did save 75 soldiers, and he did do all of it in one night. Even more impressive is the fact that he did so without arming himself with a single weapon. Yes, dear reader: he was a conscientious objector, and he is the only war hero in history to have earned that title alongside a Medal of Honor.

To try and verbalize the feelings that the film emotes is impossible. Like other great historical epics, such as Schindler’s List or 12 Years A Slave, it pulls emotion out of you to the point where you don’t feel like you’re watching a movie anymore, and are instead completely immersed in its harsh, uncompromised reality. It’s easy to relate to Desmond Doss because you’re not experiencing the film through the third-person perspective as the viewer: you’re experiencing it firsthand as Doss, seeing the same things that he does while reacting to them in real time.

Mel Gibson is no stranger to this sort of storytelling. His previous films, including Apocalypto, Passion of the Christ, and the Oscar-winning Braveheart, each threw our heroes through impossible, monumental, life-changing events that personally challenged each of them as those movies went on. Hacksaw Ridge is a welcome addition to his incredibly impactful filmography. Like each of those films, Hacksaw Ridge finds tragedy in a real-life subject, hammers it mercilessly at our hero, only to see him overcome it with every grit of his teeth, every sweat pouring down his brow, and every grip of his nails digging into the dirt.

The fact that this film exists, and that it is done as well as it is, is a testament to Gibson’s skill as a filmmaker. What is most impressive is the fact that this person existed in real life, and that he really did the things we saw him do on screen. How could this have possibly happened? I’m a believer, and I don’t believe the things I saw on the screen. It’s so far-fetching to think about, but the film is done so vividly well that you can’t see it as anything but real. The film exists in this weird space where you want to question everything you’re told, but then as you watch it, you suddenly silence your questions and your disbelief.

You stop doubting. You start believing.

Garfield deserves equal credit in bringing this man’s story to life. Yes, Gibson is the director in the chair, and his master strokes as an artist is what allows this film to live and breathe. Yet, a movie is nothing without its character, and Garfield performs his role brilliantly. Imagine a character pulled right out of the frames of any other Christian film, professing his status as a believer, hit with some monumental tragedy, then questioning himself and the things that he was raised to believe.

Now throw that character through the gritty, violent, gory battlefields akin to any horror movie, and watch as he reacts to everything he’s witnessing in the moment. That is the role Garfield has to play, and he does it convincingly as his character is scared, fearful, chaotic-minded, and alone. Yet, there is also an earnest courage and bravery to him that feels equally real, and when it overcomes his fear and his sadness, that is when the film is at its most powerful. Garfield is simply stunning in this role. If he does not at least get an Oscar nomination for this performance, the Academy will have truly lost all authenticity as an awards ceremony

To elaborate on this film any further would invite the threat of spoiling it. Go and see this movie. I repeat: GO AND SEE THIS MOVIE. There are films out there that excite us, thrill us, depress us, madden us, scare us, and empower us. Hacksaw Ridge changes us. Even if you do not share the same religious views as Doss, you share the same spiritual views, which is the spiritual power of overcoming.

I don’t know if Hacksaw Ridge will change my friend’s view on God. It probably won’t. But it might change his view on life, on the resilience of the human spirit and the things that it can accomplish. If Hacksaw Ridge doesn’t bring my friend to God, then I pray that it at least brings him to hope.

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“THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2” Review (✫✫✫✫)

Don’t worry: it’s not “Spider-man 3.”

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the standard of a superhero movie that everyone should aspire to. It’s exciting, action-packed, gut-bustlingly hilarious and emotionally involving to a point where I was surprised at how personal and genuine it really was. “Amazing,” in fact, is not a good enough word to describe this movie — “Superior” is more like it.

Taking place after Curt Connors, aka The Lizard, attacked New York City, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 shows Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) as he continues to adapt to his new life as the spectacular Spider-Man. He’s just about to graduate, he’s getting a job as a freelance photographer at the Daily Bugle and his relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is going strong. Being Spider-Man has its perks and its downfalls, and this is a rare high point in Peter’s life.

Elsewhere, however, dark forces develop under Oscorp. Engineer Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) gets electrocuted by bio-electric eels, transforming him into the chaotic villain known as Electro. Russian mobster Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti) gets equipped with a fully armed mechanical suit, becoming the Rhino. And Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), an old friend of Peter’s, returns with a dark secret that he’s hiding from everyone.

That makes three villains in total for this sequel. Concerned? You should be. The last time we had three villains in a Spider-Man movie, that film was Spider-Man 3. I’m never going to get that image of Tobey Maguire doing the Elvis Presley-stride out of my head, ever. Does anyone have any hydrochloric acid I can pour into my eyes?

Well, you can rest easy, fellow web heads. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not Spider-Man 3. Quite the contrary, actually. This is a significantly better Spider-Man than its predecessor, a film that bounces in between multiple tones and genres all at once and does all of them brilliantly.

An early fight scene in the film, for instance, is as wacky and funny as a Looney Tunes cartoon, with Spidey struggling to grab all these plutonium canisters off of a moving truck like he’s in the middle of a pinball table. In another scene, he’s in the middle of an action sequence so exhilarating and mind-blowing that it could have come straight from a video game cut scene. In another moment, him and Gwen are dealing with a real emotional struggle neither quite know how to handle, something that has haunted Peter since the first movie.

That’s what makes this Spider-Man better from the other one: It has many tones, story lines, characters and emotions that it’s juggling all at once. That’s a weighty order, and not one to handle easily. Yet director Marc Webb handles the challenge excellently, delivering just as relevant a character drama as he does an exciting action movie.

The cast members have expert chemistry with each other, but that should be expected because of their exceptional performances in the first film. We already expect Garfield and Stone to be perfect with each other because they were nearly inseparable in the first round of the series. It’s more efficient, then, to focus on the newer cast members: Jamie Foxx and Dane DeHaan. 

Foxx is electric as the high-voltage villain, pun intended. At first he’s just a socially silly and awkward scientist, similar to Jim Carrey’s version of the Riddler in Batman Forever. When he goes through his transformation into Electro, however, everything changes. He becomes an angry and malicious supervillain, a man who is mad and frustrated at everything and just wants to kill everyone, then jump start their heart just so he can kill them again. DeHaan, especially, was desperate and conniving as Harry Osborn, a menacing and starkly different Harry than the James Franco version we are used to in the original trilogy.

Both of these villains serve a pivotal role to Peter’s development. Electro is the physical conflict Peter has to face in the movie; Harry is the emotional one.

There’s another concern comic book fans will have about this movie, and that is the same concern they have with Captain America: The Winter Soldier: We’ve already read the comics. We already know the twists that are coming up, and as a result, our reaction is dulled when that moment comes in the movie.

Let me make a reassuring statement for my fellow comic book lovers: I could see the twist in this movie come from a mile away. Yet when I saw it, I reacted as if I was witnessing Peter’s tragic story for the first time.

There are apparent concerns to have with this movie. The multiple story strands are worrisome, the overload of villains can be an issue and Max Dillion’s character is far too silly to fully accept as being realistic.

Does that change The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s influence, or for that matter, its effect on the audience? The answer is no, it does not. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is still a great sequel, an excellent expansion to the Spider-Man universe and a more-than-welcome development to Peter’s never-ending growth as Spider-Man. I’m tempted to compare it to the legendary Spider-Man 2, although I’m not sure if it’s quite there yet. One thing is for sure, however: it’s head-over-heels over Spider-Man 3. If Webb keeps this up, he just might surpass Sam Raimi’s original trilogy.

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“THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN” Review (✫✫✫1/2)

♪Does whatever a spider can♪

If I were to have a reboot of one of my favorite superhero films made just ten years ago, The Amazing Spider-man would be that reboot. What can I say about the film that will accurately do it justice? That it is exciting, suspenseful and displays visual effects that leaves the old one in the dust? That the writing is just as acute and skilled as the direction is? That Andrew Garfield has perfect chemistry with Emma Stone? No. Instead, I will describe the film by simply using just one word: amazing.

When Peter Parker was a young, bright-minded child, he lived in the content and warmth of his parents home. When his house was broken into, his father’s office searched through in every crook and cranny, his father Richard (Campbell Scott) quickly packs a suitcase, drives Peter to his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May’s (Sally Field) house, and tells Peter him and his mother will be gone for a while. A few days later, the plane that Peter’s parents were on was reported to have crashed. They didn’t make it out.

Twelve years later, Peter (Now played by Andrew Garfield), now in his teen years, is in high school, gets picked on by the local bullies every now and then, and has a crush on this pretty blonde-haired genius named Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). While in the basement one day helping his Uncle unclog the water pipe, Peter makes an interesting discovery: his father’s briefcase, filled with notes, theories, and algorithms Peter has never seen before. While looking and studying the notes his father left behind, Peter realizes everything points to one scientific company in particular: Oscorp.

From there, Peter snoops around, goes into a lab he wasn’t supposed to go into, a radioactive spider bites him, and well… you probably already know where it goes from there.

If we look at the story, it is on repeat from the first Spider-man. But the repeat isn’t what we care about. The Amazing Spider-man is done with a new style, energy, and enthusiasm to it than the original one was. Funny, I didn’t expect this movie to be as energetic as it is. This film is directed by Mark Webb, who to date, his only directing experience being music videos and the 2009 romantic-comedy 500 Days of Summer. Quite a difference in genres, I know, but Webb handles the transition well. He makes Spider-man as he sees it, as a young man coming out of puberty using his powers for playful, mischievous reasons rather than the heroic acts of courage and responsibility that most heroes are known for. This Spider-man is more jokey and sarcastic than the original one, spitting witty one-liners while arresting a criminal or web swinging past bystanders.

He fuels the action scenes, inspires laughs, and is the source for original entertainment. If Tobey Maguire is the more emotional Spider-man, this Spider-man is the more sporadic and amusing one.

Andrew Garfield does a great job in portraying this Spider-man in a totally different dynamic. His character is definitely different, retorting to puns, jokes, and one-liners that would only result with awkward silences if Tobey Maguire tried to pull off the same thing. Garfield, however, is more talented than a one-dimensional joker. Like any great actor, his character portrays a flurry of emotions, and he portrays all of these emotions well. We can tell exactly when he is troubled or concerned, when he is angered and enraged, when he is happy and content, or when he is saddened and alone. Peter experiences many tragedies in this movie, and Garfield does a good job expressing the emotions for all of them. Emma Stone, equally, is incredible in this movie, providing the film’s beautiful, smart heroine. Together, their chemistry is irreplaceable, and forms a romance that rivals that of the chemistry Maguire and Dunst made in the original Spider-man movies.

Here is, regardless of pre-conceived opinions, a great movie. It is a blockbuster that does a great job balancing in between spectacular action, heartfelt emotion, and genuine humor, all combining into a reboot that makes it not only fun, but unique in its own right.

From a technical perspective, this film has no flaws. It, however, is not about what it did wrong; its a matter of who did it better.

The biggest weakness with The Amazing Spider-man is its release date. This is ten years after the first movie came out, and five years after its most recent one. Why did it need a reboot? It cannot help but bring up the comparison game when you watch this movie. And what happens when you compare things? You recognize which one did things better, and which one did things weaker. In comparison to the old one, The Amazing Spider-man cannot help but look inferior.

But how, exactly? The flaw exists in the writing, dear reader. There are just simply not enough moments in the film that are as emotionally real or relevant as there was in the first two Spider-man movies. Take, for example, the scene in the original Spider-man where Peter’s Uncle Ben dies because Peter did nothing to stop a criminal that ran past him. In the original film, this was a tragic, painful, and heartbroken realization for Peter that it was not the burglar who killed Uncle Ben, but Peter’s inaction and lack of doing the right thing. Here, it’s just on repeat as something that Peter needs to go through in order to become Spider-man. Peter, however, never acknowledges his responsibility in the matter, and neither does he ever even confront the criminal. How, then, does the issue ever become resolved? Answer: it does not. At the end of the film, everything is resolved except for that one specific conflict.

That’s the film’s only real weakness. I don’t want to go on about this weakness, though, because I’d be beating the bush. The main point: The Amazing Spider-man is still utterly fantastic. It is action-packed, suspenseful, energetic, relentless, exciting, humorous, and highly, highly entertaining. The production is all-around strong, the cast is even stronger, and the story is as driven and purposeful as it has ever been, despite a few moments of misplaced emotion. This is a reboot to one of my favorite superhero films of all time, and the surprise is I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel to it in the slightest.

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