Andrew Garfield, Charlie Hunnam, Desmond T. Doss, Fantasy, Guy Ritchie, Hacksaw Ridge, James McAvoy, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, M. Night Shyamalan, Mel Gibson, Previews, Psychological thriller, Split, Trailers, True story, War
If you don’t know who Desmond T. Doss was, then prepare to be amazed. The trailer for Hacksaw Ridge introduces us to a man whose pacifist leanings led to his being the only non-weapons carrying member of the US Army during World War II, and who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery and courage in rescuing over seventy-five men during the Battle of Okinawa. It’s an incredible tale, and judging from the trailer this could very well be in contention for a whole slew of awards once it goes on general release in November 2016. Advance word is overwhelmingly positive, and many people who’ve seen the movie already are praising its director, Mel Gibson – making his first movie behind the camera since Apocalypto (2006) – for the way in which he presents both the intensity and horror of the conflict on Okinawa, and Doss’s personal faith and its effect on the men around him. Andrew Garfield looks to have finally found a movie that allows him to step up to the mark in terms of his acting ability, and there’s advance word that Vince Vaughn (seen briefly here as a drill sergeant) gives his best performance yet in a movie. If all this early praise is to be believed, then this could prove to be one of the finest war movies ever made, and a reminder that Gibson, whatever his personal problems in recent years, is still a damn fine movie maker.
The latest from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan, Split looks like an attempt at making a disturbing psychological thriller based around the notion that a kidnapper with multiple personalities – 23, in fact – is doing so at the behest of the strongest, most fearful personality of the lot… the Beast. It remains to be seen if Shyamalan can pull off this particular storyline with anything like the degree of credibility it needs (and having James McAvoy playing the central character, Kevin(!), will certainly help his chances), or if the mechanics of the narrative will require McAvoy to shift personalities at too rapid a speed for things to remain plausible. This being Shyamalan, it’s hard to tell, but what can be discerned from Split‘s first trailer is that he’s going for a taut, gripping viewing experience, the kind he hasn’t really tried before, and one without any supernatural elements either. It’s easy to dismiss Shyamalan as a writer/director, but The Visit (2015) was a welcome semi-return to form, and he’s such a strong, distinctive, visually arresting director that it’s about time his skills as a writer were able to once again match those he has as a director.
At first sight, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword looks like a spirited romp through an alternative Arthurian timeline, one where the fabled King begins life as a child of the streets, but still ends up removing Excalibur from its stone and ruling a kingdom. And while there’s nothing remotely wrong with the idea of retelling the Arthur legend in such a way, what is obviously, clearly, undoubtedly, unquestionably and visibly wrong here is the way in which that idea has been executed. Guy Ritchie may be a very talented director, and he may have assembled a very talented cast – Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Eric Bana, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, and, erm, David Beckham – but the tone of the movie is plainly off by a country mile. Martial arts fight sequences, modern day humour, large-scale battle sequences straight out of the Peter Jackson Middle Earth Playbook, and a visual style that apes any number of other fantasy movies made in recent years; all these aspects and more make the movie feel derivative and lacking in originality. While it’s evidently been created with the intention of being one of 2017’s must-see tentpole movies, here’s a prediction: come next March we’ll all be asking the same question, “Why, Guy, why?”