It’s been 10 years since we’ve seen a Mel Gibson directed movie. The last time we saw Gibson star in a movie, it was the awful 2011 Jodie Foster film The Beaver.
Gibson claims he’s been sober for 10 years. That wouldn’t explain him doing The Beaver (oh snap!). It also doesn’t explain why the cast of this movie talked about going to bars with Gibson; or why six years ago, he called his girlfriend and threatened to kill her, beat her, and hoped that she got “raped by a pack of ni**ers!”
Now, since a lot of critics attacked Nate Parker (The Birth of a Nation) for his involvement in a rape while he was at Penn State (and the latest report is that he also flashed a trainer)…we have to equally abhor Gibson. In fact, I contend we should be more outraged by Gibson. He’s said anti-Semitic things on countless occasions. He’s used racial slurs, he’s talked negatively about homosexuals, and he’s been insulting to women cops. And…let’s not forget the nasty things he said to his girlfriend. In one recorded phone call, aside from threatening violence on her, he said she should just “smile and bl** him!”
Yet Hollywood doesn’t seem to shun him like they should. Whoopi Goldberg claims he isn’t a racist, because he is her friend (yet she thinks Donald Trump is, and he’s got African-American friends and people that work for him). Foster is a great fan of his, yet I’m guessing if all these rants he’s made at everyone else, were directed at lesbians…she might feel different.
But hey…Roman Polanski raped a 13-year-old girl and fled the country, and Hollywood stars still clammer to work with him. So if nobody else seems to be bothered by all this disgusting behavior…I mean, as I write this, Gibson is on Stephen Colbert saying that “…one moment of ranting in the back of a police car should not define my life.” The problem is…it wasn’t just that one moment. For example, actress Winona Ryder said at a party years ago, he asked if she was a Jew. When she said she was, he told her to stay away from the ovens. Again, if this is the guy for you, go see the movie. Now…I’ll step off my ranting soap box, and get to the review.
This is the true story of Desmond Doss, who is a Seventh Day Adventist and conscientious objector. He served as a medic during the bloody Battle of Okinawa, singlehandedly rescuing 75 men, all while refusing to carry a gun and shoot anyone. He’s the first, and one of a handful, to be a conscientious objector that’s awarded the Medal of Honor. The closest Doss gets to handling a weapon, is when he (played by Andrew Garfield), smacks a grenade away, and kicks one, as if he were Spider-Man again.
As a director, Gibson really needs to lighten up on the religious elements. He also needs a bit more subtlety (for example, a sign in a house that says “Thou Shalt Not Kill”). Often times, the strings came up in the score in rather annoying ways. Each month, a movie is released with a score that feels it should tell you how to feel, instead of letting the actors do that.
My girlfriend and I were grossed out by being bombarded by all the limbs being blown off. There were about seven scenes that showed mangled or missing legs, and the camera giving us every detail. There were four scenes showing bodies on fire. We had at least three scenes with rats eating dead bodies. It’s like Gibson gets off on the gore (remember Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ). And we’ve seen a lot of this in other, better war films (Saving Private Ryan, Full Metal Jacket, and Black Hawk Down, to name three). The movie was also filled with many cliches. Enough that it’s hard to call this the great film others are saying it is.
We meet Desmond as a boy, who is fighting his brother. He pulls out a brick and smashes him on the head. Fearing his brother might die, he vows never to be violent again.
The brothers don’t have the best childhood. They have an abuse father (Hugo Weaving), who has PTSD and grieves the soldiers he lost while fighting in World War I.
As a teenager, we watch Desmond court nurse Dorothy (Teresa Palmer). This is where things get a little too corny. Desmond constantly has this goofy smile on his face, even when they go to a movie and he sits there staring at her instead of the movie screen. It’s not romantic, it’s just odd.
Just as things start to heat up with Dorothy, he enlists. His brother has enlisted earlier, and this angers their father.
The boot camp scenes are cliched as well, but they’re enjoyable; aside from the idiotic fact that a guy named Tex is lassoing. It seems each soldier needs to be in the process of doing something that we can identify them by when they’re covered in blood and mud later (although my girlfriend and I still had problems with that).
The casting of Vince Vaughn as the Sergeant is perfect. He reminded me a bit of Lou Gossett in An Officer and a Gentleman and Christopher Walken in Biloxi Blues. They can be scary and intimidating while yelling at the soldiers, but you can also see they care about their men and are just trying to make them better soldiers. It’s a shame that during the battle scenes, he’s given goofy lines like “We’re not in Kansas anymore!”
Sam Worthington, who had an awkwardness in Avatar and The Debt that worked, is surprisingly effective as a commanding officer that’s trying to drum Doss out of the service.
Some critics have complained about the religious, and faith-based elements of the movie. I had no problem with that, aside from a few scenes. One of those showed a stretcher with Doss being lowered, and it was shot from below to make it look like an angel from heaven. It felt rather amateurish.
The movie got repetitive and unnecessarily gory. Gibson needs to cool it on the excesses. And when three different people apologize to Doss, it feels like overkill. Perhaps in real life, Gibson could’ve apologized to three different groups he offended. Instead, he just blames it all on the alcohol.
The movie also lacks heart, although it ends with the real Doss talking during the closing credits. That was a nice touch.
Maybe I’m just burned out on violent war movies. We’ve seen so many.
This gets 2 ½ stars out of 5, simply based on the entertainment value I got from it.
It would be nice of the public at large decided…they’d be conscientious objectors to Mel Gibson. That’s unlikely with the good reviews and the bloodlust of audiences.