"Hell or High Water" is a good movie but not deserving of Best Picture. "Arrival" starts OK-ish but deteriorates into rubbish. La La Land is rubbish throughout. I gave up on "Fences", for while it is a worthy subject and brilliantly acted, it's a stage play – not a movie. "Moonlight" is good but is not the finished article, and I haven't seen "Lion" or "Hidden Figures", so I can't comment.
Back to "Hacksaw Ridge", which is beautifully directed by Mel Gibson. Gibson has been through purgatory, quite rightly, for his rabid anti-Semitic comments and other sociopathic meltdowns. But the academy has judged him on his artistic achievements and put his misdeeds to one side - which is how it should be.
I wonder if they would have been quite so understanding if Mr. Gibson had declared himself a Trump supporter? In the eyes of Hollywood, you can be a racist, and a wife abuser, but not a Republican.
I doubt that Hacksaw Ridge is the war movie most of us expected to see when we sit down to watch it. As a genre, I am not keen on war movies, although there have been some pretty good ones, such as "Platoon", "Saving private Ryan" and "Good Morning Vietnam."
To these, I would definitely add Hacksaw Ridge. It is the true story of Desmond Doss, a deeply religious man who decides to enlist in WW2 because he wants to be a medic and save lives.
We first meet the adult Desmond at his home in Virginia where he saves the life of a man in a road accident which leads him to meet his future wife at the local hospital.
After signing up, his troubles start when he has to go through basic training and he refuses to carry a gun. He is court-martialed and is at the point of being sentenced to years in a military jail when he is granted a last minute reprieve and is allowed to continue his training and go to the war front - without a gun.
The action switches to Hacksaw Ridge, the taking of which will presage the collapse of Okinawa and the ending of the war against the Japanese.
At first derided by his fellow soldiers due to his refusal to bear arms, Desmond is thrust into the front lines of a murderous battle, where many of his comrades are killed or mortally wounded.
The US army is obliged to retreat from the ridge, leaving their wounded behind for the Japanese to kill and mutilate at their leisure.
But they hadn't reckoned on Desmond Doss, who returns to the battlefield time and time again, and under the noses of the Japanese, he succeeds in single-handedly rescuing 75 casualties from certain death.
In later skirmishes on the ridge, he performs more unbelievably heroic rescues, before becoming seriously wounded after he kicks a grenade away to save his comrades from the explosion.
There is much more to this story, and you don' have to be a lover of war movies to appreciate this deeply moving tale. It is actually an anti-war movie because it shows you what war is really all about, stripped of romantic and heroic notions. It shows up close the manner in which war wreaks terrible consequences on the participants – of both sides.
To say that Andrew Garfield is utterly brilliant in the role of Desmond Doss is an understatement, and nobody was more surprised than me to discover he was an Englishman, so convincing is his accent.
There are no bad actors in this movie – From Teresa Palmer, who plays the nurse who becomes Doss's wife, to all the myriad actors who played the members of his family and his comrades (and enemies) in the military.
Gibson has used all his consummate skill and vast experience to show us the horrors of war and what true heroism is all about. We applaud this gallant soldier who was the first man to receive the Medal of Honor – America's highest award for bravery - without ever firing a shot.
We could do with few more like Desmond Doss today. What a wonderful example of simple humanity in these times of unspeakable violence, hedonism and such manic selfishness and self-love that is slowly destroying our cherished beliefs and even civilization itself.
Oscar for Best Actor? It really is impossible to choose between Andrew Garfield and Casey Affleck for the best actor award, (although Affleck will get it), and as far as the Best Picture is concerned, I think maybe "Hacksaw" just has the edge over "Manchester", but I'm sure that the rubbishy "La La Land" will get it.
Go see Hacksaw Ridge – you will be "shocked and awed" and come out feeling a little better than when you went in.