A double bill at the cinema.
And you may be wondering what connects these two films. It could be their use of hand held footage, point of view shots, or good acting, but truth be told, the only connection was the fact myself and my boyfriend couldn’t decide what film we would prefer to see. So we watched both.
Let’s begin with Split.
When the trailer for Split first dropped, I knew I didn’t want to see it. I knew straight away I wouldn’t be impressed and I would leave knowing I could have wrote a much better script. And, yes, I did leave feeling that way but I was tricked by the many critics on Twitter. “That ending! The twist!” they would write. I felt I may have been too harsh in my initial thoughts, so finally gave into the pressure and witnessed Split for myself.
The acting was impressive by most individuals. Anya Taylor-Joy is an ever growing talent and good things are only going to come from her. Haley Lu Richardson also impressed me with her realist character, however Jessica Sula let the girls down. To be fair, she has much less acting experience than her peers but her character was entirely unbelievable. Much like, in my opinion, James McAvoy. I knew from the trailer that this film would have agents fighting over the main character as it could easily show the full potential of their client – and truth be told, McAvoy was impressive. However, I just wish that the different personalities that he was given were more interesting. The three main personalities the audience meet are Dennis (who is utterly boring), Patricia (who is equally poor) and Hedwig (who is just uncomfortable to watch). These parts are incredibly different to anything McAvoy has performed before but I’m not certain if this is for the better.
Warning, spoilers in the next paragraph!
I’ve heard many people complaining about this film. It puts mental illness in a bad light, it isn’t realistic and it makes these disorders seem like superpowers. And, on some level, I do agree. I’m not entirely sure if I understood the end of the film, but in my opinion, it seemed to say that self harm and abuse makes a person beautiful. The main female lead was “broken” and “pure”. I felt I was being told that you are only worth something if you have something tragic in your past or have suffered. This, in my opinion, is such a strange justification for characters’ motives and drive. Also, what if Casey didn’t have any marks on her body to prove that she was abused and “broken”? She still has a tragic past but she has no proof of it. Is she any less broken if she has no physical proof?
Furthermore, I felt cheated. The end of this film makes no sense if you have not seen Unbreakable (2000). It was like M. Night Shyamalan had tricked us all to watch a new and exciting movie when, in reality, he was just setting up for another film. It felt like a spin-off villan’s backstory that failed to make any real impression on the audience.
To put it simply: I’m glad my boyfriend payed for it so I didn’t have to.
Now onto Hacksaw Ridge.
The opening to this film completely let it down. I failed to see the importance of seeing Desmond Doss’ childhood with his brother. There was no need for it as the reason for Doss not touching a gun or being violent was revealed later in the film. Furthermore, starting with the battlefield, then to cut back 18 years or so, then to only flash forward 16 years again, it was completely unnecessary and ruined the flow of the film.
However, this is possibly the only problem I have with the film. Mel Gibson did a fantastic job creating Doss’ story. After the opening blunder, I was lured into a false sense of security. There was Doss, an adorably awkward young man, who is painfully smitten by his true love, Dorothy. It started as if it was a love story – Doss leaving for the army and promising to come back safe. It was ticking all the boxes for a hormonal teenage girl.
Then, Doss arrives at the army training camp. Vince Vaughn does a fantastic job at being the strict yet hilarious Sergeant Howell. I found myself giggling, smiling and slowly being drawn in by the film’s charm.
And then, BOOM.
Literally, boom. I felt how the young men must have felt. Being told of the war through rose tinted glasses, being made to feel immortal in their uniforms, having a laugh at camp then, boom. The battlefield. Much like Saving Private Ryan (1998), Gibson doesn’t hold back. Within the first few beats of the battlefield scene I had already witnessed people loose legs, intestines and brains. I was physically repulsed by the action and I think this is what the film achieves the most. It truly shows the horror and makes you feel the emotions which is amplified for Doss as he has no weapon to defend himself with.
Yet, I felt the film was trying to make me feel angry towards the Japanese. When they surrendered (which shouldn’t be a spoiler, cause like, history) I didn’t feel a sense of victory. The war was so utterly brutal, with both sides loosing hundreds of men, being slaughtered as if they were nothing but numbers. I merely felt relieved when the Japanese surrendered because it meant I could finally stop holding in my tears and relax.
Obviously this film is based on true story and is never 100% accurate (I mean, Doss was a cool guy but no one kicks a grenade though), but what touched me the most was to see footage of the real Desmond Doss at the end of the film. To finally see the man himself was a beautiful end to such a full on, heavy film. Hearing him describe some of the events in the movie was also a fantastic element. Overall, there couldn’t have been a better ending.
You may have guessed that Hacksaw Ridge was my favourite out of the two films. Hacksaw Ridge started with an advantage though as it is a true story and absolutely anyone can be inspired by Desmond Doss. As a Christian, I found myself in awe of this man who has so much faith in God – so much so that he went into battle without a gun to protect himself. That is something I know not every believer would do.
But it’s not just Christians this film inspires. My boyfriend who has no relationship with the church or God was left stunned with Doss’ bravery. The unbelievable faith that one individual can have in an invisible force is mind blowing and I believe everyone is left speechless after this film.
So, in conclusion, if you are faced with a similar decision as myself and my boyfriend, don’t spend all your money – just go for Hacksaw Ridge instead.