Posts Tagged ‘Ben O’Toole’

Terror at the Algiers

Detroit

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Cast: John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore, Jack Reynor, Hannah Murray, Kaitlyn Dever, John Krasinski, Anthony Mackie, Ben O’Toole, Jennifer Ehle

Oscar winning director of The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow comes with an impressive resume of films including Zero Dark Thirty. In her latest film with screenwriting partner Mark Boal Detroit, they viscerally tackle police brutality and racial tension in Motown, once the centre for the American automobile industry.

Detroit features a cleverly cast group of emerging young actors including British stars John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Will Poulter (The Revenant), while director Bigelow dissects in vivid and intense detail a murderous incident at the Algiers Motel on the night of the 25th July 1967.

Bigelow goes beyond racial polarities and cinematically retells a terrible incident whereby a young group of African American men were terrorized by White police men at the Algiers Motel headed by the sadistic Krauss excellently played by Will Poulter in one of his most prolific onscreen roles.

The group of African American singers headed up by Larry played by Algee Smith are equally traumatized by the lengthy incident when all they wanted to do was establish their singing group The Dramatics hoping to raise a similar celebrity status to The Supremes as they attempt to perform in downtown Detroit when a riot causes the show to be cancelled.

This was the Midwest in 1967. The American civil rights movement was in full swing as was the deployment of troops in the infamous war in Vietnam. American society was transforming exponentially.

Detroit is an extremely important film about visual identification and racial representation made pertinent by the ongoing debate about whether director Kathryn Bigelow as a white female director is the right person to be retelling the horrific Algiers incident whereby white policemen play the death game on the group of young African American men and taunt them because they are courting two young white prostitutes Julie played by Hannah Murray and Karen played by Kaitlyn Dever.

The three policemen responsible for the incident are Demens played by Jack Reynor (Macbeth, Sing Street), Flynn played by Ben O Toole (Hacksaw Ridge) and the aforementioned Krauss. John Boyega plays Dismukes a young African American man working two jobs one in a an automobile factory and the other as a night security guard who stumbles on the events at the Algiers when Carl played by Jason Mitchell shoots a toy gun at the National guard in the midst of inner city race riots.

What stood out in Detroit was how all the characters both Black and White are affected by a heightened level of inherent violence and male aggression, something which Bigelow highlights and Detroit suggests that this aggression is endemic in American society regardless of skin colour.

Framed against the incident is also the emotional story of Larry’s refusal after the event and subsequent trial to continue performing in The Dramatics at downtown nightspots where mostly white policeman can enjoy Motown music.

The racial signifiers in Detroit are complex but the narrative tension is brilliantly executed with a resonance and skill rarely seen in contemporary cinema. Detroit is an important film for everyone to watch, contributing to a cinematic study of race relations internationally and raises pertinent questions of visual representation.

Detroit gets a film rating of 8 out of 10. Highly recommended viewing for those that enjoy intelligently told docudramas about the turbulent 1960’s in America.

Conscientious Saviour

Hacksaw Ridge

Director: Mel Gibson

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Luke Bracey, Sam Worthington, Rachel Griffiths, Hugo Weaving, Vince Vaughn, Milo Gibson, Ben O’Toole

Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ director Mel Gibson has assembled a mostly Australian cast in the World War II drama Hacksaw Ridge about the Virginia conscientious objector Desmond Doss who refused to bear arms during the war against the Japanese. Doss is played by Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) in one of his best acting roles yet.

Hacksaw Ridge opens in The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia in the early 1930’s where young Doss and his brother are constantly engaged in fraternal rivalry while their drunken father Tom played by Hugo Weaving (The Dressmaker) mourns the loss of his friends in the Great War and beats their mother Bertha played by Rachel Griffiths (Muriel’s Wedding).

As a practicing Seventh Day Adventist, Desmond from a young age takes a vow against violence yet is compelled to join the army soon after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbour. His romantic life is heightened when he meets Nurse Dorothy Schutte, a wonderful supporting role played by the gorgeous Teresa Palmer (Point Break, I am Number Four) which he soon proposes to.

While the first act of Hacksaw Ridge is taken up with establishing a credible back story of Desmond Doss, his religious beliefs, family and brief courtship, it’s really the second act of the film that captures audience’s attention as Doss undergoes basic military training under the supervision of Sgt Howell played by Vince Vaughn (Into The Wild, The Internship) and Captain Glover played by British actor Sam Worthington (Avatar, Clash of the Titans).

When it comes to target practice, the rest of the soldiers including a handsome Smitty Ryker played by Luke Bracey (The November Man) and Lucky Ford played by Gibson’s son Milo Gibson are all eager to take up arms to defend their country, while Doss completely refuses to hold a rifle on the grounds that he is a conscientious objector.

After a military inquiry into whether Doss can still serve in the armed forces without bearing arms, the action swiftly moves into the third act, the dreaded battle sequence at Hacksaw Ridge, on the island of Okinawa, a battle so gruesome that many of his fellow soldiers are killed instantly as the ruthless Japanese attack the Americans without restraint.

Director Gibson excels in the battle sequences of Hacksaw Ridge as a combination of frenetic sound editing, utter brutality and emotional tension is vividly captured as the soldier bravely battle a more sophisticated and disciplined opponent. As the battle for Hacksaw Ridge continues, many American soldiers are left wounded, easy prey for the bayonets of the Japanese soldiers.

Doss in this terrifying battleground questions his own convictions and has a crisis of faith amidst bullets whizzing past him and bodies rotting in shallow graves.

Hacksaw Ridge was indeed a vicious battle of attrition, but Doss realizes that if he can save as many wounded American soldiers as possible then perhaps the American military might recognize his true valour and bravery.

In terms of recreating one of the most gruesome battles of the Pacific Theatre of World War II, Hacksaw Ridge is an excellent film comparable to similar war classics like Steven Spielberg’s Oscar winning Saving Private Ryan and Oliver Stone’s Platoon.

Historically accurate, Hacksaw Ridge superbly retells the unbelievable story of Desmond Doss, the first Conscientious Objector who was in a battle and received the Medal of Honour without firing a single shot. This is highly recommended viewing and judging by its critical claim, Hacksaw Ridge will have a cult following for lovers of genuine war films.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desmond_Doss

 

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