Hacksaw Ridge

Director: Mel Gibson (2017) BBFC cert: 15

Disgraced star Mel Gibson battles his way back to career success with this storming Second World War drama which has been nominated for six Oscars.

Gibson’s well publicised personal problems seemed to have shot his Hollywood popularity to pieces. But having spent time out of the firing line of bad publicity, this is a rollicking return to the filmmaking frontline for the devout Catholic.

The Oscar winning director of 1995’s Braveheart takes a barely believable story of real life heroism and transforms it into an apocalyptic account of faith under fire.

In the first half Gibson provides a treacle coated view small town America, and in the second he blasts us with the brimstone of battle.

Brit actor Andrew Garfield carries the film with open faced charm and innocence as Desmond Doss. Despite being a pacifist Christian, the conscientious objector won the US Medal of Honour in the war against the Japanese.

After a Tom Sawyer-ish upbringing in rural Virginia, Desmond becomes engaged to a pretty nurse called Dorothy. Teresa Palmer and Garfield share a sweet rapport in sentimental scenes which seem to last too long. But the astute Gibson is simply softening us up for the fireworks to follow.

Desmond signs up as a combat medic but he refuses to learn how to shoot. On the Pacific island of Okinawa, the platoon buckle under a blistering barrage. The combat rivals the famous ferocity of the opening scene in Spielberg’s war classic, Saving Private Ryan (1998).

With Desmond’s suffering persecution for his beliefs, his air of martyrdom and determination to succeed in an overwhelmingly hostile environment, it’s hard not to read his journey as an allegory for Gibson’s personal tribulations.

And rather than being a plea by the director for absolution for his misdemeanours, this is Gibson forgiving Hollywood for casting him out. And he does it with a superbly crafted, finely acted and tremendously entertaining film.

@ChrisHunneysett

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Director: Marc Webb (2014)

A swinging good time is guaranteed in this superhero sequel which comes fully charged with a shocking finale.

During the many amped–up action sequences, the swooping, dipping camera captures the dynamic thrills of the original comic artwork.

They crackle with humour which Brit actor Andrew Garfield supplies through his upbeat charm and gift for physical comedy.

He reminds us how much exuberant giddy fun can be had as a web-spinning, crime–fighting superhero.

Especially when he’s up against an enjoyably preposterous super-villain called Electro (Jamie Foxx).

Garfield has less fun as alter ego Peter Parker and spends a lot time out of costume mooning over his sassy girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).

However the real-life couple share a hugely likeable and engaging on–screen chemistry.

Parker’s dramatic declarations of love bode ill for the future of their relationship, especially as Gwen surprises him by applying to study at Oxford University here in Blighty.

Spider–Man’s friendly neighbourhood persona mask hides Parker’s emotional pain caused by being abandoned by his parent as a boy.

While he’s making a discovery that leads to the truth about their death, a lonely electrical engineer Max Dillon (Foxx) develops an obsession with Spider-Man.

Meanwhile the new head of Oscorp Harry Osborn (a pale and interesting Dane DeHaan) is suffering from a genetic disease and believes Spider–Man’s blood will save him from an early death.

An ignorance of health and safety regulations and a giant vat of electric eels leads to  a workplace accident – transforming Dillon into the glowing blue-skinned Electro.

After an electrifying confrontation in Times Square, Electro is locked up and blames Spider–Man. Osborn frees him and together they join forces to track down Spidey.

Brit guitarist Johnny Marr contributes to the high voltage soundtrack – appropriately he was once in band called Electronic.