HACKSAW RIDGE–A True Tale, Truly Told

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard

HACKSAW RIDGE is the true story of WWII hero Pfc. Desmond Doss, the first Conscientious Objector to earn the Medal of Honor.

 

hacksaw-ridge-movie-poster-one-man-stayed-2016

 

When Doss was drafted into the US Army during WWII, he chose to serve as a combat medic rather than go to a CO work camp, and he fought for the right to do so without carrying a weapon. During the Battle of Okinawa, the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment. A bloody battle ensued, resulting in heavy casualties driving the Battalion back. Doss refused to seek cover. He carried seventy-five injured men off the fire-swept battlefield and lowered them down the ridge to friendly hands below. HACKSAW RIDGE tracks Doss’s life through his commitment as a Conscientious Objector, his fight to be allowed to serve in combat without bearing arms, and his heroic rescue of seventy-five fellow soldiers.

The production quality of HACKSAW RIDGE is excellent, with award-worthy acting and cinematography.

The talented Andrew Garfield is brilliant as Pfc. Desmond Doss, and Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, and Teresa Palmer are outstanding in their supporting roles. However, the movie is every bit as graphic, and then some, as you would expect from BRAVEHEART producer Mel Gibson. The “R” rating is well-deserved, and people under the age of 17 should not be admitted for good reason. I would also warn veterans about seeing this movie. It does not pull any punches in either the graphics or the audio, and it might be too intense for someone who has seen combat in real life.

 

Doss pulling a man from the battlefield. Image from HACKSAW RIDGE.

Doss pulling a man from the battlefield.
Image from HACKSAW RIDGE.

 

HACKSAW RIDGE does an exceptional job presenting the conflicting-but-legitimate points of view of Doss, his fellow soldiers, and his officers.

Pfc. Desmond Doss was a devout Seventh Day Adventist who refused to touch a firearm or work on Saturdays. The story ably traces how Doss’s religion and home atmosphere solidified his commitment to never touch a weapon while instilling in him a deep sense of duty to serve his country. His faith was inseparable from his character and is portrayed realistically as such in the movie. Equally realistic are the reactions of Doss’s fellow soldiers to his “red lines.” They were suspect of Doss’s religious devotion, wondering if he was actually simply a coward who would get them killed on the battlefield. Doss’s officers were concerned, as well, about sending a man into the field who refused to fight, and they wanted him out. HACKSAW RIDGE gives a balanced and respectful presentation of the competing interests and motivations at work in the situation without over-dramatizing or unrealistically vilifying any of the men involved.

Some reviews have characterized HACKSAW RIDGE as “religious pomp and pornographic violence,” or “war propaganda.”

On the contrary, Doss was a deeply religious man, and religious beliefs were the foundation of his heroism in real life. The movie simply portrays him as such. As for the accusations of “pornographic violence,” I would invite those reviewers to do a tour or two in combat and then get back to us. Regarding the label “war propaganda,” a true tale truly told is not propaganda. HACKSAW RIDGE is true to Desmond Doss’s amazing life story with little dramatic embellishment. Interviews with Doss, his captain, and with soldiers who knew him at the end of the movie confirm the events and the characters as factual.

 

Image from HACKSAW RIDGE. Waiting for Doss to finish his prayers. This was true.

Image from HACKSAW RIDGE.
Waiting for Doss to finish his prayers.
This was true.

 

In fact, the movie HACKSAW RIDGE is not big enough to portray all of Doss’s heroic deeds.

For example, the film shows cargo nets hung from the top of the ridge. What it doesn’t show is that Doss was one of the three men to carry the massive cargo nets up the ridge and mount them there under the nose of the Japanese. (See article below, History vs. Hollywood, for historical picture of Doss with the nets at the top of the ridge.) After the battle wherein Doss brought down all seventy-five casualties on his own, he continued to assist wounded soldiers and to inspire the men in the 1st Battalion to go on to win a foothold on the ridge, even after being wounded by shrapnel and sniper fire. It’s worth reading the full text of his Medal of Honor citation below.

 

Andrew Garfield as Pfc. Desmond Doss Check out those cargo nets on that 400 ft. ridge. Image from HACKSAW RIDGE.

Andrew Garfield as Pfc. Desmond Doss
Check out those cargo nets on that 400 ft. ridge.
Image from HACKSAW RIDGE.

 

In summary, this is a true story well told about a man of faith, whose faith gave him strength to rescue over seventy-five men from the battlefield during one of the bloodiest conflicts of WWII.

Those offended by displays of Christian faith or the horrors of war might find this movie is not for them. I would encourage those people to be open-minded and accepting of diversity and go anyway to learn about genuine historical events and a very real man who deserves an excellent movie. Those who are comfortable with religious conviction and who understand that war is hell will be amazed at the story of war hero Desmond Doss.

I give HACKSAW RIDGE our highest Bayard & Holmes rating, a .44 magnum, with one caveat.

Though the violence is realistic, it is extreme, just as one might expect the Battle of Okinawa to be. With excellent production and outstanding acting, it’s worth paying the prime time price for if you can stand the crowd.

 

 

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

 

President Harry Truman awarding Medal of Honor to Conscientious Objector Desmond Doss public domain, wikimedia commons

President Harry Truman awarding Medal of Honor to
Conscientious Objector Desmond Doss
public domain, wikimedia commons

 

The text of Pfc. Desmond Doss’s Medal of Honor citation speaks for itself, telling the story of his remarkable courage under fire:

“He was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet [120 m] high. As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machinegun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Pfc. Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying all 75 casualties one-by-one to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands. On May 2, he exposed himself to heavy rifle and mortar fire in rescuing a wounded man 200 yards [180 m] forward of the lines on the same escarpment; and 2 days later he treated 4 men who had been cut down while assaulting a strongly defended cave, advancing through a shower of grenades to within 8 yards [7.3 m] of enemy forces in a cave’s mouth, where he dressed his comrades’ wounds before making 4 separate trips under fire to evacuate them to safety. On May 5, he unhesitatingly braved enemy shelling and small arms fire to assist an artillery officer. He applied bandages, moved his patient to a spot that offered protection from small arms fire and, while artillery and mortar shells fell close by, painstakingly administered plasma. Later that day, when an American was severely wounded by fire from a cave, Pfc. Doss crawled to him where he had fallen 25 feet [7.6 m] from the enemy position, rendered aid, and carried him 100 yards [91 m] to safety while continually exposed to enemy fire. On May 21, in a night attack on high ground near Shuri, he remained in exposed territory while the rest of his company took cover, fearlessly risking the chance that he would be mistaken for an infiltrating Japanese and giving aid to the injured until he was himself seriously wounded in the legs by the explosion of a grenade. Rather than call another aid man from cover, he cared for his own injuries and waited 5 hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover. The trio was caught in an enemy tank attack and Pfc. Doss, seeing a more critically wounded man nearby, crawled off the litter; and directed the bearers to give their first attention to the other man. Awaiting the litter bearers’ return, he was again struck, by a sniper bullet while being carried off the field by a comrade, this time suffering a compound fracture of 1 arm. With magnificent fortitude he bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint and then crawled 300 yards [270 m] over rough terrain to the aid station. Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions Pfc. Doss saved the lives of many soldiers. His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty.”

 

For more about Pfc. Desmond Doss and how HACKSAW RIDGE compares to Doss’s real life, see HistoryvsHollywood.com Hacksaw Ridge and Bayard & Holmes article, The Medal of Honor Recipient Who Wouldn’t Fight.

 

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Bayard & Holmes Official Photo

Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney. Her writing partner, Jay Holmes, is an anonymous senior member of the intelligence community and a field veteran from the Cold War through the current Global War on Terror. Together, they are the bestselling authors of the international spy thriller, THE SPY BRIDE.

Watch for their upcoming non-fiction release, CHINA — THE PIRATE OF THE SOUTH CHINA SEA.

 

cover-3-china-the-pirate-of-the-south-china-sea

Keep in touch through updates at Bayard & Holmes Covert Briefing.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes in comments below, at their site, Bayard & Holmes, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or at their email, BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

 

Advertisements

ANTHROPOID — Espionage Legend on the Big Screen

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

ANTHROPOID brings one of history’s legendary espionage events to the big screen – the WWII assassination of SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich by two Czech paratroopers and a few Czech resistance fighters.

 

2016 Aug Anthropoid Movie Poster

 

Heydrich, also known as the Butcher of Prague, was the architect of Hitler’s death camps and third in command after Hitler and Himmler. Jan Kubis (played by Jamie Dornan) and Jozef Gabcik (played by Cillian Murphy) trained for months in the UK and then parachuted into Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. Once in Prague, they met up with the dwindling group of Czech resistance fighters, who helped them plan and execute Operation Anthropoid. Heydrich was the highest ranking Nazi officer assassinated during WWII.

Piper Bayard:

This movie is a symphony compared to a Bourne movie rock concert.

If you’re looking for unrealistic characters who do unrealistic things to thwart unrealistic villains with unrealistic explosions and quippy dialogue, this is not the movie for you.  On the other hand, if you enjoy historically accurate war dramas about real events and real people, then you will likely find ANTHROPOID captivating and informative.

ANTHROPOID thankfully makes no effort to glamorize espionage, war, or the ordinary people made extraordinary by the demands of integrity and circumstance.

Courage falters, equipment fails, and humans make stupid mistakes, while at the same time they rise over and over again with a stubborn courage and devotion to their mission and to the Czechoslovakian people. While historical sources differ on the details, the main events surrounding the assassination are well portrayed.

 

Jamie Dornan as Jan Kubis and Cillian Murphy as Jozef Gabcik

Jamie Dornan as Jan Kubis and
Cillian Murphy as Jozef Gabcik

 

The tension and conflict are well drawn in spite of a script that is at times a bit stiff.

The stakes are clear. There is no doubt that not only are the lives of the Czech resistance fighters on the line, but also the lives of their families and the people of Czechoslovakia. The drama is not manufactured, but rather real, and raw, and tremendous in the fact that in spite of all human fears and failings, Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik carried on and succeeded in one of the greatest assassinations in history.

Jay Holmes:

In the way of disclosure, I must explain that I could not view Anthropoid with the objectivity that a reviewer should always employ.

Though I was not alive at the time of the operation, and I am not of Czech descent, I admire the operatives that conducted the operation, and I have always considered the Nazis to be contemptible. That combination makes it difficult for me to be completely objective in reviewing a movie like ANTHROPOID, but I am happy to share my impressions.

 

The real Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik Image by UK Govt., public domain

The real Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik
Image by UK Govt., public domain

 

Most war movies and action films that depict historic events are created with an emphasis on watchability, and the pace of events, the characters, and the dialogue sacrifice accuracy to make them more fun to watch. ANTHROPOID is not fun to watch, but it is an excellent movie all the same.

I am fairly well read on Operation Anthropoid, and I was once fortunate enough to meet a retired member of British Intelligence that had helped prepare the mission.

It is my impression that the movie ANTHROPOID succeeded in closely portraying the actions and moods of the men and women that were involved in the operation. For me, this made the movie more acceptable. It seems to me that the writer, producer, and actors were perhaps somewhat reverent in their attention to detail and accuracy. The movie may be the best memorial to Operation Anthropoid yet created. As such, I applaud it.

 

Reinhard Heydrich's car after the attack. Image in German Federal Archive, public domain

Reinhard Heydrich’s car after the attack.
Image in German Federal Archive, public domain

 

Interestingly, the process of researching and producing the movie has reawakened the Czech public’s interest in the event.

The Czech Government has now agreed to do forensic work to try to identify bodies from unmarked graves of that period and location to try to locate and rebury the Czech resistance fighters involved in Operation Anthropoid, and give them a proper military burial. I commend the Czech people for pursuing this course. The makers of Anthropoid can be proud that their movie has a tangible result beyond, and more important than, the box office.

Our Rating:

Overall the early reviews of the movie have been tepid. We will depart from the trend and give Anthropoid the Bayard and Holmes .44 magnum – our highest rating.

If the events of WWII and the moral questions surrounding those events matter to you, or if you are interested in raw espionage legend and the feats of real operatives, then you should make the short pilgrimage to see ANTHROPOID. Enjoy the symphony.

 

 

The Interview — A Bit of Truth in the Farce

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

The Interview is a slapstick comedy about an assassination attempt against North Korean despot Kim Jong Un. Given the absurd nature of the Kim family dynasty, any political comedy about North Korea is destined to be of the juvenile slapstick variety. The Interview fits that bill.

 

"The Interview" Movie Poster

“The Interview” Movie Poster

 

Dave Skylark (James Franco) hosts celebrity tabloid show Skylark Tonight, Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen) is the show’s producer, and North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un (Randall Park) is the show’s biggest fan. When Skylark and Rapaport score an interview in North Korea with Jong Un, the CIA recruits them to assassinate the despot. The pair goes about this in farcical style.

As was predictable, the film rocketed to international attention when North Korea chimed in with its routine, state-sponsored histrionics. Sony Pictures Entertainment was hacked, according to the FBI, by “Guardians of Peace.” The hackers leaked embarrassing documents to the press. Terrorists threatened attacks on movie theaters showing the film, movie theaters canceled their bookings, and Sony announced that it would not release the film. The hackers purportedly said they would stop the leaks, but only if The Interview was kept away from any and all movie screens. Popular theory was that North Korea was behind the hacking.

Millions of Americans and the US president chided Sony and the theater chains for folding to the demands of the world leader equivalent of the kid in the corner of the room eating glue. Sony then acquiesced and released the film in indie theaters and online.

 

James Franco triumphant. Image from "The Interview."

James Franco triumphant.
Image from “The Interview.”

 

The notion that the Sony hack was conducted by North Korea is now disputed by leading anti-hacking experts such as Marc W. Rogers and Kurt Stammberger. The Sony hack might have been carried out with the assistance of a disgruntled Sony employee, or it could have been a marketing ploy by members of Sony management.

Regardless of who conducted the Sony hack, the miserable North Korean government hates this film, and Vladimir Putin, a.k.a. Stalin 2.0, has declared it an act of terrorism. This gives normal people two good reasons to check out The Interview.

 

Diana Bang (Sook), Seth Rogan, James Franco, and Rogan's dog, Zelda Image from "The Interview."

Diana Bang (Sook), Seth Rogen, James Franco,
and Rogen’s dog, Zelda
Image from “The Interview.”

 

From an entertainment standpoint, The Interview accomplishes its goals. There are no great messages, profound thoughts, or deep enlightenments to be found here, and that’s a good thing. Complexity and depth would be completely out of place amidst the crude, juvenile humor, which, while often predictable, is still satisfying in a distinctly vulgar way.

While The Interview is a fantastically absurd comedy, it actually captures a bit of reality.

While North Korea appears to the West to be as ridiculous as this movie, it actually takes itself quite seriously. North Korean propaganda is pervasive throughout the closed country, with gems like portraying the North Korean military as capable of taking out the US in one blow and showing North Koreans giving Americans blankets and coffee made from melted snow. (Search “North Korean propaganda videos” on YouTube for a laugh.) The Interview clearly portrays this dichotomy between the North Korean government’s desired image of strength and plenty and the North Korean reality of starvation and ignorance.

 

Actual photo of potential MI-6 spies. Image from "The Interview."

Actual photo of potential MI-6 spies.
Image from “The Interview.”

 

It is tempting to dismiss the notion of a scandal sheet television duo being recruited by an intelligence agency as part of the general silliness of the movie. However, the writers either purposely or accidentally touched on an old British tradition. Long before televisions, the upper levels of the British working class commonly sent their sons to the same boarding schools and universities, and English newspapers often hired members of that well-connected, socially reliable “old boys’ network.”

When the BBC was formed in 1922, many of its employees had ties to members of the UK Foreign Office, Home Office, Colonial Office, MI-5, and MI-6. It was common for spies, newspaper journalists, and radio program employees to attend the same parties and social functions. Journalists assigned to foreign postings would often moonlight for MI-6 as agents of opportunity.

Although today the British bureaucracies are far less incestuous and something more similar to a meritocracy, it is still in the realm of possibility for UK media types to conduct an operation for MI-6. Even here in the US, where most of the inhabitants of our media subculture consider themselves to be the archrivals of the CIA and the Pentagon, it would not be unheard of for a member of the media to work for the CIA.

 

Randall Park as Kim Jong Un Image from "The Interview."

Randall Park as Kim Jong Un
Image from “The Interview.”

 

Historical comparisons aside, The Interview is worth seeing when you are in the mood for juvenile slapstick humor. If you enjoyed the Austin Powers movies, then you will likely enjoy The Interview. The plot and the script are simple and easy to follow. The actors were all well cast to their respective roles, and they play their parts smoothly. In particular, Randall Park did a great job of playing the dangerous, evil-genius wannabe Kim Jong Un with a soft spot for Katy Perry. Park had a thousand chances to screw up his role. He and the directors deftly avoided them all.

Our Bayard & Holmes rating for this film is a solid .38 Special, meaning that it won’t change your life, but we didn’t resent the $5.99 for the online rental. If you can catch it at a matinee or in the comfort of your home, then go ahead and enjoy a few laughs at the expense of that most natural, albeit accidental, of all comedians—Kim Jong Un.

 

Lone Survivor–Real SEALs and Unanswered Questions

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Lone Survivor Movie Poster

Lone Survivor is a movie about the 2005 Afghanistan mission, Operation Red Wings, in which a four-man team of Navy SEALs was tasked with scouting out Ahmad Shah—a terrorist leader aligned with the Taliban and other militant groups close to the Pakistani border. The SEALs were compromised when local goat herders stumbled over them, and they were ambushed shortly thereafter. Three of the SEALs were eventually killed, along with sixteen more special operations operatives who were coming to their rescue. Marcus Luttrell was the only survivor, and the movie is based on his book about the mission.

image by Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0 wikimedia commons

image by Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0
wikimedia commons

The four SEALs were played by Mark Wahlberg (Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell), Taylor Kitsch (Lt. Michael Murphy), Emile Hirsch (Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Danny Deitz), and Ben Foster (Sonar Technician 2nd Class Matthew Axelson). The movie was written by Peter Berg, Marcus Luttrell, and Patrick Robinson, and directed by Peter Berg.

Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz image from U.S. Navy

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz
image from U.S. Navy

Bayard:

The acting and production were excellent, and by all reports from veterans, the look, feel, spirit, and heart of the movie were accurate right down to the varying sounds of the rifles and the brass. Only a short portion of the movie was purely contrived to satisfy the demands of storytelling structure, but it was irrelevant to the main story of these extraordinary men, and it did not detract from the cinematic experience of this very real event in Afghanistan in the Global War on Terror.

Lt. Michael Murphy and STG2 Matthew Axelson image by U.S. Navy

Lt. Michael Murphy and STG2 Matthew Axelson
image by U.S. Navy

Holmes:

In my opinion, minors or those who have a low tolerance for vivid combat scenes should not see Lone Survivor. The movie is very detailed in its violence. However, in this case, we cannot call that violence gratuitous because it really happened. Excluding it would have made the movie a pure fantasy.

The production values were high. Even the fast-moving combat scenes were filmed with attention to detail. The film crew, lighting crew, and sound editing crew earned their paychecks.

Actors Taylor Kitsch, Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, and  Emile Hirsch image from Lone Survivor movie

Actors Taylor Kitsch, Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, and Emile Hirsch
image from Lone Survivor movie

My one technical criticism would be that the music was overdone at times for my taste. When fighting the Taliban in the mountains, there was no music to help shape the emotions and responses of the four Navy SEALS involved in the main mission. I suppose that when moviegoers pay $13.00 to see a war movie, the folks in Hollywood know that nobody will leave satisfied if they get a “realistic” piece of war without some emotional music thrown in.

image from Lone Survivor movie

image from Lone Survivor movie

The acting and directing were excellent. I have the impression that the entire crew worked hard to produce Lone Survivor. I am glad that they did. The men that the story is about deserved that.

The movie gives a brief view of the dull routine of living in the noisy, tedious reality of life for troops in a plywood-and-canvas base in Afghanistan, followed by the hell that awaits them when they step out of that life in Plywoodville. The troops don’t complain about Plywoodville. It’s a serious upgrade from the unsanitary conditions in Dustville, that town outside their base. Since Lone Survivor is a (mostly) true story about real people experiencing a real hell, giving them a warmer and more cheerful “normal” day would have been dishonest. It is best that we see their reality for what it is.

Bagram Air Base image from U.S. Air Force

Bagram Air Base
image from U.S. Air Force

However, the obvious, very real, billion-dollar-a-week questions are not even hinted at in this movie. Why did these men lack airborne communications support? Why were they fighting with so little available back up? What the hell is going on when we send men on such dangerous deep missions with so little resources? And where the hell are all those billions going in Afghanistan?

Lone Survivor was clearly not intended to touch on those vital public policy issues, but the movie did do a good job of hinting at what those four Navy SEALs went through in that brief portion of their service to the United States of America. For that slice of reality, I am grateful.

From left to right, Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, of Cupertino, Calif; Senior Chief Information Systems Technician Daniel R. Healy, of Exeter, N.H.; Quartermaster 2nd Class James Suh, of Deerfield Beach, Fla.; Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell; Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, of Boulder City, Nev.; and Lt. Michael P. Murphy, of Patchogue, N.Y. With the exception of Luttrell, all were killed June 28, 2005, by enemy forces while supporting Operation Red Wings.

From left to right, Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, of Cupertino, Calif; Senior Chief Information Systems Technician Daniel R. Healy, of Exeter, N.H.; Quartermaster 2nd Class James Suh, of Deerfield Beach, Fla.; Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell; Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, of Boulder City, Nev.; and Lt. Michael P. Murphy, of Patchogue, N.Y. With the exception of Luttrell, all were killed June 28, 2005, by enemy forces while supporting Operation Red Wings.

Bayard & Holmes Rating: .44 Magnum

For those that want a glance at the war in Afghanistan from a warrior’s point of view, this movie deserves a .44 Magnum rating—our highest. It was fully worth the $13.00. For those who don’t wish to glance at that dark reality of operations in Afghanistan, stay home and watch the usual half-assed reporting about it on your television.

In Bruges — Movie Review by Bayard & Holmes

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

In Bruges was released in 2008, but it’s a favorite of mine and Holmes’ so we thought we’d share it with you. In Bruges is a drama about two hit men, Ray and Ken, who are sent to cool their heels in Bruges for a couple of weeks after a job goes a bit wrong. Here’s our take on this hysterical dark comedic drama. . . .

Bayard:

There’s a saying. Great characters make great stories. I have no idea who said it. Maybe I did. Nevertheless, it’s true, and In Bruges has great characters. Having spent my life around, shall we say, personalities, I found the characters in this movie to be exceedingly real and 3D. In fact, even the most minor characters, right down to the innkeeper, are deep and interesting.

The main character is a whiney young hit man with a conscience, Ray, played brilliantly by Colin Farrell. Then there are his mentor, Ken (Brendan Gleeson), who loves culture and is devoted to his dead wife to a fault, a superficially classy, but loyal, cocaine dealer love interest (Clemence Poesy), and an opinionated, racist dwarf (Jordan Prentice). Stir that up with the Belgian arms dealer boss (Ralph Fiennes) who operates from his parlor and would die for his principles, and you’d have to be blind, deaf, drunk, stoned and stupid to not get a story out of it.

As in every great story, questions arise because of these characters. Are there folks who need a good killing? Whose life is worth dying to save? When is a debt paid, and what coin is too high to pay it? And the most near and dear to my heart, is there redemption for the worst of us, and what does that even mean? In Bruges wraps these deepest of questions in humor as dark and satisfying as bittersweet chocolate.

My favorite quote is from Ray. “Prison… death… didn’t matter. Because at least in prison and at least in death, you know, I wouldn’t be in &#%in’ Bruges.”

This movie is rated “R” for good reasons. Sex, drug use, violence, and language that would curl the hair on a sailor’s toes. In fact, if you enjoy sitting through this movie with your young people, please seek out professional help immediately.

A hit man, a coke dealer, and a dwarf go into this bar . . .

Holmes:

I saw this movie in the company of three picky movie goers. All four of us felt that it was well worth the time and cost to see it. This movie is a dark comedy that relies more on creativity and a great script than on raw “darkness” to achieve its mood. It’s almost inaccurate to list this movie as a dark comedy; it’s a movie that stands nearly alone as “type” goes. Writer/director Martin McDonagh did not bother staying within the normal boundaries or using traditional, standard elements to create a great story. I’m glad he didn’t.
 
The production quality was excellent. The camera work and lighting were brilliant. The director and crew did a great job of taking advantage of the ambiance of Bruges, and the acting was outstanding all the way around. The movie is a bit on the raw side, so you might not want to bring your grandmother or children under the age of fifteen to see it. If the close up violence, the brief sex, and the generous cursing don’t disturb you, then you will likely enjoy this movie.
 
 
Ken and Ray. What to do in Bruges?
 
In Bruges is full of interesting and/or funny characters. One of the best scenes involved a snotty ticket vendor. Anyone who has played tourist has met this fellow in one form or another and will likely enjoy the outcome of the scene. It’s an outcome you may have contemplated a few times, yourself.
 
We both loved this movie and have no reservations in assigning it our top rating, a “.44 Mag,” which means we call it a Must See. If you can handle the sex/violence/language aspects, that is. (Click here for our movie rating system.) We rarely watch the same movie twice, but we will both definitely see this movie again.
 
Have you seen In Bruges? What did you think of it? Are there any other movies you’d like to have reviewed by a spook and a belly dancer?
 
 
All the best to all of you for an experience in Bruges.
 

42–The Jackie Robinson Story

By Piper Bayard

42, starring Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, and Nicole Beharie, tells a story of African-American Jackie Robinson’s breakthrough into the world of major league baseball. It covers Robinson’s life from the time he was first hired to play for the Dodgers’ affiliate, the Montreal Royals, through his rookie year with the Dodgers.

42 movie poster

Jackie Robinson used his life to write a story of pioneering talent and determination, from being UCLA’s first 4-letter athlete and a 2nd lieutenant and platoon leader in the U.S. Army during WWII, to becoming the first ever major league baseball Rookie of the Year. He was an extraordinary man and an outstanding baseball player. Too bad this movie isn’t about him.

Instead, 42 is about the deity commonly referred to as “Jackie Robinson.” The movie isn’t even shy about Robinson’s deity status, making several overt correlations between him and Jesus Christ, with his only “flaw” being an occasional reasonable display of temper. I can’t help but think that Jackie Robinson the Man might have cringed at the explicit comparisons with the Son of God.

That said, the acting in this movie is excellent. Most of the characters are written as 21st century politically correct racial stereotypes. However, the actors do a great job in spite of their, if you will forgive me, black and white roles, and their performances were excellent to a person.

Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in 42

Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in 42

Chadwick Boseman, a graduate of Howard University and a former student of the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England, is exceptional as Jackie Robinson. He took Hollywood’s character profile of a deity and almost convinced me he was playing an actual historical figure rather than a mythical hero. He is the antithesis of Kristen Stewart with his range of facial expressions, and he has a lovely smile that I look forward to seeing in another movie. Soon, if possible.

Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey in 42

Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey in 42

Harrison Ford, always a welcome favorite, is gifted by the writers in having a well-rounded character to play in the form of Branch Rickey. He did a great job with it.

Nicole Beharie also deserves recognition for her portrayal of Rachel, Jackie Robinson’s wife. It’s not mentioned in the movie, but Rachel Robinson went on to become an Assistant Professor at Yale School of Nursing and the Director of Nursing at the Connecticut Mental Health Center. Beharie is more than believable playing that accomplished, graceful young woman in the movie who would, herself, make contributions to history in her own right.

Nicole Beharie as Rachel Robinson in 42

Nicole Beharie as Rachel Robinson in 42

I do not want to diminish Jackie Robinson the Man’s accomplishments. I have the greatest respect for him and for the uphill battle he faced. There is no question that Robinson suffered considerable racism both on and off the diamond. And, to the best of my knowledge, the movie is accurate in its portrayal of Phillies manager Ben Chapman, the Phillies, and the Cardinals, who were notable in their racial abuse.

However, unlike the movie portrayal, Robinson was not the only black player in the Montreal Royals. In fact, the International League had a number of minorities in their ranks at the time he joined. Also, the Brooklyn Dodgers largely welcomed him to their team with only a handful of his teammates objecting. Throughout the baseball world, there were mixed reactions to opening major league baseball teams to racial minorities, and for every white person who was against it, there was another white person who would not have cared if Robinson was a Martian as long as he could hit. Young people watching this movie would never know that.

Jackie Robinson LOOK, v. 19, no. 4, 1955 Feb. 22, p. 78 Photo by Bob Sandberg, LOOK Photographer

Jackie Robinson
LOOK, v. 19, no. 4, 1955 Feb. 22, p. 78
Photo by Bob Sandberg, LOOK Photographer

I give this movie a .38 Special rating*. That means I was glad I saw it at the matinée, and I’m actually glad I saw it. The actors’ performances were worth the trip in spite of the fact that the movie struck me as the cinematic equivalent of a Thomas Kinkade painting. Light was cast from a dedicated perspective. I believe it disrespects and dehumanizes the extraordinary man and amazing ballplayer, Jackie Robinson, by reducing him to a stereotypical hero/deity rather than presenting him as he was. The reality of the great human man who inspired generations of children of all races would have been the better story.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

*Our Movie Rating System:

  • Dud Chinese-manufactured ammo: Stay home and do housework. You’ll have more fun.
  • .22 rim fire:  Not worth the big screen, but ok to rent.
  • .380: Go to the matinée if someone else is paying.
  • .38 special: Worth paying for the matinée yourself.
  • .357 magnum: Okay to upgrade to prime time if you can stand the crowd.
  • .44 magnum: Must see this. Potentially life-altering event.

Bayard, Holmes, Movie, No Popcorn — SKYFALL

SKYFALL Review

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

SKYFALL marks the Golden Anniversary of the Bond series, and it’s raking in the serious gold—for good reason. In this 23rd Bond film, M and MI-6 are under attack, and it’s up to 007 to track down and destroy the threat. He does it in style, proving once more that Bond truly is the master of resurrection.

Sam Mendes makes a brilliant directing debut with the series, showing he actually earned all of his Oscars and Tonys for other films over the years. Daniel Craig returns for the third time as Bond, along with Judi Dench playing M, and introducing Ben Whishaw and Naomi Harris as Q and Moneypenny, respectively.

Bayard:

From a thriller standpoint, SKYFALL has it all. Fast pace, nail-biting tension, creative chases, and explosions that will warm the heart of twenty-something pyrotechnics lovers. There’s even a tiny snafu that might have you wondering, “Which side was that?” But I suspect that will only end up making the movie more loved for being a bit flawed like the rest of us.

While cutting edge with a modern feel and new, young characters, SKYFALL still honors the classic qualities of Bond. It not only takes us for one more spin in 007’s iconic Aston Martin DB5, it treats us to colorful locales, mysterious people, and even exotic animals. Though I feel compelled to note those komodo dragons must be on a diet of digitally enhanced Twinkies and MLB steroids to get that big.

This 50th Anniversary installment continues to develop the three-dimensional character brought to the fore with the Craig incarnation of the series, and we find out more details of Bond’s early life and home. Only one Bond behavior strikes me as being particularly out of character. He allows his MI-6 co-worker to shave him with an old-fashioned straight razor. A certain spook I know *glances down the page* can barely sit still for his wife of decades to cut his hair. He would rather suck broken glass through a straw up his nose than allow anyone near his throat with a sharp object.

Holmes:

It’s not easy to take an old, worn out basic story line like the “stolen master list” and make a watchable movie out of it after so many have tried and failed, but SKYFALL does it. The entire production is excellent, and this is a great addition to the Bond series.

As to the normal “spy flick” questions, here we go . . .

No, it’s not terribly realistic, but that’s fortunate. Who really wants to watch a bunch of guys in filthy, third world hovels passing long hours trying to get something done? SKYFALL is definitely unrealistic, and that’s why it’s superbly entertaining.

Can you use light sockets to make nail bombs? Yes. But not with the method employed in the movie. So all you middle school boys reading this can leave those light fixtures alone. You’ll only succeed in infuriating your parents without getting any real explosions.

The palm ID feature of Bond’s new Walther will thrill gun control nuts the world over. And yes. Tracking radios that size and smaller do work in the real world. The smallest model would be useless in an action flick because they would need a macro lens shot to show it.

There is a theme throughout SKYFALL of a rift between the old HUMINT (human intelligence) hands and the rest of the intelligence community. In the real world, there are plenty of old spooks. The problem with operatives getting good at the job is that organizations generally don’t want them to leave, and they don’t know how to leave, anyway. The idea that younger spooks see the older spooks and their methods as irrelevant is 99% false. Only politicians and whiny media types do that. I suspect this is just as true in MI-6 as it is in American intelligence organizations.

Now for the negatives. The script is a bit weak in a couple of places, but that’s about the only complaint I have.

The positives are many. The acting ranges from fair to excellent. The camera work and editing are great. I hope the editing crew and directors from BOURNE LEGACY see this movie so they can get an idea of how one might make a movie if one combines intention with talent.

The opening chase scene includes a “drive through the market chase” and a novel “top of the train” scene. I won’t ruin them for you. I’ll just say they are very well done, evidencing a good deal of time and effort.

The fighting and shooting scenes are articulate and reasonable. There were no magic weapons with infinite shots, and there were a couple of original touches I think viewers will enjoy.

In a return to earlier Bond style, SKYFALL delivers craftily woven levity. However, the sex was a notch lower than more traditional Bonds. Sorry guys. The producers skimped on their usual “legions of young woman in small bikinis” device, but there is still plenty of movie here.

The four years we waited for a new Bond film were well used by the entire production cast to create a movie that entertains without the viewer having to try too hard. They ALL got it right.

We highly recommend SKYFALL to anyone who enjoys action films. Few movies will ever achieve this level of production quality. Bravo to the Bond team!

We give SKYFALL a .357 magnum +P rating. This is our second highest rating, and it means we would actually pay prime time theater prices if we could stand the crowd. It only fails to achieve our highest rating, the .44 magnum, because we reserve that for films that might enlighten or inspire some of the viewers. You may not be enlightened or inspired by SKYFALL, but you will almost certainly be entertained.