Nocturnal Animals review

Nocturnal Animals is a thriller/drama directed by Tom Ford, following an art curator in a troubled relationship, who comes back into contact with her ex-husband after he sends her a seemingly cryptic novel, the film stars Amy Adams, Jake Gylenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer.

This isn’t quite your typical thriller and the premise of Nocturnal Animals is an interesting one, sort of a tale of vengeance but not quite, the plot makes more sense as it goes on but initially may seem quite confusing but it follows art curator Susan Morrow, who often reminisces of the past as she seems to have doubts over her husband Huttons’ faithfulness. Susan (Amy Adams) makes for an interesting character, somewhat conflicted and thrown into a bit of a loop after her ex husband Tony sends her a novel seemingly out of the blue, more or less kicking off the main part of the story, he’s also brilliantly portrayed by Jake Gylenhaal, almost entirely in the novel that he sends Susan, which makes for an interesting turn of events. Also in the novel is Aaron Taylor-Johnson who’s pretty fantastic and does a great job at portraying a bit of a scumbag lowlife, playing opposite to the morally ambiguous Michael Shannon.

We see events taking place part in the novel and in real life, which is an interesting narrative choice but with a fair amount of time devoted to visualising the novel – as we see in Susans’ head, going back to real life can seem a bit dull in comparison, maybe a bit of a subtle commentary on novels and fiction in general in relation to the real world that we inhabit – or this is me reading into things a bit.

Generally speaking Gylenhaal represents the high calibre that the film takes on, a well shot and clearly well produced film that doesn’t quite expand enough on its story in any meaningful way unfortunately and ironically, I found the fictional story in the novel a lot more compelling and engaging than the actual story of the film, with a bit of an imbalance in the time spent in each area to the films detriment. That being said, there is an interesting subtext present in the film, with the novel from Tony possibly being some sort of message to Susan, though whether you care about that or not will be entirely based on how your react to the films premise as a whole and I particularly wasn’t that captivated, it’s an interesting high risk approach to a film narrative that can work wonderfully i.e. Big FishThe Hobbit but it doesn’t quite work that well here.

Nocturnal Animals is a curious film, with an interesting premise and a strong cast that’s mostly wasted I feel, though Amy Adams, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Jake Gylenhaal bring some strong performances and there are some good elements to the whole but the result is a fairly weak and disjointed product that didn’t quite resonate with me due to a rather bare bones overall narrative.

6/10

. Unbalanced narrative, doesn’t quite go anywhere interesting in the real world

. Feels a bit uneventful

. Has some strong performances

Hacksaw Ridge review

Hacksaw Ridge is a biopic and dramatisation of conscientious objector Desmond T Doss, who served as  a medic during the Pacific theatre, notably at the battle of Okinawa in WWII, refusing to fire or use any weapons but saving several of his comrades, the film stars Andrew Garfield, Hugo Weaving, Sam Worthington, Vince Vaughn.

The story of Hacksaw Ridge is quite an incredible one, one that’s almost too good to be true but yes, it really is and love him or hate him, Mel Gibson has a good eye for intense, visceral period dramas as it turns out and this is no exception, the cast is quite strong overall, with an A+ performance from Andrew Garfield who disappears into the role of Desmond Doss, nailing his devotion to his faith and will to not use any arms and from his general mannerisms to his cadence in talking, you can tell Garfield put a lot of effort into the role. Meanwhile the supporting cast is also quite good, Vince Vaughn (Sgt Howell) surprisingly is great as your typical WWII drama hard ass sergeant that the soldiers grow to love to hate and he’s actually not even that annoying but even more surprisingly is the much maligned Sam Worthington as Captain Glover who’s actually very solid in the role for what he gets to do. While Hugo Weaving is great as Tom Doss, Desmonds’ alcoholic father who doesn’t want to lose any more of his sons – namely Desmond to war but respects Desmonds choices in life, Weaving portrays an complex three dimensional character – as a depiction of a real person, just like Desmond was and simply seeing these characters interact makes for interesting viewing.

Desmond is so unwavering in his beliefs that it borders on frustrating to watch but you can’t help but admire his charm and passion, something Garfield adds to with his charisma and boyish like appearance and persona. The plot flows pretty naturally as we follow the 96th division (Desmonds’ division) as they go to Hacksaw Ridge in the attempt take it over and push the Japanese back, though we see this is no easy feat and a lot of ferocious fighting had been taking place. And the action itself is…. gritty, brutal and uncensored with quite a lot of interrupted action, really drawing you into how chaotic and violent the theatres in WWII were and importantly, the gore – while present is never really the focus or gratuitous in my opinion, we see it and the action moves on as does the battle and the soldiers involved, highlighting how brutal and traumatising being in the war was as soldiers see friends and comrades die around them yet they have to keep fighting.

What makes Hacksaw Ridge a bit better than your average WWII film is the profound nature of the true story around Doss, a story that was ripe for a dramatisation on the big screen, seeing his religious and moral conflicts but desire to still go to war to help others but more than that, with some great performances, certain scenes may be seen as bit of a glorification and over done to some but I was never bothered too much by the dramatisation of some events. Garfield puts in a great shift among some other great supporting actors to bring a compelling true story to life.

7/10

. Strong performances, especially Garfield, Weaving, good portrayal of Desmond Doss

. Great true story handled with care, engaging plot

. Action is uncensored but doesn’t err on the side of being gratuitous, gives combat an authentic feeling