Say what you want about Mel Gibson, but he was born to make movies. Hollywood and the general public have treated the formerly well-regarded filmmaker and star as a pariah for over a decade, and while he has appeared in a handful of films recently, he has been absent from the director’s chair until now. With his previous projects, he tackled William Wallace, the Crucifixion, and the Mayans, demonstrating a desire to venture into waters that studios dare not tread as well as a keen sense of visual storytelling. His first film in 12 years takes him to the incredible true story of Desmond Doss, the only conscientious objector and combat medic who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War II. While Gibson is no stranger to violence, he approaches it differently this time around, as instead of just reveling in it, he uses it to clearly reinforce Doss’ heroic pacifism. Hacksaw Ridge can be clumsy and heavy-handed, but Gibson’s appreciation for his subject comes through in a tremendous cinematic manner.
Eight years have passed since 2008’s Iron Man, and the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) has brought forth a whopping 14 films featuring God knows how many characters. That’s quite an achievement, but honestly, all this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. The MCU is called a universe for a reason, and anyone who grew up reading the comics knows that there’s a wealth of potential superheroes and supervillains to bring to the big screen. Will that lead to the long-foretold superhero movie fatigue? Perhaps, though it would be a certainty if all the films feel the same – a predicament Marvel Studios would like to avoid. As we enter a whole new world with Doctor Strange, the filmmakers make this journey as unique as possible without ever losing the MCU’s sense of fun, even though they can’t fully escape the pitfalls of telling a familiar story.
Every film is an expression or story meant to be shared. It is, after all, a product from a group of creators, whose education, philosophies, and values have shaped them over the course of their work and their lives, and those become a part of the film’s identity. A film is a reflection of human experiences, and it can take many forms, from the CG-heavy action flick and eye-opening documentary to the rapid-fire comedy and the sappy romance. Then there are films that transcend their forms, that still operate as escapes from reality yet reveal the humanity within. These are the films that make us forget we’re watching moving images and instead lead us to believe that we are hearing the very voices of the creators and witnessing human lives unfold. Such is Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, a gentle and soulful masterpiece that is as extraordinary as it is deeply and utterly human.