The Ottoman Lieutenant Movie Review

At the onset of World War I, it was a dangerous time to be in Europe. Even more dangerous was to be in Turkey, and greater still was the border between Turkey and Russia. The Ottoman rulers of knew that war was coming. The people in the wrong place at the wrong time were American medical staff at a volunteer hospital in Turkey.

Lillie Rowe (Hera Hilmar) is a young woman training to be a nurse. She comes from a very wealthy family, and since her older bother died, she is listless. She hears a plea from a young idealist doctor named Jude (Josh Hartnett) who needs funds for the far-off hospital. Lillie is strong-willed, and takes her brother’s truck and fills it with medical supplies to be shipped to Istanbul.

Lillie cannot trust anyone else to deliver the supplies, so she takes it there herself. In Turkey, there are wild bandits out on the border. So she gets a Turkish military man, Lieutenant Ismail Vitaly (Michiel Huisman) to escort her to the hospital. They are attacked and lose everything, and they barely escape with their lives. They make it to the hospital in one piece.

The hospital founder is Dr. Woodruff (Ben Kingsley) who is an older disillusioned grumpy man. His advice is to leave and go home. Lillie stays to tend to the sick, and her nurse training finally pays off. But there is too much tension in the air. The Turks are fighting with the Armenians, and the Muslims do not trust the Christians. The Great War will be on their doorstep soon.

Lillie ignores the puppy-dog longing from Dr. Jude, and she instead has an inner longing for the Lieutenant. They are different religions, and they follow different customs and both come from cultures. But the love between them is too great. It is not forbidden, but is not at all encouraged. They sneak away when they can to take a sailboat out on lake. Or they ride their horses through the wild wheat fields. It is so romantic and poetic that nothing could come between them. Nothing except War, of course…

This movie wants to be an ‘Epic’. It does come close, but there are some issues. The storyline is not all that believable. A young woman alone in the hinterlands of Turkey just before the Big War would have a nightmare experience. Instead, you are shown that she is having a grand old time, with love just around every corner. The American flag above a remote hospital in a hostile area would draw bombs and machine gun attacks, not the praise of the local military.

Michiel Huisman does a believable job as the Ottoman, but Hera Hilmar is a weak leading lady. Her occasional voice-over work during the move is flat and monotone. There is not much of a spark between the two of them as ‘star-crossed’ lovers. Josh Hartnett does a reasonable job, but looks like John Denver with round wire-rimmed glasses. Ben Kingsley classes up the movie, but he does not have enough of a part to make it soar like it should.

So if you want a real Ottoman Lieutenant, then take a trusted military officer to a home furniture store to find the right piece. Then you can put your feet up on the ottoman and watch “Lawrence of Arabia’ or ‘Gone with the Wind’. Any true War Epic will do…

Man Down

Is there an issue with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Of course there is, and it needs to be addressed. Is there a potential for family issues when a solider comes back to his family from the war front? Yes, and it can be quite severe. Is the best way to present these problems wrapped up in a movie that cannot decide if it is a serious look at the situation, or an overly dramatized version of the warrior’s mental disconnect?

That is “Man Down”, which follows the solider named Gabriel Drummer (Shia LaBeouf) who is married to Natalie (Kate Mara) and has a young son named Jonathan (Charlie Shotwell). He joins the Marines with his best friend Devin (Jai Courtney). Gabe gets sent to Afghanistan, while Devin recovers from an injury back in the States. Devin soon joins him over there in the thick of the nasty action.

 

Later, Gabe has a sit-down session with Captain Peyton (Gary Oldman) about ‘the incident’. It is finally revealed that a mistake by Gabe led to an ambush attack that had killed Devin. But then, later on when Gabe is back with his family, Gabe shuns his wife and his son to hang around with Devin. Eventually Gabe and Devin prowl about the bleak apocalyptic landscape for his son. But Devin did not make it back…

The late Devin is Gabe’s closest friend and Gabe’s metal state is in question. Captain Peyton talked with Gabe about his reaction to ‘the incident’, and Gabe is still in denial. So now Gabe and Devin are searching a destroyed cityscape searching for his son. They meet a guy named Charlie (Clifton Collins Jr.) who says he knows nothing. But there are many clues that he knows Gabe’s son, and where he might be hiding.

But how much of Gabe’s post-war travels with Devin are real? Exactly what happened in ‘the incident’? And what happened back on the home front between Devin and Kate, when Gabe was deployed overseas? Does Captain Peyton know how broken Gabe is on the inside?

Any of these questions could be enough to construct a deep and meaningful movie. But the way that the various incidents and episodes are put together on the screen make a little too jumbled. The connection between the bleak deserted place and the happy home front does get revealed, and it is done in a very subtle way. But the various sequences do not seem to tie up as neatly as they should.

 

Shia LaBeouf does a workable job as Gabe. He is mostly very understated, but then at some points he is a little bit overemotional and melodramatic. Kate Mara and Jai Courtney have very cookie-cutter roles, and they do the best that they can.  Gary Oldman puts some empathy into his character and makes a very good impression. Clifton Collins Jr. has a brief role, but is creepy and odd-ball as that character.

A movie a few years back about the mental tribulations of John Nash was called ‘A Beautiful Mind’. This movie might be called ‘A FUBAR Mind’. That would describe the nightmare of delusions that Gabe finds himself in during the movie. It is truly scary place to be. But is might not be the best way to bring attention to the real problems of soldiers.

hacksaw-ridge-movie-review

Hacksaw Ridge

War is Hell, as it is said, but a movie about War can go many different ways. “Hacksaw Ridge” plays up the unusual angle of a World War II conscientious objector who was the first one to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. He refused to carry a weapon on the battlefield, and instead carried 75 wounded men to safety on Okinawa.

Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) grows up in a backwoods area in Virginia. He was raised by his strict alcoholic father (Hugo Weaving) and loving mother (Rachel Griffiths). When his brother goes off to WWII, Desmond also decides to enlist. His new girlfriend Dorothy (Teresa Palmer) is surprised, because Doss is such a gentle soul.

Doss proclaims status as conscientious objector is valid in the Army. But it does not sit well with his superiors, Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) and Captain Glover (Sam Worthington).  They try every way possible to make Doss uncomfortable so he will leave on his own. The base commander orders Doss to pick up a rifle. When he refuses, Doss is threatened with court marshal.

Doss misses the leave from the base when he was to be married to Dorothy. Desmond’s father pulls some old favors from a World War I buddy. Desmond Doss is set free again to become a medic for the unit.

As the war winds down in Europe, the savage battle rages on in Japanese waters. On Okinawa, the unit is sent to perform an impossible mission: take Hacksaw Ridge. The long climb up rope ladders deposits the troops in a barren field of death. Other units have tried to take the Ridge, and many have died fighting the Japanese.

The fierce battle starts death coming from every direction. There are tunnels and bunkers and heavy weapons that the Japs are bringing down on the troops. Doss and his unit are slogging and fighting on, at the cost of many dead and wounded.  The Japanese retreat into hiding, getting ready to come in full force again.

Doss remains in the field, up on top of the Ridge. He hears a weak cry and goes to help a soldier. And then there is another, and another. He devises a way to lower the wounded down the side of the cliff, so he can stay and care for more wounded. Doss becomes the only one able save some of the solders. He helps Sergeant Howell among others.

Captain Glover is shocked to see so many of his men in the field hospital the next day. He finds out that Desmond Doss treated and carried out each of the 75 men. Doss and the rest of the troops are ordered to take the Ridge again. But this time, all the men are ready to reach the goal, knowing that Doss had the courage to stay up on the Ridge all night and save so many.

Andrew Garfield does a marvelous job with the difficult role of Doss. He plays a man of principles who is put down for his beliefs, but who is so strong in his conviction that he makes up for the fact that he will not fight. In a bloody and gruesome situation, Doss continued to find a way to save his fellow solders.

Every other actor does a really good job with the roles that they portray. But a special nod must go to Vince Vaughn, because in this role he is stretching his acting ability to new level. He plays a drill sergeant with a slight sarcastic streak. He is nowhere as good as R Lee Ermey in “Full Metal Jacket”, who was the real deal.

Mel Gibson is the director, and he is making his way back to place of respectability in Hollywood. Gibson might be criticized for the level of violence and gore in this movie. But it is a War movie, of course, so there will have to be something that will be bloody. The first part of the movie is almost a fantasy of small town and rural life, so the next part with the blood and guts does come as a shock.

The true life story of Desmond Doss is worth telling, and this movie tells the story well. It dips into a section of extreme war time violence that is disturbing. But Doss made the choice not to fight, he made the choice to help save. He was recognized and rewarded for his efforts.