It all started so unpromisingly. Corny, predictable love story with adult actors playing much younger. Strange (but authentic) Southern accents coming out of recognizable British and Australian actors. Bible bashing. Mel Gibson (directing)! However, as the film switches briefly into a legal drama before the full on war extravaganza, it becomes a totally different beast. There is a strange and clever logic working here: quietly old-fashioned scenes at home followed by a tense but controlled legal battle that tests our protagonist’s faith and principles when he volunteered during the height of WWII but refuses to bear arms and would only serve as a medic saving, instead of taking, lives. Just as the film pulls the audience onside, they are thrown in the deep end in the most horrifying and visceral way as the onslaught begins – there is no holding back here in terms of the portrayal of war and all its hideousness – we see and feel those principles, not only tested, but literally endured and ultimately rewarded. Andrew Garfield, once again venturing into Japan to test his Christianity (now the go-to guy after the recent Silence) gives a strong, understating yet heroic performance while Gibson shows he can direct the heck out of those unrelenting battle scenes with clarity and precision, matching Spielberg in Saving Private Ryan scene by bloody scene. There are a few hokey and dodgy parts: Vince Vaugh’s Sargeant Comedy feels jarring at first and little bits of gunghoism or religious symbolism seep through from time to time, but this is essentially a rather well made war film that depicts but not glorifies the dehumanizing violence and instead shines the light on one person’s reaction to what is happening around him with selfless determination, faith and humanity.