Hacksaw Ridge tells the story of Desmond T. Doss, a Conscientious Objector who joined the United States military in the hopes that he could serve his country the way he believes, without killing. His squad begins to bully him once they’re aware of his beliefs and his superiors threaten to Court Martial him. But at the Battle of Okinawa, he did something unbelievable… *cue the Oscar soundtrack*
Firstly, I would like to applaud Mel Gibson as a director. He has managed to pull some very believable performances out of these actors and bring their true abilities to the forefront. Andrew Garfield is great as Desmond, Hugo Weaving is fantastic as his father and Vince Vaughn didn’t make me laugh (that’s a compliment because he’s playing a sergeant).
But what is more noticeable than the great performances is that Hacksaw Ridge manages to package what Mel Gibson is known best for as a director; absolute violence.
Once the camera reaches the battlefield, it feels like a deeply offended Boeing 747 tackling your senses and making you exclaim “oh my god” as all humanity is lost and all of the bullets are fired (without a single person ever reloading). These scenes really do make the film and it’s enough for me to recommend it but I can applaud the film for something else too.
The story of how Doss managed to save over 75 lives on the battlefield is astonishing, inspiring, endearing and captivating at moments. How this wasn’t made into a film until now, I’ll never know. However this review isn’t all praise, there were quite a number of issues with Hacksaw Ridge.
The incredible war scenes I’ve mentioned do not appear until an hour into the film and the hour lead-up to these scenes are handled in the kind of Hollywood fashion that’s usually the style parodied (“In a world where one man could make a difference…” kind of Hollywood fashion). But there may have been a good purpose to this…
The classic Hollywood handling of the story slowly dies down as the film progresses. The period of the story set in his hometown is handled very much in this style, the period of the story set in the boot camp is handled a little less on-the-nose but still in the same style and then the Battle of Okinawa throws this style away almost completely in exchange for brutal and chaotic Mel Gibson brilliance.
This juxtaposition from a peaceful and predictable (yet still interesting) first half to completely insane second half was effective but I would still have preferred for the first half to be less Hollywood-y.
And as for the story set up in the first half… nonexistent in the second. Desmond’s relationship with his family is useful to the story and to his character but is then completely abandoned as is the story with his wife.
There’s also the issue of how Desmond’s actions are symbolised as perhaps being the act of god. I think this undermines his achievements and his character in general but thankfully, there isn’t too much of it present.
It may sound like I’m giving this a negative review but I really do like it, there were just a couple of issues.
Hacksaw Ridge‘s story is interesting, the performances are great and the war scenes are some of the best I’ve ever seen (they grab you by the throat and sing Bat Out of Hell before letting you go) and despite the numerous issues I’ve mentioned, Hacksaw Ridge is interesting, beautifully violent and endearing in surprising ways.
What did you think of Hacksaw Ridge? Is Mel Gibson’s comeback working?
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