Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge tells the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), the conscientious objector who, at the Battle of Okinawa, won the Medal of Honour for his courage and bravery in helping his fellow soldiers on the battlefield, and that’s putting it modestly. We are witness to his childhood and how this moulded his identity, especially his religious ideologies and anti-killing stance. We see the things Doss goes through after enlisting in the US Army. And then we see the hellish nightmare at Okinawa, Hacksaw Ridge.
Let’s get one thing clear, Hacksaw Ridge is one disturbing movie. The dramatic realism of its use of modern digital effects leaves nothing to the imagination. Mel Gibson’s Second World War epic is one of the most violent sensory assaults that I have ever experienced on the big screen. If this were not a biography drama about the true happenings of a conscientious objector during World War Two, Hacksaw Ridge would undoubtedly be accused of using violence in the name of entertainment. Well, that is very Hollywood.
War and violence are not glorified in this film, not one bit. We are witness to conflict at its most brutal and bloody. But we are viewers to bravery and heroism in the face of overwhelming adversity but what got me is the bonding of the soldiers. Often, it’s filmed in such a way that it looks like family. When it comes down to it, they put aside their differences in order to do what needs to be done. In order to perform their duties, they must work together and forge a bond of trust with each one another. All these elements are present and are contrasted against the horror and madness of war.
Hacksaw Ridge is split into two halves, and I do not mean the battlefield. The first introduces us to our protagonist, Desmond Doss (Garfield). This part explores his personal endevaours and why he refuses to pick up a gun, thus not killing anyone. We are witness to the domestic troubles at home with his drunken father (Hugo Weaving) and how he came into contact with Dorothy Schutt (Teresa Palmer). The second half is all about the Battle of Okinawa at the hellhole that is Hacksaw Ridge. Both show the story of a headstrong man and this might well be one of the best war movies since Platoon.
Mel Gibson has attracted a lot of heat over the years. You may not agree with his views and politics but you can’t deny that he knows how to make great movies, and Hacksaw Ridge is certainly my favourite Mel Gibson picture. It’s an emotional powerhouse of a story that makes for a compelling experience, whether that be from Doss’ childhood in Virginia to his gruelling combat training and even the bloody yet epic war sequences. These scenes possess some of the most piercing pictures you’ll ever see like the spewed guts of severely wounded soldiers.
Hacksaw Ridge is an exhibition of masterclass performances. Andrew Garfield (Silence) leads as Desmond Doss and he’s certainly come a long way from being that webhead from Queens. It seems Denzel Washington will fight Garfield for the Best Actor award at the Oscars next month. His performance as Private Doss is one of the best performances in forever and I hope this is one of many excellent Garfield performance in what looks to be a very promising acting career indeed.
When it comes to war films, I tend to avoid them like the plague because I generally don’t enjoy them. Hacksaw Ridge is one of the few war films where that tradition has been broken. Gibson’s direction is excellent, in addition to a great supporting cast. Hugo Weaving played a good Daddy Doss with Teresa Palmer as Desmond’s girlfriend. Vince Vaughn played an engaging firm but fair army sergeant. Sam Worthington and Luke Bracey were also great in their respective roles.
The Oscar race is hot and Hacksaw Ridge is one of the numerous Oscar-nominated movies released during 2016 and 2017 that has hit me where it hurt. This feature has the ability to leave its audiences in bits and pieces, no different to the victims of Okinawa. I may not like Mel Gibson but his movies are great. He’s committed to this project and you can tell he’s put everything into this movie. I say it’s a job well done.
Hacksaw Ridge is a marvellous achievement and I truly hope Mel Gibson is back for good. With excellent performances and ticking the boxes in all the aesthetic areas, this is truly a must watch and it’s one I intend to see again before it leaves the cinema.