Whenever a war drama, especially one based on a true story, is released, there is a lot of hype around it, although usually the final film has mixed results. Hacksaw Ridge, however, more than deserves the hype and praise it has gotten. It has also been called controversial actor and director Mel Gibson’s big comeback, and rightfully so.
During World War II, a small town boy named Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield) wants to do his part for his country by helping his fellow men as a medic. However, due to his strong religious beliefs and his insistence that he will not pick up a gun or kill anyone, he is humiliated and tested by his fellow soldiers and his superiors. Despite constantly being called a coward, Doss shows how brave he really is by going back and forth into the battlefield to leave the wounded soldiers who were left for dead, with the enemy Japanese soldiers surrounding them, and not having a rifle to protect himself at all.
This is Mel Gibson’s first film as a director in ten years since 2006’s amazing Apocalypto. It seems though that Gibson has somewhat gone back to his Aussie roots by filming the entire movie in Australia and having a largely Australian cast, although they are all playing Americans. With Aussie showbiz royalty the likes of Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachael Griffiths, Sam Worthington and Richard Roxburgh all playing parts alongside Hollywood stars like Andrew Garfield and Vince Vaughn is a nice contrast of international talents.
With that cast, it goes without saying that the acting is superb throughout the film, but Andrew Garfield in particular is incredible as the leading man. His facial expressions are perfect, especially when he does indeed save many of his wounded fellow soldiers single-handedly. When he is angry over how the army mistreats him or scared for his life on the battlefield, you will absolutely believe it.
The graphic violence in the war scenes in the second half of the film is quite startling and gross. Seeing rats and maggots wasting no time in eating recently dead soldiers in itself shows the true brutality of war and death. This is the type of environment Doss had to endure when he went to save 75 soldiers, although it could have very easily have meant certain death for Doss.
If you are keen on World War II history, then a retelling of this one brave soldier’s tale is a must-see. But Hacksaw Ridge works even on a basic human level, dealing with many issues of courage, sacrifice and doing one’s duty when the odds are very much against them. It truly is a great film, and if this doesn’t do good business at next year’s Oscars, then the Academy really need to rethink their lives.
Originally published here at tasteofcinema.com on Wednesday 2 November 2016