Star rating: 3/4
Director: Mel Gibson
Writer: Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Hugo Weaving, Teresa Palmer, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington
I don’t know about you, but when I saw that a movie called Hacksaw Ridge was nominated for three Golden Globes, my eyes rolled back into my head. Though being completely unaware of the story, the testosterone-heavy name of Hacksaw Ridge just sounded like a 2 hour 40 minute movie about a bunch of buff dudes fighting each other for no apparent reason. I’m not accustomed to revealing my biases before seeing a movie, but I only do it in this case of being proved so miraculously wrong. This isn’t a dude movie. It’s a religious war drama with an incredibly interesting subject. Though the religiosity is not surprising since it comes from Mel Gibson, a heavily decorated Hollywood film almost always exclude spiritual stories, characters, or themes. I am happy to have been proven wrong.
Apparently Hacksaw Ridge is a place in Okinawa, Japan where an important World War II battle took place. One of the only people to win the Medal of Honor without firing a gun, Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), fought (or healed?) there as the Seventh-day Adventist army medic. Hacksaw briefly begins with his troubled childhood, growing up with his abusive father (Hugo Weaving), a WWI vet and victim of PTSD. Doss is a naive as a boy could be when at 18 (I think) he falls in love with Dorothy (Teresa Palmer) in what is ostensibly a 20-minute remake of The Notebook. Not able to hold off his sense of duty for too long, Doss enlists. You can imagine what his fellow soldiers thought of his ruthless religiosity in refusing to use a gun.
Hacksaw Ridge is about first impressions, pride, empathy, and love for the human spirit. To break the news to you, Desmond Doss will either inspire you to live your convictions and stay true to who you are….or he will come off as a self-righteous southern white guy who doesn’t know what real hardship is. I hope you see him as the former and push off thoughts of the latter. I do not consider myself to have a very strong sense of patriotism, but mine certainly went up about 15 levels after this movie.
The long, surrealistic war sequences were enchanting. Even if it comes off as a bit hammy. Cinematographer Simon Duggan did a wonderful job shooting what could have easily been boring fight scenes. For someone who does not watch a lot of war movies, Hacksaw Ridge was just enough for me. Visually stunning shots. Also, I would follow Andrew Garfield off the edge of a cliff. His performances (such as in Never Let Me Go) seem to always have this enticing and conflicted quality to them. Playing a tormented soul is his strength, and I thought he absolutely nailed it in Hacksaw. I am looking forward to seeing what he does in Scorsese’s new film, Silence. I am also looking forward to this war genre that has previously remained unexplored for me. Saving Private Ryan here I come.