“Hacksaw Ridge” stars Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, and Vince Vaughn. Released on November 4, 2016, the film is about a man who enlists in the Army to fight in World War II despite his refusal to kill anyone.
The film is directed by Mel Gibson, who also directed The Man Without a Face, Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ, and Apocalypto. It is based on a true story about Desmond T. Doss, the first conscientious objector who received the Medal of Honor for his courageous acts at Hacksaw Ridge. I haven’t seen any of the films that Gibson directed, but I did see a few films that he starred in, such as The Expendables 3 and the first three Mad Max films. This film has been getting some great buzz since its premiere at the 73rd Venice Film Festival two months ago, where it got a 10-minute standing ovation, and sometimes, great buzz can equal to Oscar buzz depending on how well it does as a wide release. For this review, I’m not going to let Mel Gibson’s personal life cloud my judgement for this film. I’m reviewing it based on his vision as a director.
As I mentioned before, the film is based on a true story that chronicles the events experienced by Desmond T. Doss, played by Andrew Garfield, starting with his childhood. What I loved about the story is that it displayed a couple of reasons why Doss doesn’t carry a weapon. Those reasons alone made me understand why he took that oath. This act makes him an outcast from the other soldiers, but his actions inside the battlefield made him into a hero. The first half of the film did a great job at building up to the battle on Hacksaw Ridge without slowing itself down, while giving us plenty of time to explore some of the characters. The structure almost reminded me of The Hunger Games, where the first half has that long build-up for the audience to get to know the characters before the big event in the second half. Garfield was a marvel to watch as Doss. I really liked him in the Amazing Spider-Man films, and I love him in this. It might be possible that he’ll get an Oscar nomination for his role. My biggest surprise was Vince Vaughn’s performance as Sergeant Howell. I usually see him in comedies, but I haven’t seen him in anything like this. I was like, “Eh, I’m not sure about that”, but after watching his performance, I was like, “Wow, I am impressed”. The film does have some religious themes, but they were able to mesh well together with its strong storytelling without being shoved down our throats. The second half of the film is where Mel Gibson drew out the big guns. As soon as it starts, my eyes were glued to the screen. That entire sequence was heart-pounding, well-shot, and very violent. It really displayed the expression, “War is Hell”, in the most realistic way possible, and I do mean realistic because it has plenty of grisly sequences that aren’t meant for those with weak stomachs. Combine it with some fantastic sound editing and you got yourself an intense, gritty experience that does not let up until the credits start rolling.
Overall, “Hacksaw Ridge” is not only an inspiring, well-acted tale about a man’s heroic deed that doesn’t involve killing people, but it’s also the most intense, most innovative war film that I ever experienced on the big screen. Thanks to Andrew Garfield’s strong performance, great sound editing, some supportive religious themes, and its gripping and violent second half, this film may not be for those who can’t stand the sight of blood and gore, but for fans of war films, it is a must-watch. A bit long, but a must-watch.