One of the grittiest and most heartfelt World War II films in years
Hacksaw Ridge is a 2016 biographical war film directed by Mel Gibson and stars Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving, and Teresa Palmer.
The film tells the true story of Desmond T. Doss, a combat medic during World War II who refused to use or carry a firearm. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for single-handedly saving the lives of over 75 men while under heavy enemy fire during the Battle of Okinawa. The film also chronicles Doss meeting and falling in love with Dorothy Schutte, and later enlisting in the Army, where his beliefs and refusal to carry a gun are met with surprise and hostility.
Mel Gibson really knocked the ball out of the park with this one. There is truly an aura of amazement and masterful craft with this film, and it did not fully hit me as I was leaving the theater. I had to take some time to process and really digest what I had seen on screen. It's a rarity nowadays to come across a film that hits all the right buttons, but Mel Gibson has produced another directorial feature that hits the nail on the head several times, and is for sure up for major Oscar contention next year.
Acting, direction, editing, the soundtrack, cinematography, and more all come together in Hacksaw Ridge. It also features graphic and blood-curling war battle scenes that reach a level of intensity not seen since Saving Private Ryan. In the middle of the gunfire, explosions, and hell on Earth is a brave and pacifistic hero in Desmond Doss whose emotional appeal never falls into a mawkish manner.
- Andrew Garfield's performance. Garfield brings a humble and tender presence to the screen, and also boasts the necessary physique to create a fully convincing modern-day replica of a unique World War II hero. This is no vile drill sergeant or hulking man who loves to charge the enemy. Doss is a refined and dignified individual who sticks to his beliefs, no matter the cost. Andrew Garfield gives us exactly this, and we love him for it.
- The pacing. It's as if Mel Gibson quadruple checked the script and calculated how much of the run time he wanted to dedicate to each important segment. From the love development between Doss and Dorothy, to Doss's time in Army training, and all the way to his experience on the battlefield, everything moves at a continuous pace that never feels too rushed or too sluggish. Every major piece is given the time and depth it needs to flourish.
- It's more of a small nitpick, but a few scenes cut away a little too soon. These few scenes could've been about 10 to 20 seconds longer for the sake of dramatic effect. For example, Doss is brought forth to a colonel who tells him if he man's up and passes the "shooting" part of his training, all charges against him will be dropped. A gun is offered to him, but Doss refuses to take it. The scene cuts away right after that. A few extra seconds could see the concerned looks from everybody else watching Doss, and maybe have the colonel make a comment. Some scenes like this one pass on potential dramatic effect, but I won't stress this as any kind of significant flaw.
Mel Gibson has had his ups and downs throughout his career, but he reaches an all new high with Hacksaw Ridge, a brilliant and emotional World War II piece featuring a terrific Andrew Garfield performance and a brutal picture of what it looks like in a war-zone. Hacksaw Ridge is unquestionably one of the best films of the year, and perhaps the greatest World War II film since Saving Private Ryan.
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