As mentioned in one of my previous posts, Mel Gibson should never be forgiven for the frankly ridiculous comment he made during his torrid time a few years ago. However I am firm believer that politics should stay between those paid to provide educated and enlightened opinions on the matter, and that if I have the freedom to type this post with the background I do, a Man should be allowed to make a film he believes to worthy of being told. That being said Hacksaw Ridge (another historical film I know) entered the frame riding high on a wave of incredibly positive reviews ranging from direction to cinematography, however as I’m sure you know by the now, nothing matters until this handsome son of a gun inserts his ten pence into the ever ready slot.
Hacksaw Ridge tells the true story of Desmond Doss, the conscientious objector who, during the latter stages of the Japanese conflict of WW2, won the Medal of Honor for his incredible bravery and regard for his fellow soldiers. With the story of his religious unbringing providing depth to his pacifist beliefs as well as his sheer dedication to the stance he has so bravely decided to take. Throughout the film we see Doss’s trials and tribulations after enlisting in the US Army in order to become the medic that gained such credit during the shamefully under-studied battle of Hacksaw Ridge.
The main reason for this film’s unquestionable success is the absolutely excellent way in which Director Mel Gibson depicts this movie’s main Protagonist. Had Gibson taken too long focusing on the heavy action sequence at the end, the overall message would have sadly been missed. Fortunately from his turbulent upbringing to his more than troublesome process of enrolment in to the Army, both Gibson incorporated an interesting interpretation on the potentially lesser known side of the Second World War.
I’ve always found that movies such as this tend to focus on either the character or the action showing a basic neglect and disregard for the other. Hacksaw Ridge endows us with a plethora of both. An incredibly apt script is uniformly supported by stellar performances from all involved (we will get to that shortly) as well action that does not over emphasise the Jesus symbolism a Gibson movie inherently presents.
ROUND 1 SCORE – 9/10
Round 2 – Characters
For a film carrying such weight during the awards season, Hacksaw Ridge is actually one of those films to carry quite a bit weight in terms of characters. From Garfield’s Doss to Hugo Weaving’s drunk and abusive father figure, we are given the chance to see what those involved believed to be the struggles faced by Americans during WW2.
An issue I’ve always had with war movies is that inevitably the soldiers you have begun to know and appreciate will become an excuse to show off the next best CGI/Practical effect. Be it rag dolling dummies across a set or simply showing limbs mutilated, the role of your common soldier in your typical war film is to act apprehensive yet resolute in the face of certain doom.
Don’t get me wrong, the whole “Hacksaw Ridge” set piece was fantastic. It showed great tension and honestly depicted the bravery Doss showed in what was literally an organ grinder of an operation. However I found myself watching the film expecting certain characters to survive while others did not, and that hindered my ability to invest in the entire situation.
Just think of Saving Private Ryan if you will. Throughout that film we are learning to love and appreciate each of these characters as they undergo this frankly offensive mission of locating Matt Damon’s Private Ryan. Time is spent watching their dynamic grow as this group of soldiers sadly and slowly decreases as the mission wears on. Hacksaw Ridge regrettably fails in that area.
It would be easy to suggest that this, like all other films by Gibson carries a certain religious undercurrent, and it does! However with actors such as Vince Vaughn, the painfully underused Hugo Weaving and Sam Worthington so ably portraying what is essentially (although somewhat exaggerated at times – I’m looking at that moment at the end where he descends from the Ridge itself here) the real life issues faced by a man merely doing his part for the American war effort in whatever way he can.
ROUND 2 SCORE – 6/10
Round 3 – Overall Enjoyment
If you wipe away the Jesus symbolism, switch off the baggage that will perpetually surround anything Gibson does from now on, Hacksaw Ridge is a blooming fun film to watch. I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this before, but historical films tickle my pickle and there is no better way of enjoying a story you think you already know than to hear in a way you’ve never heard before.
The character Desmond Doss is a fascinating one that suffered unenviably at the hands of countless patriarch figures throughout this film. However his dedication and unyielding respect for his faith gave interesting depth to a final act that seemed to show no signs of slowing down. Honestly that has got to have been one of my favourite sequences in a movie such as this since the Normandy Beach landing scene of Saving Private Ryan. It had everything! Including Vince Vaughn (and I didn’t even know that was an option before this). Sure the beginning is bland and sure the pacing for the opening hour is so is stunted, but the money shot more than makes up for the laboured fore play
ROUND 3 SCORE – 8/10
FINAL SCORE – HACKSAW RIDGE WINS BY DECISION 23/30
I think I’ve said all I can about Hacksaw Ridge by now, it’s interesting, it’s entertaining and above all else, it is true to its source material (or at least it seems anyway). A film worthy of its nominations throughout this period and one that shouldn’t be lost once the dust has settled.