This is a spoiler-free Hacksaw Ridge review.
There are few things like a great war movie. First of all, it’s a true story. The viewer is being treated to a real-life scenario that is “written for the movies.” It also has built-in action, which just comes with the theater of war. Finally, and above all, a quality war movie tells a solid personal story, with a war serving as the background.
Hacksaw Ridge tells a story that deserves to be told in a way that is emotional, entertaining, and eloquent.
The film follows Desmond Doss, an army medic who refuses to kill during World War II. Doss (Andrew Garfield) is the first Conscientious Objector in American history to receive the Medal of Honor for his work. Doss saved 75 lives in one night at Hacksaw Ridge in the Battle of Okinawa.
There’s your background setting. In the foreground is Doss’ internal and external struggles as a Conscientious Objector during World War II. The writing shines in these moments. Doss interacts with his military superiors, wife, and his own anti-violent conscience in a way that is conflicting, compassionate, inspirational. We also get an intense look inside why Doss decides to be a Conscientious Objector. And we haven’t even gotten to the war scenes yet.
Speaking of, the war scenes in the film are phenomenal. The visuals are stunning and the sound effects throw you into the middle of the battlefield. The first battle scene is particularly well done because it takes about an hour to get there and it serves as stimulating jolt to the system. From there, Hacksaw Ridge bounces back and forth between anxious breaks in the fighting and all-out war. The viewer is given just enough time to catch his or her breath before being sent to another battle. It’s a nice mix from director Mel Gibson.
Mel Gibson is at it again. In a good way.
War movies involving Mel Gibson are pretty good, huh? With The Patriot and Braveheart already on his resume, Gibson was one of the things that intrigued me about Hacksaw Ridge going in. I’m happy to report that he has once again found gold here. This may not be on the same level as Braveheart (because what is?), but it’s close. A large part of that can be attributed to Gibson — the film has a 131-minute running time and zero slow parts. He also fits in a nice tribute before the closing credits start.
Andrew Garfield isn’t overly impactful as Desmond Dobbs, but the quality writing and directing more than make up for it. Vince Vaughn is a great mix of dry humor and stern leader as Sargeant Howell. This combination is right up his alley. Sam Worthington is solid and well-casted as Captain Glover. Teresa Palmer gives the viewer an extra reason to root for Doss to make it home as his love interest waiting for him. Palmer is endearing and instrumental to the film as Dorothy Schutte.
Here we sit, entering Oscar season. While 2016 may not be as strong as 2015, it is certainly off to a good start. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Mel Gibson and Hacksaw Ridge in the conversation for major awards come February.
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Image credit: Summit Entertainment