This is blunt but absolutely effective, loud but quietly tender, derivative but fetchingly sincere, cheesy but earnest to the core. Mel Gibson didn’t even try to be subtle with the themes – everything, including spilled bloody guts and other anatomy, is splashed on your full-alert consciousness. Heck! The movie has no shades of grey but yet he delivers with a true story so amazing that my heart swelled up like a balloon. This is one of the most harrowing war stories ever put on screen and it is definitely not for the faint-hearted. This one truly earns its M18 rating and it wears its crimson heart on its sleeve, a blood-soaked tribute to courage, patriotism and following one’s principles in the face insurmountable odds.
Hacksaw Ridge is a biographical war drama film about the World War II experiences of Desmond Doss, an American pacificist combat medic who was a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, refusing to carry or use a firearm or weapons of any kind. Doss became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor, for service above and beyond the call of duty.
Mel Gibson sure loves stories about men of faith getting their insides turned out. The irony of a man refusing to bear arms but yet wants to serve his country is right up his usual alley. For all its cloying melodrama, he got the casting absolutely right. Andrew Garfield is simply outstanding in the role of a conscientious “cooperator”. His genial smile hiding a resounding resolve to adhere to his religious beliefs no matter what. Garfield manages to find the right balance of inner strength and vulnerability. His early scenes of being smitten by a nurse named Dorothy is heartwarmingly sincere. It is a credit to Garfield’s moving portrayal that the romantic scenes don’t feel manufactured. The movie takes its time to build Desmond’s world so that we understand the soul-shattering decisions he would make later on. Elsewhere, Hugo Weaving as Desmond’s father is especially potent and I will bet he gets a nomination at the Oscars. Vince Vaughn as Sgt Howell and Sam Worthington as Captain Glover are very effective too.
The film is neatly divided into two halves and it is in the second half we get the namesake money shots. I have always felt Saving Private Ryan is the benchmark for depicting the gut-churning reality of the frontline of war, but Hacksaw Ridge comes incredibly close in usurping it, losing out by a whisker. Gibson pulled zero punches here and we are treated to exploding human viscera in visceral and gory details. This almost crossed into the horror genre, but thankfully the first half pays its dividends here. In the midst of the mayhem and carnage, the human element in the stupidity of war is kept front and centre. Gibson has wring the source material for all it is worth and more.
This is an incredibly satisfying and thought provoking story. I have my doubts I can even hold on to my precepts and beliefs in the eye of a maelstrom, but it is such a great feeling to know it can be done by someone so scrawny and big-hearted like Desmond Doss. This feels like a blueprint for living one’s life.
“Please Lord, please help me get one more. Help me get one more.”
Last night I slept with that line on repeat in my mind.
4 / 5