Hacksaw Ridge is the newest film from director Mel Gibson and stars Andrew Garfield as Desmond T. Doss, a U.S. Army medic who saved dozens of lives in World War II. The overused based-on-a-true-story label is certainly applied to this movie, one of the nine films up for Best Picture at the Oscars this year. I went into this film knowing very little about it, except for the main premise and cast. I really enjoy the way Gibson has taken a story like this and turned it into a fast-paced, gory, and awesome thrill ride. From the opening scene, I wasn’t exactly sure what to think. Since it starts right in the middle of a battle, there isn’t much context to rely on. However, once the actual film began it got a lot more intriguing. I really enjoy the sequence depicting Desmond and his brother as a child. You can really get why he doesn’t want to kill people during the war, and that help you understand his personality later in the film. While his appearance is brief, Hugo Weaving’s portrayal of Desmond’s father is really good. In his first scene, you see him drinking over some graves, then smashing the bottle and cutting his hand, blood dripping onto a gravestone. It looked like he was a drunkard (which he still was), but later you find out that those were his friends’ graves, and they died during World War I.
One thing I really loved about this movie was the action. I really loved it. In the first hour of the film, the boot camp scenes are as close to action as you’ll get. I know that for some people, that’s a bad thing. I get it. It’s a war film, and many go in expecting combat right from the get-go. However, I actually appreciate that Hacksaw Ridge doesn’t take the route some may want. I think that it shows that there are still films that don’t need to start (and end) with a bang to entice viewers. When the action does start, though, the film is frickin’ awesome. At the start of the battle, the action is slow, but once the first gunshot fires, the body count rises to the extreme. I watched a video on YouTube that went in-depth and counted every single death in the film, and the final total was 384. Even when people aren’t killed on-screen, it’s brutal. The film also has some very surprisingly funny moments, e.g: a man doing pull-ups naked is forced to participate in the obstacle course naked as well.
Usually, the romance subplot doesn’t work for me in films like this. With action distracting from important moments a lot of the time, it’s hard to truly feel invested in a romantic subplot between two characters. Fortunately for this film, the subplot actually works. While Desmond’s love interest (played by Lights Out star Teresa Palmer) doesn’t get enough screen-time as she should, the actress works with what she gets, and the writing for her character is strong enough that it doesn’t feel cheesy and dumb. As far as the other actors go, Andrew Garfield and Vince Vaughn are surprisingly good. Since they’re known for very limited roles, seeing them in a film like this is a welcome change.
Hacksaw Ridge is an astounding film. Its extremely violent but beautiful visual flair makes it a fun, thrilling, and a really good movie overall. It’s one definitely worth checking out, even if you’re not into war films. I’m going to give Hacksaw Ridge an A.
Hacksaw Ridge stars Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Vince Vaughn. Directed by Mel Gibson.