Hacksaw Ridge opens with an emotional, visceral scene of war. It’s a taste of things to come because man is this film brutal! It’s probably one of the goriest mainstream films in recent memory.
This film is based on the true story of conscientious objector Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) who saved 75 men from the battlefield while under fire from Japanese troops in World War II. After a shocking event in his past he renounces violence which causes a bit of a conflict when he signs up to be a combat medic in the US Army. After much abuse he is finally allowed to serve, unarmed, with his unit and is sent off to Japan to take a strongly defended ridge. Hacksaw Ridge. It is here that his legendary act of bravery plays out!
Andrew Garfield plays his role well. “You ain’t like everybody else,” his father tells him and this couldn’t be more true. Not only does he look physically weaker he is one in a crowd of many that is against violence. The adversity keeps on growing, his own brothers beating him but he stands by his beliefs and this is admirable. Garfield makes you believe in his motives and the conviction he holds is astounding.
Even though Garfield does a great job, it is Hugo Weaving that steals the show. He’s in a relatively small portion of the film yet delivers a potential career best performance as the violent, alcoholic ex-soldier father. I can practically hear the eye rolls as you read that but this is what makes his performance so impressive. He brings a great sense of depth and originality to the role and is honestly the best thing about the film.
The first half of Hacksaw Ridge is strong, we get a feel for the characters and a promising yet cheesy love story begins to take hold. It’s drawn out but not annoyingly so and it gives a great sense of what Desmond is giving up in order to serve for his country. Mel Gibson directs and does a serviceable job. In the first half we get enough time to really appreciate the main character’s convictions and the themes are laid down with a trowel so it’s a shame then that the second half devolves into a bit of a war fest. The action scenes are very Gibson-esque which is not necessarily a bad thing but it feels like a lot of the subtlety of the first half falls by the way side as we are ‘treated’ to the violence of close up explosions, burnings and bullet holes.
Hacksaw Ridge is an interesting character piece at times, concentrating on Desmond Doss’ conscientious objections but then in the next breath glorifying the smog of war with its extended scenes of violence. To a point you can understand that this is necessary to set the scene for Desmond’s bravery but eventually you’re left with a feeling of, “We get it already. War is hell.”
After so many severed limbs, bullet holes and burning Japanese soldiers it’s difficult to decide whether this is a story about standing by your convictions or just another standard fare war tale.
written by Bradley Allen