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Dan's Review: Despite Mel Gibson's heavy-handed direction, "Hacksaw Ridge" worth seeing

Nov 04, 2016 12:52PM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge - © 2016 - Summit Entertainment.

Hacksaw Ridge (Summit Entertainment)

Rated R for intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence including grisly bloody images.

Starring Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Hugo Weaving, Ryan Corr, Teresa Palme, Rachel Griffiths, Richard Roxburgh, Luke Pegler, Richard Pyros, Ben Mingay, Firass Dirani, Jacob Warner, Goran D. Kleut, Harry Greenwood, Damien Thomlinson, Robert Morgan, Nathaniel Buzolic, Ori Pfeffer, Milo Gibson, John Batziolas, John Cannon, Mikael Koski, Charles Jacobs.

Written by Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan.

Directed by Mel Gibson.

GRADE: B+

REVIEW:

War is hell, they say – and no one is more dedicated to making you realize that than Mel Gibson. As a director, Gibson never misses a chance to show a little more gore and suffering (something he used to reserve for his own characters before gaining pariah status), while setting up sacrificial heroes on screen (Braveheart, Apocalypto, Passion of the Christ). Nothing has changed for Hacksaw Ridge, Gibson’s adaptation of the real-life story of Desmond Doss, a Word War II medic who refused to pick up a gun.

Andrew Garfield plays Doss, the son of an alcoholic WWI veteran (Hugo Weaving) and Seventh-Day Adventist mom (Rachel Griffiths). After falling in love with the beautiful Dorothy (Teresa Palmer), Doss enlists in the army as a medic, where he hopes to save lives rather than take them. His plan backfires during boot camp, where his tough drill sergeant (Vince Vaughn) and company commander (Sam Worthington) make his life a living hell. His platoon also joins in the abuse, beating Doss frequently as he’s denied leave to see Dorothy and given latrine and KP duty in retaliation. Doss refuses to quit, eventually earning a measure of respect from his comrades and leaders.

After shipping out to Okinawa, the platoon ascends Hacksaw Ridge, a large cliff-side battlefield where the Japanese have dug in for their final defense against the Allies. For students of war history, the battle of Okinawa was one of the bloodiest of the war, as desperate Japanese soldiers defended their honor by any means necessary, including suicidal raids and brutal hand-to-hand combat. Doss’ platoon is immediately cut down, with many soldiers wounded or dying. The company eventually retreats back down the cliff, but Doss refuses to leave his fallen comrades, dragging them to the edge and lowering them down for medical treatment. Just as his commanders learn that Doss is still there, they are ordered back up the ridge, where they discover Doss, still rescuing his mates under heavy fire.

Hacksaw Ridge is one of those war stories that is truly inspiring. You couldn’t imagine a person as selfless and heroic as Doss, who really did save 75 men (including Japanese) during the battle of Okinawa. For this reason alone, Hacksaw Ridge is worth seeing in a world - where “me-first” attitudes and violent behavior are the norm. 

That said, it would seem that Gibson tried a little too hard to drive these points home, using extreme gore, maudlin displays of violence and iconic imagery that seem rooted in heavy-handed Christianity (another Gibson staple). Doss’ story is inspiring enough without being beaten over the head with visual gluttony. I wish Gibson could have practiced a little restraint, but that’s really Mel, is it?

It should be noted that Andrew Garfield’s performance is fantastic, despite Gibson’s lack of restraint. The rest of the cast (most of them are Australian, including Weaving, Griffiths, Worthington, Palmer and Luke Bracey, who plays one of Doss’ fellow soldiers) are more than adequate in supporting roles, especially Vaughn.

Hacksaw Ridge may not be perfect, but if you can stand the gore, it’s worth seeing.


Hacksaw Ridge Trailer

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