Sunday, February 19, 2017

Hacksaw Ridge

Year: 2016
Director: Mel Gibson
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Teresa Palmer, Vince Vaughn, Hugo Weaving, Luke Bracey, Rachel Griffiths

Plot: Based on the true story of Desmond Doss, an American war medic who saved dozens of American soldiers during World War II without carrying a weapon.

Review: Hacksaw Ridge is Mel Gibson's first film as a director in ten years (after 2006's Apocalypto), and he seems to have not lost a beat, judging by all the acclaim it has received so far.

This film is about the life of Desmond Doss, a war medic who rescued plenty of American soldiers during World War II at Okinawa, Japan. After a childhood incident, along with his religious upbringing and the actions of his drunk father while growing up, Doss renounces violence and enlists in the army to become a war medic. However, since he refuses to touch a firearm due to his beliefs, his superiors and fellow trainees give him a hard time, but to his credit, he doesn't quit. 

The second half of the story focuses on the battle for Hacksaw Ridge in Okinawa, where Doss risks his life over and over to save his fellow comrades, and never once firing a gun. This part of the story has a Saving Private Ryan feel to it, as Gibson does not relent in showing the horror and violence of war, with plenty of headshots, blood and severed limbs on screen.

Despite the lengthy screen time at 139 minutes, the film feels lean and well paced. Credit goes to Gibson for making the film's flow perfectly smooth and not wasting any time, even during the quieter moments. The battle sequences are also pretty intense and well shot, thus the second half of the film is pretty action packed and suspenseful.

Andrew Garfield puts in a strong performance as Doss, though I'm not sure if he deserves to win the Best Actor Oscar just yet. Don't get me wrong, he is great. But superb? Maybe not. Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington lend some good support as Doss' superiors, with the former giving a Full Metal Jacket inspired performance during the training scenes, which will give audiences a good laugh. Teresa Palmer is the perfect match for Garfield as his love interest, Dorothy while Hugo Weaving and Rachel Griffiths are awesome as Doss' parents, particularly Weaving. Weaving's portrayal of a emotionally scarred former soldier is reminiscent of William Fichtner's brief appearance in Pearl Harbor, and he should have earned an Oscar nomination next to Garfield. Finally Luke Bracey, who is usually a bland actor, actually does well as Smitty, Doss' comrade who is hard on him during training but eventually comes to respect him.

Now, while Hacksaw Ridge is a great film with all the right elements in place, it feels somewhat derivative of other better war films that have come before it. Saving Private Ryan immediately comes to mind, and even Braveheart, Gibson's crown jewel, both feel more compelling than this film. 

Nevertheless, Hacksaw Ridge is a solid war film which is a guaranteed crowd pleaser, and should be watched by all war movie fans. (8/10)

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