A film review: 'Hacksaw Ridge'

Origin: United States, Australia · Language: English
Director: Mel Gibson
Writers: Andrew Knight, Robert Schenkkan
Genres: War, biography, drama
November 4, 2016

Casts: Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving,
Rachel Griffiths, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington,
Luke Bracey

More info: IMDb

A film of this calibre does not deserve my usually lame wordplays on the title of its review. Two words: Mel Gibson. I'm glad I've waited this long for its big screen release at our shores; my patience was rewarded very handsomely!

I didn't really follow about any of his notorious outings or his acting career, but everyone knows that he's damn good when he's calling the shots behind the camera. I was psyched as everyone else out there when those two names are uttered and is out to helm yet another film involving guts spewing in the air in very large numbers. However, it has an epic twist on its own (which includes pretty boy Andrew Garfield in a rather demanding lead role).

In regards to his muse in filmmaking, everyone knows for a fact that Gibson's really into violent imagery in most of his films and have its protagonist doing morally questionable things by being violent in order to uphold what is right for them. A grand exception can be applied to this one though; it's a true story about a combat medic during the Battle of Okinawa who chooses to participate in the war... without firing even a single bullet. Wait, what? A pacifist WAR film? Really?

Read on through this NON-SPOILER review, even though it's already been talked about to death by now and it's already past the bullshit Oscars 2017 season.

The film is based on the historical account of Desmond Doss (Garfield), a devout Seventh Day Adventist who's decided to join the US army in the Battle of Okinawa as a combat medic, all while refusing to touch a gun, let alone firing it or even using it as a self-defense mechanism in the battlefield. The film chronicles his struggles in defending what he believes in by enduring ridicules made by his fellow troops and the unforgiving environment of the Hacksaw Ridge, one of the many spots ruled by the Japanese that the Americans wish to take over.

To many who follows Gibson's behind-the-camera career, as I've stated earlier, his films are known to have its characters to either act violently or having to endure graphic torture to atone for his/her alleged wrongdoings. Why Gibson decided to take up this project and break that streak is anybody's guess. Maybe he's finally tired of his characters blaming themselves for the injustices and punish themselves for it? Who knows? But don't get me wrong at all: despite the strong pacifism illustrated by Garfield's portrayal of the unsung war hero, this film is just as or more violent as your typical Mel Gibson fashion with grimy and gritty visuals. Only this time, the overall view of war and violence displayed has changed for the better, thanks to a rather different perspective of the whole "tired of injustice" trope he's played through the eyes of Desmond Doss. It's not at all an American propaganda film; if anything, it's a very subtle Christian propaganda or insert-faith-here propaganda film about what would happen if one's belief are challenged in an extreme condition such as wars. Because of this, the film feels intimate yet universal in that way.

Now let's talk about the unexpected performances here. First off, the most obvious one, which is the casting of Andrew Garfield. While not the best example, he has shown is emotional chops in films like The Amazing Spider-Man franchise and from what I've heard, the newest film by Martin Scorcese called Silence (hope to watch it somehow, even if it means through "that method"). He carried his character very well and is a clear contrast with most of his colleagues in the army and his own father Tom Doss, played by Hugo Weaving. Speaking of that guy, his character is an effective one and a great emotional vehicle that fuels his son's desires to enlist in the army for the Battle of Okinawa. I don't really follow his acting career, but he was Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger the last time I saw him. He's terrific! Oh yeah. Who else is terrific? Vince Vaughn! He is notorious for making and starring in sub-par comedy films that are enjoyable sometimes (last time I saw him was in the Google ad movie The Internship). He's a terrific drill sergeant and a very sympathetic one at that as the movie progresses! Also, he shared an epic and totally exaggerated moment with Andrew Garfield's character!

Overall, the wait was indeed very fulfilling. It may be a bleak movie, Hacksaw Ridge is a very powerful and feel good movie about saving the world without having to resort to violence... despite having featured heavy violence in it, with it being justified through Desmond Doss's noble stance. Definitely an awesome modern war film! Recommended to be seen in the cinemas!

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