Gibson goes Private Ryan with an inspiring war epic.
“With the world so set on tearing itself apart, doesn’t seem like such a bad thing to me to want to put a little bit of it back together”. This quote from the protagonist pacifist is scarily relevant today, which is perhaps why this story is turning into such a success. Aside from that however, director Mel Gibson has returned with a level of quality further than Apocalypto, bursting with spectacle and declaring loudly: “I’m back”.
Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) enlists in the army with the intention of becoming a medic – but not using a weapon. A conscientious objector and a pacifist, he’s passionate about his beliefs, but is keen to serve his country.
The film takes plenty inspiration from war classics such as Saving Private Ryan and Full Metal Jacket. The first third introduces us to Doss, from his troubled childhood to medical aspirations to meeting his leading lady (Teresa Palmer). It’s not offensive in any way, if anything it’s rather nice; but is that what you’re wanting in a war drama? It’s all a bit cheesy, sun-drenched and occasionally out of place, but again, it’s still nice. Plus it makes the rest of the film all the more rewarding.
We move onto the training camp, where your fond Kubrick memories will come rushing back. Here we meet Doss’ comrades, including his captain (played by an impassioned Sam Worthington) and frenemy Smitty (given an edgy, memorable performance by Luke Bracey). But a huge highlight comes in the form of Vince Vaughn’s Sergeant Howell, taking on a R. Lee Ermey role, ripping his soldiers apart one by one, with Doss on the end of a great line: “Make sure you keep this man away from strong winds”. Doss’ beliefs bring in an expected point plot, but nonetheless impactful, of everyone pushing against him. We route for him continuously, then we make it to the battlefield, or the titular Ridge.
Here the film leaps forward, grabbing the viewers heads and refusing to let them move. The harsh beauty of war is shown in full capacity, a storm of explosions and smoke, bullets and guts. We watch as bodies are flown across a never-ending maelstrom of chaos, that feels as close to Private Ryan‘s opening massacre as we’ll ever get. Gibson’s expert direction is blatantly obvious also, as amongst the visionary action, we can still focus on, and care for Doss.
Garfield has had quite the year. In both of his Oscar-nominated flicks he’s tackling Japan in some way, but here he feels more relatable. His story is a truly incredible one, made more emotionally-charged by the actor himself. To see how far he’s come is a real joy; forget about the not-so-Amazing Spidey, he means business.
To sum it up…
Hacksaw Ridge is both an excellent character study, and a harrowingly shot, if only occasionally soppy WWII tale, made terrific by the now Oscar-nominated duo of Gibson and Garfield.
Rating: PURE DYNAMITE!
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Author: Cameron Frew