Director: Mel Gibson
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Vince Vaughn
Genre: Drama, War, History
Age Rating: 15/R
Running Time: 139 Minutes
Andrew Garfield steps out for his second outing in this year’s Oscars season with an incredible performance, in a brilliantly directed film, which truly shows why he and Hacksaw Ridge should not be overlooked as genuine awards contenders this month.
This film tells the unbelievable, terrifying and awe-inspiring true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), the WWII American Army Medic who made history by becoming the first man to be awarded with the Medal of Honour without firing a single shot. His upbringing and religious views had left him with an anti-killing stance and determined to serve by assisting and saving his comrades on the front line of the Battle of Okinawa without touching a gun. He fought opposition, trial and tribulation within the US army just to ensure that he could follow his men onto the unspeakable and unforgivable battlefield that was Hacksaw Ridge. This film shows just how much of a remarkable and selfless human being Desmond Doss was.
This adapted screenplay gives us a detailed and brutal insight into Desmond’s childhood which was shaped by his abusive father who fought in WWI and lost his closest friends. Tom Doss (Hugo Weaving) was a broken man who took his loss and heartbreak out on his family and particularly Desmond’s mother Bertha (Rachel Griffiths). It was this endless torment, Desmond’s near-tragic mistake as a young boy and the family’s religious background which led to his strong views as a young man, desperate to serve his country.
His infectious charm, adventurous personality and patriotism led to him meeting and falling in love with for nurse Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer). His story is therefore not just one of being a hero in the Second World War, but also of being a devoted husband who was determined to come back to his hometown sweetheart, and not be like his father. This film is full of deeply emotional relationships which make it so much more than a run of the mill action-packed war blockbuster.
With that being said, what this film does excel in is cinematography, visual effects and editing. The majority of the scenes in this film are breath-taking and beautifully put together, whilst also shocking and terrifying to witness and picture in your head. I can’t begin to imagine how much money must have been spent on the battle scenes in this film, and how long they would have taken to shoot and edit in post production. It is these scenes and the gritty rather than glamorous portrayal of the US army in WWII which rightfully throw Mel Gibson’s hat into the mix for Best Director, and which, personally, make it deserved of the award for Best Cinematography at this year’s Oscars.
Hacksaw Ridge has drama, history, romance and patriotism throughout as expected, but what I was not prepared for, and delightfully surprised by, was the levels of comedy at the start of this film, when Desmond Doss enters Sargent Howell’s (Vince Vaughn) regiment. He channels the ruthless and bad-tempered classic characters of Sgt. Emil Foley from An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) into this picture and leaves the audience laughing their heads off (my laughter was literally uncontrollable half-way through this film!). Once again, Vince Vaughn is a highlight of a film for me, even when he is playing a key character in a serious story (which I feel he received a lot of unfair criticism for in the likes of the True Detective TV series).
Overall, Hacksaw Ridge is an brilliantly shot, perfectly cast, roller-coaster of a film which has you on the edge of your seat, with your heart in your mouth and yet laughing regularly as well. In terms of recent war-based films (Fury, Allied, American Sniper etc.) it sits at no.1 for me. I wasn’t expecting to walk away from an Oscars season war film this year so amazed, shocked and inspired, but Hacksaw Ridge ticks all the right boxes for me and the majority of people I have spoken about it with since, and it is definitely one which cannot be missed this year.
“With the world so set on tearing itself apart, it don’t seem like such a bad thing to me to want to put a little bit of it back together.” – Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield)
Recommendation: So beautifully created and portrayed on the big screen that this film HAS to be seen at the cinema. End of.