Hacksaw Ridge – Film Review by Fran Winston
Directed by: Mel Gibson
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Vince Vaughn
In cinemas January 27th
Mel Gibson’s Hollywood rehabilitation seems to be complete given the acclaim and award nominations that this movie has received. The astonishing true story of Desmond Doss (Garfield), a conscientious objector who saved more than 75 men at a place known as Hacksaw Ridge during WWII, is one that deserved telling. Whether you love or hate him, Gibson does have form with these kinds of epic stories so on the surface he was definitely the right man to bring this to the screen,
Gibson dons his director’s cap here and doesn’t actually appear but the cast list is still mighty impressive. Rather than simply condense the story and focus on the epic war scenes Gibson starts his story at the very first catalyst for his beliefs – a childhood incident where he almost kills his brother with a brick. The character is allowed to breathe and grow as we are shown many of the formative moments in his life before he even joins the army to serve his country about a third of the way though.
As a conscientious objector he refused to carry a rifle and was mocked, vilified and even court martialed over it. However Doss simply wanted to serve as an army medic so he could do some good. Branded a coward, the deeply religious Doss staunchly stood by his beliefs and went onto the battlefield to do his job unarmed. Garfield does a brilliant job as Doss and has rightly received an Oscar nomination for his work here. Of course his performance wouldn’t have been possible if he hadn’t been ably supported by some other fine actors. Hugo Weaving is absolutely fantastic as Doss’ father, a man who is still scarred by the atrocities of WWI. And Vince Vaughan proves surprisingly capable in a serious role as Doss’ Sergeant after a dearth of light hearted fluffy comedy performances.
Gibson also has received a nod for his direction (the film garnered six nominations in total) and again this is very much deserved. This is incredibly thoughtfully crafted. From the aforementioned character development to the brutally intense battle scenes, Gibson has woven a wonderful tale that always feels like a human story rather than a war movie. One of the most wonderful touches is that he includes interviews and footage of the real Doss pre-credits. It’s only a few minutes but after the two hour assault to the senses you have just witnessed it is incredibly moving.
I would be the first to admit that movies about war are not amongst my favourite viewing choices. However, this feels like so much more. It manages to get under your skin and show the humanity and fear of those fighting rather than presenting it in a gung-ho kind of way as so many other movies do.
This cannot be ruled out of the Best Picture race on Oscar night and win or lose it is the kind of film that will stand the test of time in much the way Gibson’s Braveheart has. A surprisingly (and I never thought I would say this about a war film) heart-warming and moving movie this is a must see.