Movie Review - Jackie K Cooper
"Hacksaw Ridge" (Lionsgate)
"Hacksaw Ridge" is a movie hard to watch but also hard to forget. Mel Gibson directed this film based on the life of Desmond Doss, a young man from Virginia who served in World War II as a medic. He was also a conscientious objector who stated he would never touch a rifle or take anyone's life. This determination to serve his country but also hold fast to his beliefs makes for a film that touches the hearts and souls of audiences from its beginning to its end.
The first half of the film serves as a set up to all that occurs in the second half. Andrew Garfield portrays Doss who is seen as a simple and naive young man. His father (Hugo Weaving) is a World War I veteran who is haunted by all that he saw in combat. He has turned to alcohol to try and hold off his demons. This is turn causes him to be emotionally and physically abusive to his wife (Rachel Griffiths) and his two sons.
When Pearl Harbor is bombed Doss decides to enlist in the Army. He applies to be a medic and makes the Army aware of his CO status. When he arrives at Ft Jackson, SC for his basic training his sergeant and fellow members of his unit do not take kindly to his beliefs. He goes through much persecution before he is allowed to travel with his unit into combat and ultimately to Okinawa where he takes part in the battle of Hacksaw Ridge.
Gibson lets this story play out at the pace necessary to help audiences understand this man and his beliefs. We get more details about his family life, and his relationship with his true love Dorothy (Teresa Palmer). We also see the development of friendships within his unit despite his refusal to carry a weapon.
The second half of the movie is a hellish look at the realities of war. Gibson does not allow the camera to turn away from the brutality and atrocities of this endless battle. This is one of the most detailed and unflinching look at war and its horrors that has ever been presented on screen. It is not for the faint of heart and some may not be able to last through its more gory sequences.
Still out of the horror of these scenes emerges the glory of one man's faith. Doss' mission was to rescue and save those who took part in the battle and that is exactly what he does over and over again. It is painful to watch but thanks to Gibson's direction and Garfield's performance it is a classic scene of heroism.
In the early moments of the film you might question why Garfield has chosen to make Doss so simple and geeky. Well wait till the end of the movie and watch the interview with the real Doss. You will find Garfield's performance was right on target and captures both the heroic rescuer and the simple soul.
The supporting cast is uniformly solid with Vince Vaughn, Palmer, Griffiths and Weaving giving some of their best work ever on screen. Sam Worthington and Luke Bracey also deserve credit for helping make the military unit scenes so effective.
The film is rated R for profanity and violence.
"Hacksaw Ridge" is the best movie I have seen this year. Some will not be able to watch the film because of its intensity and war violence, but for those who can it is an amazing story of faith, courage, love and patriotism. Potential audience members should brace themselves for the violence of the battle scenes, but they should also be open to the impact of this one man's faith and fervor for the God and cause in which he believes.
I scored "Hacksaw Ridge" an embattled 10 out of 10.
Jackie K Cooper