Director: Mel Gibson
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Vince Vaughn
Written by Mark Putley
Ten years have passed since Mel Gibson last took to the director’s chair; being one of his most highly anticipated films, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ tells the gripping true story of a US Army Medic Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a ‘conscientious collaborator’ who’s religious views are as such that he refuses to bear arms as he serves in the Battle of Okinawa, a horrifying and deadly campaign in the Pacific during the second world war. ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ draws focus to Doss’ enlistment into the army, the struggles he faces through basic training and then his deployment to the Pacific.
The beating heart of ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ undoubtedly lies between Andrew Garfield’s Oscar nominated (dare I say Oscar winning) performance and the unrelenting battle sequences. Garfield is phenomenal as he gives a very grounded, sincere and profound performance. Many war films successfully depict the violence, desperation and comradeship found in battle. Perhaps with the exception of ‘Saving Private Ryan’, very few films convey the sheer horrors of war to this degree. Huge credit must go to the hard work that took place in the editing suite, as ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ shows moments that are almost exclusively found in horror films.
‘Hacksaw Ridge’ hits a lot of the right notes, however it unfortunately lacks a subtler directorial hand; Mel Gibson’s religious symbolism is as understated as Mickey Rourke’s wardrobe, repetitive references ultimately becoming tiresome in areas. The film perhaps may have also done better to explore the supporting characters a little more, as relationships seemed to be in need of depth and sincerity, notably Doss’ putrid relationship with Smitty Ryker which is reconciled almost to that of best friends on a sixpence.
Hugo Weaving gives an astounding presentation as Tom Doss, Desmond Doss’ father and disturbed first world war veteran. A short scene that immediately leaps to mind would be when Tom’s troubled self becomes even more apparent as the family are around the dinner table. He recalls his service in the first conflict, specifically mentioning an old friend who once had looked smart in his uniform which was spoiled in battle, as he was shot through the back.
Vince Vaughn is perhaps a peculiar casting decision, however he surprises with a solid and charismatic performance as the ball-busting Sergeant Howell. Vaughn’s character has a hard exterior which is reminiscent of David Schwimmer’s Captain Sobel in ‘Band of Brothers’, although Vaughn periodically presents glimpses of compassion.
Despite its lack in subtlety, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is a touching, suspenseful and thought provoking film, and is absolutely worth its Oscar nominations.