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Hacksaw Ridge - Film Review

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Published November 5th 2016
Mel Gibson is still nuts And still talented

Talented lunatic Mel Gibson is back in the director's chair with his latest cinematic indulgence in faith with Hacksaw Ridge; the true story of US Army medic Desmond Doss, a good southern boy who won the congressional medal of honour despite refusing to bear arms on the grounds of his religious beliefs during the Battle of Okinawa in WWII. Like he demonstrated with the pornographically gruesome The Passion of the Christ, Gibson really wants you to understand how impossibly difficult it is for a man to uphold his beliefs no matter what. It neatly fits within the sub-genre of "dumb male catholic pride". There's enough suffering, blood and fire to satiate even the hungriest self-flagellating neurotic.

Image courtesy of Summit Entertainment

Unassuming Desmond (Andrew Garfield) faces adversity not just from hordes of Japanese soldiers but also from his fellow army men. They positively chafe at the notion of a man in uniform who refuses to even touch a gun. "What, ya think ya better than us?" one of them predictably sneers. But Desmond isn't antiwar, exactly. "When they attacked Pearl Harbour, I took it personal. But with the world tearin' itself apart, I don't think it's bad that I just want to put a little of it back together," he explains to his nonplussed superior officers. It's a corny sentiment, but Andrew Garfield delivers it with such nuance and conviction that it somehow comes across as heartwarming. He's expertly cast his gawky stature and goofy features sell an unlikely hero but it's his acting chops are what convinces.

And that is not nothing because he's working with a pedestrian script. Hacksaw Ridge hits all the familiar beats tentative romantic courtship, character revealing flashbacks included with a sturdy pace that you could set your watch to. That's not to say that it's bad, but for the first hour or so you'll be in for some standard stuff that is elevated by a few great performances; particularly from turns by Vince Vaughn and Hugo Weaving. They are wonderful here, effortlessly conveying a galaxy of personality and conflict. However, it's when the battle scenes erupt that one can practically hear Gibson gleefully rubbing his hands together, as this is where he shines as a film storyteller.

Image courtesy of Summit Entertainment

There's an interesting conversation about the nature of onscreen war violence, about whether it can be anything other than irresponsibly glamorous if it's depicted in a mode that's primarily intended to thrill. Gibson makes the choice in framing the battle scenes as close to a horror movie as possible, except for a couple of strange instances where the dishing of violence is made to look righteously cool. Which brings us back to the depiction of the Japanese soldiers. When the American soldiers fall, there is no gruesome detail spared bullets and bombs tear them to pieces like they were butcher meat. Every one of their deaths is intended to disgust and sadden. But when the Japanese soldiers face the business end of a gun or a bomb, there's very little in the way of detail. I'm considering the overhead shot of them charging at the Americans, and how they appear not unlike a frenzied swarm of locusts. It's impossible to feel a single thing for them. It's a disturbing artistic decision. But on the other hand, it does serve to amp up the tension during some scenes.

Hacksaw Ridge, while putting to screen the most brutal war violence since Saving Private Ryan, certainly isn't offering a solution to the conundrum of the glorification of onscreen war violence. But as a film that's primarily intended to move and entertain, it succeeds.

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Why? Gruesome yet heartwarming war film
When: Now showing
Where: In cinemas
Cost: 19 dollars per ticket
Your Comment
Brilliant. movie, the best film we have seen this year.
by kepac (score: 0|4) 496 days ago
Brilliant. movie, the best film we have seen this year.
by kepac (score: 0|4) 496 days ago
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