Alright team, time to begin the review for this week, and it’s a pretty incredible movie. Hacksaw Ridge is the latest film by Hollywood’s favourite anti-Semite Mel Gibson, whose bad behaviour has sadly overshadowed this movie in the lead up to the release. And that’s a shame, not because Mel Gibson doesn’t deserve some flack for the things he’s said and done over the years, but because this movie really does deserve to be seen by as many people as possible.
If anyone has followed my blog for a while, you know I have a soft spot for movies like Deepwater Horizon and Sully, where stories of good and selfless people get shared for the world to see. Hacksaw Ridge is probably the best example of one of these stories that you are ever going to witness.
Hacksaw Ridge tells the story of Desmond Doss, a highly religious young man from Virginia who grows up witnessing the effect of World War I on his father, changing him into a hard to live with, often violent man. Taking comfort in his mother’s faith in God and the Ten Commandments, Doss chooses to always follow what he considered the most important Commandment – “Thou shalt not kill”.
When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbour and the USA enters World War II, Doss begins to feel that he cannot remain home and safe while his peers risk life and limb to protect his country. So, despite the pleas from his parents and his fiance, Doss signs up for the army in the role of a medic – yet refuses to kill another human being or even to carry a rife. Doss must fight for his right to defend his country before taking his place in the front line in Japan, ready to save as many lives as he can.
This movie is one of the most heartfelt stories that you are going to see, and a lot of that comes from the performances. In particular, Andrew Garfield and Hugo Weaving present Oscar-worthy performances as Desmond Doss and his war veteran father Tom, respectively. Whether they win or not in a competitive year remains to be seen, but expect to see these names floating around the awards circuit over the next few months.
Filmed entirely in Australia, also expect to see a number of well-known Australian actors appear in this film – including Rachel Griffiths (Muriel’s Wedding, Brothers & Sisters), Sam Worthington (Avatar), Luke Bracey (Home & Away), Teresa Palmer (Lights Out) and Richard Roxburgh (Rake). Also present in this film, in a surprising role, is Vince Vaughn as Sergeant Howell. While Vaughn, better known for his comedy work, doesn’t really work when acting as the disciplinarian, once we enter the Battle of Okinawa he works much better as a comforting and relatable father figure to the young troops.
Pictured: A relatable father figure
The Battle of Okinawa is actually this movies biggest strength. Due to the nature of the story, the audience is subjected to war at its worst – wave after wave of senseless destruction, as we follow our hero desperately trying to find survivors amongst the carnage and get them to safety. In terms of gut-wrenching realism, it has been compared to Saving Private Ryan, and while you’ll never get the horrific impact of that iconic opening scene on the beaches of Normandy, this film certainly takes enough of the elements of that movie to portray war in a respectful and heart-breaking manner.
Now, I touched on it earlier but it needs to be discussed – a lot of people have said that they can’t appreciate this movie because of the controversy surrounding its director, Mel Gibson. But I would implore everyone to, in this case, try to separate the artist from the art. This is a movie that deserves to be seen, almost needs to be seen. In the poster at the top, you’ll notice that the studio didn’t even want to use Gibson’s name in the promotion, merely describing the film as “from the director of Braveheart” in most of the adverts. Certainly there’s an awareness in the industry that Gibson’s behaviour in the past was not right, but you feel like if the studios are returning to him that his penance may have been paid, and you know that Hollywood wouldn’t let a horrible person get away with continuing to make movies until they’d won back their trust…
Well – they certainly don’t let MOST horrible people get away with filmmaking. Always an exception….
Overall, I only had a slight negative with this movie, and that was the opening scenes. While the bulk of the movie is filmmaking at its finest, the opening scenes definitely felt like a by-the-numbers sob story drama, to the point where you were waiting for Doss’ mother (Rachel Griffiths) to say “Life is like a box of chocolates”. Fortunately the movie picked up and found the right tone, however, as this is a brilliantly important film that cries out to be seen.
4.8/5 – A modern masterpiece for a large chunk of it’s run-time.