“Hacksaw Ridge” tells the true story of Desmond Doss, an army medic during World War II who was a conscientious objector that refused to carry a weapon. Doss, who was a Seventh-day Adventist, enlisted in the army because he believed in our country’s cause. His religious convictions would not permit him to take another human life, meaning he refused to touch a gun. Throughout boot camp, he is harassed by his fellow soldiers and his drill sergeant because of his beliefs, and he is even court-martialed over the matter.
Doss stays strong, holding onto his faith, and eventually wins the right to enter combat without a weapon. He experiences war for the first time on the island of Okinawa, saving as many wounded soldiers as he can while his company attempts to take the strategically important hill known as Hacksaw Ridge. Doss ends up inspiring the soldiers that once mocked him for his beliefs because of his tremendous courage in the face of such terrifying violence.
Mel Gibson has not been active in the film industry since his 2006 incident where he was pulled over for drunk driving and went on an anti-Semitic rant, but this film signals both a professional and a spiritual comeback for the director who once brought us films like “Braveheart” and “The Passion of the Christ”.
“Hacksaw Ridge” impressed me for not only its technical excellence, but its spiritual maturity and depth. The battle scenes were ferocious and some of the most violent footage I have ever seen. Yet amidst all the carnage, Gibson was able to bring out some incredibly beautiful moments that were both touching and inspiring.
Andrew Garfield, who plays Doss in the film, gives the performance of his career up to this point. He is known for his roles in “The Social Network” and the “Amazing Spiderman” films, but this performance signals a transition for him out of the artistic amateur-league of Marvel and into a serious contender for this year’s Academy Awards.
Hugo Weaving also delivers a powerful performance as Doss’ father, a veteran of the first World War who struggles with alcoholism but also shows a great deal of love for his family. Almost all of the actors did an excellent job in this film, with the exception of Vince Vaughn, who was less than believable as a drill sergeant.
The cinematography was good, the editing was excellent, and the entire movie was paced very well. Though there is no action at all during the first half of the movie, the characters keep the story intriguing. This provides a stark contrast between the peace at home and the horror of the battlefield. Once the bullets start flying in the second half, the film remains relentlessly brutal. My only complaint on the technical side was the use of some slow motion during a few fight sequences that came off as cheesy.
“Hacksaw Ridge” does not contain any deeply intellectual themes, but there is something incredibly powerful in the film’s simplicity. Doss holds onto his faith and refuses to compromise his convictions no matter what situation he faces, and his courage is inspiring. I give this film an 8 out of 10.