Review: 'Hacksaw Ridge' Redeems and Shocks

Neil Feeney ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
There is no shortage of great World War II action films, many of which have received significant praise from both critics and audiences alike. Films like Saving Private Ryan and the recent Fury are loved and studied often. It’s no real secret that films that enter into this genre can achieve a timeless status. However, only the cream of the crop can truly master what that era entailed, and portray it in not only a sensitive way, but a way that honors the sacrifices made. And with such an amazing story such as Desmond Doss’, extra precautions need to be made. Since director Mel Gibson’s downfall from fame with his leaked outbursts, he seems to have carefully planned his directorial return to Hollywood with this heroic tale. Hacksaw Ridge takes many key elements from great World War II films and applies them to an untold true story, positioning itself to very well become a new modern classic.

Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge. Photo Credit: Summit Entertainment.
Hacksaw Ridge is the story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a young Christian man who enlists in the army to protect his country against the Axis powers during WWII. His father Harold (Nathaniel Buzolicand mother Bertha (Rachel Griffiths) fear for Doss because his father served before and suffers physical and emotional trauma. His fiancé, Dorothy (Teresa Palmer), feels the same, making it seem like everyone is against his decision. Following his enlistment, Doss goes to training, and to the surprise of everyone around him, has decided not to touch any gun in the war because of his religious beliefs. He instead chooses to be a medic so he can save lives rather than take them. After much debate, he is allowed to go into war, and as the true story goes, saves over seventy-five men in battle. The way that screenwriters Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan have arranged this fantastic story can be a bit predictable and “Oscar-baity” at times, although the magnitude of the events and the weight of history are enough to push the film past it’s own tropes.
The religious themes of Christianity are woven throughout the story fantastically, giving Doss enough motivation to justify his actions and enough doubt to reveal his true faith. A realistic portrayal of Christianity can be lost in the mainstream media, but Gibson portrays it well in this film, showing Doss not as a fanatic extremist, but as a human being finding strength through faith. He carries and protects his Bible (which does have a picture of his fiancé Dorothy), prays regularly, and isn’t shy about his faith. Even though it is an important theme of the film, Doss’ faith is presented in a way that isn’t too heavy-handed and doesn’t take the audience out- but rather complements- the story.
Andrew Garfield and Teresa Palmer in Hacksaw Ridge. Photo Credit: Summit Entertainment.
Technically, this film is nothing short of a marvel, with huge prolonged realistic war sequences that both shock and engage the viewer. Gibson has returned to the directing game with a vengeance, and the film shows his talent in staging impressive battles: they are gritty, brutal, and (quite simply) works of art. The sounds of war engulf the audience into every jarring moment. The visuals are not for the faint of heart, but magnify the intensity and scarring nature of war, questioning the audience to ask themselves if battle is truly necessary.
The acting was also very impressive, with Andrew Garfield leading the cast as Doss, a role that at first glance does not seem right for him. Upon experiencing his performance, one can see why he was chosen. Garfield plays the role with such an impressive mix of intensity and boyish charm that one can even get past the Southern accent. This role will no doubt boost his resume and show that he is ready for more mature roles. Vince Vaughn also brings his A-game, on a new mission to prove that he can act in more dramatic roles. As Doss’ Sergeant Howell, Vaughan uses his comedy background to give sympathy to a rugged character, and create a more likeable superior. Sam Worthington is back as well, playing the Captain of the squad. He has not been in anything uniquely noticeable since Avatar, though his blank acting style is of well use here, allowing for some great character moments when his guard drops. Gibson does a great job of directing both large cast and smaller, more personal moments, and for handling the unique cast of characters.
Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge. Photo Credit: Summit Entertainment.
Although a great technical film, the one aspect of the film that is most lacking is the editing, which at points can seem simultaneously extraneous and brisk. Some scenes feel like they have no point in the film, while others feel like they needed more time. It is an interestingly paced film, with more pre-war story than of the actual war. Whether this is a writing or editing issue, it certainly distracts from the overall product, but thankfully does little to diminish the technically impressive and inspiring aspects of the story that the film heavily relies on. Gibson is acclaimed for his battle sequences and violence (Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ come to mind), but in Hacksaw Ridge, he is truly able to solidify himself as a great storyteller. The film will hopefully inspire and remind us of the great World War II heroes that have since passed, and that this fantastic genre isn’t going away anytime soon.
Overall Grade: A-
Watch The Trailer:
Show More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button