Quick Hit: The most realistic war film out there, it paints an unlikely (but true) hero into our memories in the tradition of Saving Private Ryan.
It’s hard to find war films that stay true to the story while staying visceral and exciting. That’s because of two things – one, war is something that is bloody, dirty, disgusting, and causes pain to millions more than just the men lost on the battlefield. Two, it’s because when you try to perform a detailed story of these men’s wartime lives, so much more has to be shown than just the battlefield. You have to explain who the men were before war in order to see what they are turned into by this most monstrous event of man.
Therefore, it’s extremely interesting to watch Mel Gibson’s story of Hacksaw Ridge. It tells, more specifically, the story of Desmond Doss, and opens on a scene of war that is rarely presented in Hollywood – one in which the Americans are truly losing. After we see the men being blown to bits (literally), we are transported from this version of Hell to a version of paradise. We’re in Virginia shortly after WWI, and we see two young boys. I won’t spoil too much, but their alcoholic father (played brilliantly by Hugo Weaving – most years would have found himself a nomination for Best Supporting I think, but this year had a packed class) spoils plenty.
We jump forward in time and now our hero is played by Andrew Garfield (he of Amazing Spiderman fame). He is a Seventh Day Adventist that is committed to a life of pacifism. But, he is so drawn to the war that he leaves his fiancée (played by Teresa Palmer with much more success than the last thing I watched her in The Choice) to join the war effort. He does so and refuses to train with a gun.
Garfield really steps forward here. There are a lot of scenes that show him dealing with the struggle, and they are terrific. There’s one in particular where he’s in jail after being court marshalled that is amazing in the range that he is able to show. Along with that, in the latter parts of the film (the war parts), Garfield had an extremely physically taxing role. At different points he runs, crawls, jumps, kicks, hides, etc. through a battlefield, and the exhaustion is seen on his face. That’s good, because the real Desmond Doss surely was exhausted as he continued to rescue all those men.
It’s a really great story that shows what God can do through a person if he submits himself as a vessel to His will. As far as the movie, I really enjoyed it. I’ve never seen a film that commits to how horrible the war is. Mel Gibson’s movies have always had a bit of an affinity for violence, and here he doesn’t shy away from entrails, decapitations, burnings, etc. It’s extremely bloody and will give even seasoned horror film buffs like me a few cringe moments.
Overall, I enjoyed Hacksaw quite a bit. I’m going to give it a “B+”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"