I love movies. I love writing about them. Hope you like reading what I write.
About a decade after his last directorial effort, Mel Gibson returns with a sweet, nostalgic, Christian, blood-spattered war-film. Oh, how some never fail to surprise.
Hacksaw Ridge is a WWII film telling the simply unbelievable true story of Private Desmond Doss, played here by Andrew Garfield. Doss went into battle as a medic in Pacific War without a gun, becoming a genuine Pacifist War Hero.
I must mention the coincidence level of there being two major films this month that carry an explicitly Christian theme, starring Andrew Garfield and set in Japan in a time of crisis. That’s pretty fishy if you ask me.
Garfield is good here as are the rest of the cast, including Sam “I Register No Presence In Most Movies” Worthington. Andrew gives us a performance filled with such Southern Yank cheese and sweetness, you’d be forgiven for expecting him to say that his name was Gump. He does a good job with the material, but this is some corny stuff.
The first half is filled with that kind of sentiment. I don’t think it’s a negative, though. Sentiment in this form is all about evoking the contrast for the super hard-hitting second half and the kind of nostalgia that the boys under-fire will be feeling.
In this opening segment, we get all sorts of clues that are as heavy-handed as an axe-murderer as to why our lead hates violence, involving his faith, his drunk father (played remarkably well by Hugo Weaving), his Nurse Girlfriend (who also introduces him to the idea of being a doctor) and his brother.
One thing you don’t get though is why he wants to join the army. We do get a couple of visual clues and some brief dialogue, but nothing as forceful as his call for non-violence. This leads to slight imbalance.
The clichés in this film, ranging from the surprisingly historically accurate cutesy portrayal of Doss to the Full Metal Jacket style training segment all seem to serve two goals. These being establishing the sainthood of our hero and get us suckered in before the truly crazy second half.
That second half consists of a US Army offensive on Hacksaw Ridge on Okinawa. This was a key battle in the island hopping race to Japan.
It is portrayed as one of the bloodiest scenes I’ve ever seen in a war film. It’s credit to Gibson that despite this and some of the genuinely sickening displays of gore that it never feels confused or immoral. Praise one can find difficult to award some of his previous work.
One can argue that the portrayal of the Japanese is a bit negative. That is unsuccessfully argue as this is the portrayal of the enemy and it is accurate in its brutality.
I can’t say this is a great film. Its sentimentality acts as a block to this status. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad sentimentality, but it doesn’t feel all that new or clever.
The saving graces of this film are Garfield’s portrayal of a great man and the extraordinary battle.
Good job Mel. Welcome back! Just give any awards Andrew gets to his portrayal in Silence.
Recommended Scenario: If you want a contemporary war film far better than American Sniper.