Lets keep the ‘Mel Gibson Returns’ week rolling with his newest movie ‘Hacksaw Ridge’.
This is a movie I got to catch at a screening on Tuesday, and honestly
didn’t expect much from (mistakenly, obviously. This IS a Mel Gibson
movie). While the movie has some faults I’ll get in to, Hacksaw Ridge is
one of the most authentic, horrifying, and equally uplifting war movies
I’ve ever seen. Gibson always directs his films with so much confidence
behind the camera, and Hacksaw is no exception. He does the story of
army medic (and conscientious objector) Desmond Doss the justice it
deserves, while giving the film a fair dose of religious messaging we’ve
come to expect from recent Gibson films. It’s a movie I’d recommend to
everyone, even if the latter half has some of the most brutal violence
I’ve ever seen put on screen.

If
you’re not familiar with the story of Private Desmond Doss, he was a
young man who decided to join the Army during WW2. It gets complicated
when, in training, he is asked to grab a rifle and begin marksmanship
training. Doss is a conscientious objector, essentially a pacifist, and
from there his life gets difficult and complicated. His squad (troupe?
Crew? I don’t know military lingo, sorry) give him hell for it. In their
eyes, he’s a coward, plain and simple. It isn’t until he hits the
battlefield that his comrades learn how completely wrong they are. I’m
not sure if spoilers cover real life events, but what Doss does at the
fittingly titled ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ go on to become one of the strongest
examples of heroism you’re ever likely to hear about.

One
of the best aspects of the movie are the performances. Just about
everyone turns in solid performances, especially Hugo Weaving as
Desmond’s father. He’s such a complicated figure in the story, being in
part a terrible, abusive Father and a broken, guilt-ridden man. Andrew
Garfield is also great as Doss, which came as a nice surprise after that
real cringey accent revealed in the trailers. All of the soldiers are
believable, if a bit stereotypical as well. I think this is the first
movie I’ve seen where Sam Worthington seems like an actual human being?
Either way, both him and Vince Vaughn are up to the task of being
formidable authority figures to Doss, both in training and on the
battlefield.

It’s
kind of uncommon to see a movie that starts weaker than it ends,
but Hacksaw Ridge does just that. Not that the first half is bad, just a
little rushed in its set-up of Doss’s family situation and relationship
to his girlfriend. Once the action starts though, it’s immediately
clear why the movie was structured to keep it so separate from Doss’s
‘origin’ story. It highlights the brutal nature of war in its
unsympathetic indifference to who lives and dies. The second half of
this movie is probably the best war movie I’ve seen since Saving Private
Ryan. It just takes the movie a few too many melodramatic minutes to
arrive there. Make no mistake though; Mel Gibson is right back in the
saddle with Hacksaw Ridge, and you’d never guess it’s been a decade
since his last directing gig. I sure hope it’s significantly less time
until his next.

That’s
gonna do it for my thoughts on Hacksaw Ridge. I said it above but I’ll
say it again, I recommend it. I’m not sure if it’ll crack my top for the
year but man it’ll come close. Speaking of, we’re getting pretty close
to the end of the year, and it’s about time for Oscar season. I’m
hearing awesome things about Moonlight, La La Land, and Arrival (the
latter being one I’ll check out opening weekend for sure) so keep an eye
out for some coverage of those. Next up, I’ll be checking out Dr.
Strange on Sunday, and with it being a Marvel property, will definitely
earn some words on the blog. As always, tell your film-loving friends
about me and thanks for reading!

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