"Hacksaw Ridge" (2016) | Movie Review
Genre: Drama, War
Release Date: November 4, 2016
Runtime: 2 hr. 19 min.
MPAA Rating: R
Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge does not hold back. It gives you a false sense of security with its first act, showing Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) as a kind, quiet, and naive young man with a strong sense of right and wrong, as he encounters the love of his life. You may even start thinking the film is not what was presented in the trailers while the moderate pacing introduces you to his life in Lynchburg, Virginia. But don't get too comfortable—when conscientious objector Doss faces the gruesome reality of war it will hit you over and over again.
Hacksaw Ridge can very clearly be divided into three sections: a family drama, a fight for personal beliefs, and a showcase of the horrors of World War II. Each of these offers a look at Desmond as a person from a different perspective, but also a look at how others see him, and the resistance he faces every step of the way. Yet, it's hard to blame his father Tom Doss (Hugo Weaving), a war veteran who has lost a lot of people, for the anger he feels when his son wants to go to war. It's also easy to see why his fellow soldiers don't exactly welcome someone who refuses to carry a gun, as they think Desmond won't have their back, and may actually end up being a liability. Despite all of this, Doss's will to stick to his principles is just as strong as his will to help the men fighting the war, and Andrew Garfield delivers this role perfectly.
The performances by Hugo Weaving as Desmond's father, and Vince Vaughn as Sergeant Howell are very worth noting as well: both in very unusual (for them) roles, and both fitting in seamlessly. For me, Hugo Weaving's portrayal of a man broken by war was one of the toughest things to watch—he is a reminder that those who survive are changed forever, and may never be able to fully adjust to their "normal" lives. Mel Gibson does his best to make his viewers understand why.
The only thing that keeps this film from a perfect score for me is that calm first act. While there isn't that much wrong with it, it feels longer than it should be, and the second and third acts are simply much stronger. While establishing Desmond's character and his family is important, it could have been done more efficiently.
Overall, Hacksaw Ridge is a brutal and powerful war film that left me speechless by the end of it. It's undoubtedly one of the best films of 2016 that somehow manages to inspire despite the tough subject matter. I knew nothing about Desmond Doss going into it, but I am glad this film exists to tell his story.
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