For a long time now, Mel Gibson has been in Hollywood’s doghouse, serving time for very prominent mistakes and drunken outbursts that found their way quickly to the public eye. While I’m not going to even start to defend his actions, I will say that I’ve missed his presence in films, especially when he sits in the director’s chair. His last film made was Apocalypto in 2006, a solid film set in the Mayan Kingdom at the time of its demise. The film was a definite hit with me, like all his others, The Man Without A Face, Braveheart and, yes, even Passion Of The Christ. To quote Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s South Park, “he may be crazy as hell but, damn, he knows story structure.”
Hacksaw Ridge is Gibson’s first directed film in ten years and follows Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who served in the Japanese leg of World War II as a medic. Never once holding a rifle, Doss was pushed in boot camp to quit for his religious and moral stance by both his fellow squad members as well as the higher ups, who went as far as to court martial Doss and threaten him with imprisonment for insubordination. In this inspirational and religious heavy film, Doss proves to be the strongest willed of his entire group, pushing himself beyond the limits of any regular man in a fantastic lead performance from Andrew Garfield.
I was very much looking forward to this film ever since it was announced because, as I said at the top, I am a fan of Gibson as a filmmaker, but I was questioning my resolve through the majority of the first act. The film gets very bogged down by Doss’s “aw shucks” sensibilities and the courting relationship of his sweetheart, played by Teresa Palmer. It’s only Hugo Weaving’s damaged but soulful portrayal of his haunted war vet father that adds any weight. As soon as Doss enlists and hits boot camp, this film really kicks into a satisfying gear and hits you like a ten-ton hammer when the war really sets off and our characters are fighting for the lives on the blood-soaked Hacksaw Ridge. Man, Mel really knows how to direct action.
Now for the bad things and there are more than I would have liked. I felt Mel and his writers allow themselves to get sidetracked by a lot of the religious aspects and allegory, some approaching the area of rubbing the casual viewer the wrong way. It’s also ironic to point out that Gibson had been in the press, months back, badmouthing superhero films and their overuse of computer graphics while many scenes in Hacksaw Ridge look like direct to video war films due to very shoddy looking effects, some of these being downright distracting. These are really the biggest gripes I had with the film as, overall, I thought the film was effective in what it was trying to bring forth and the story is an incredible tale of human endurance but not an award worthy one like Braveheart was, twenty plus years ago. 3.5/5