Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson, follows the real-life story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a medical soldier in WWII who saved roughly 75 lives on the battlefield at Hacksaw.
It’s 10 years on and Mel Gibson makes a huge comeback with this war epic. He tells the story off a young boy growing up in a small religious town during WWII. But when he recruits as a medic he faces many challenges that question his ability to fight for his country.
Andrew Garfield really carried this film with such a striking performance, not that it needs carrying but it stands out as a powerful vehicle in the films success. He manages to portray a character who is layered in so many ways. He’s romantic and vulnerable but also strong and courageous making him versatile and extremely likeable.
The film is strongly driven by conflicts, both physically in the idea of war but also thematically. The conflict between Doss’ morality and religion against his duty to war creates lots of friction, within himself and with his men. It is clear the soldiers resent Doss because of his refusal to hold a gun or kill at war. At this time, with the severity of war it was a very controversial choice to not kill. However, the audience who are not actually subjected to the reality of war, understand his moral conflict and therefore successfully side with the protagonist, Garfield.
Sam Worrhington, Hugo Weaving and Luke Bracey were also very credible in this film. Focus is on Doss but without their coinciding strong performance the film could have lacked energy. Doss’ father (Hugo Weaving), is the sympathetic villain of the story, adding more depth to Desmond’s background. Vince Vaughn was a pleasantly surprising choice but I did find he lacked power and physical authority at times. Teresa Palmer who plays Desmond’s wife was a perfect choice. Her beauty is radiant and her soft performance offers escapism from the harshness of the other characters and war.
Mel Gibson’s directing style is… to be frank… Cliché. When thinking of a typical cinematic style, like slow motion or flashbacks, he uses them. It’s not ‘in your face’ noticeable but it’s not different from anything else. Technically it offers nothing new. Although this is a negative it does transcend that it makes an easy to watch film allowing me to be fully immersed. I wasn’t distracted by fancy techniques but instead focused on the characters and storyline. The final war scenes are everything you expect them to be; brutal, abrupt, ruthless and dramatic.
I think it’s fair to say the war genre is well and truly one of the most perfected genres in cinema today. Here, Mel Gibson doe not fail when adding to the pile. With romance, action, thrill and heartache it packs a punch of everything it could. This biopic storyline is definitely one to know.