HOLLYWOOD—There is one thing for anyone who appreciates cinema they can say about director Mel Gibson: he knows how to make a phenomenal film. Rather, its war epics like “Braveheart” and “The Patriot,” or perhaps his emotionally punishing “The Passion of the Christ,” Gibson has a knack for theatrics behind the camera.
The director’s latest outing, “Hacksaw Ridge” is another war flick, but with some serious emotional overtones and powerful acting by star Andrew Garfield who takes on the role of American hero Desmond Doss. Those in the dark about that name won’t soon forget it. Doss was the first American combat medic who refused to carry or utilize a weapon, and was honored with the Medal of Honor for his service by President Harry S. Truman. The movie does an excellent job at introducing the audience to Doss at an early age where we discover a traumatic incident with his brother and a brick at an early age is vital in shaping Desmond as he becomes an adult.
He comes from a family background where his mother was highly religious, which later transitions to his beliefs as a Seventh-day Adventist. He decides to enlist in World War II after his brother and most of the men in his town sign up.
One thing to point out that works for the narrative is the love story between Desmond and Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer). There is something charming about their love. He learns the ins and outs of the medical field because of her career and she begins to understand the core of a man who fights to maintain his religious beliefs at all costs. Our protagonist faces opposition from Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) and Captain Glover (Sam Worthington), who are certain they can break Desmond by intensifying his training, but the youngster fights against all odds.
Gibson does a magnificent job at staging the action to allow the audience to get a strong grasp not just on the hero of the film, but those surrounding him. The big climatic fight sequence does not occur as soon as one expects; it’s a slow buildup, but it works in my opinion. When the guns are finally drawn and the blood and mayhem arrives it’s quite intense; its visceral, it’s in your face, it’s haunting, and it’s invigorating to watch.
“Hacksaw Ridge” manages to deliver a bit of history to cinema buffs about an incident in American history that many aren’t fully aware of in relation to WWII and how the Japanese proved to be dangerous opponents to America. This is a film that shows one can fight with actions and not with weapons. It is daunting to learn that a combat medic enlisted in the war and entered the battlefield without any sort of weaponry to defend himself, but absolutely inspiring as it unfolds in front of our eyes. His actions later impress not only his fellow soldiers, but his commanders Glover and Howell who are in awe of the spirit and commitment of a soldier who defied all odds.
This is a movie that is not only well-crafted by an award-winning director, it’s powerfully acted by Garfield who commands the screen and carries the narrative from start to finish. It’s an importance slice of American history that proves one’s faith is so much stronger than one expects when the odds are against them. “Hacksaw Ridge” is simply put, a must-see.