Whether you like Mel Gibson or not, Gibson’s most recent film, “Hacksaw Ridge,” is simply put, a masterpiece.
Following the true story of Desmond T Doss, the World War II army medic who refused to use a gun, the film encompasses the entirety of Doss’s life ranging from memories of his childhood, the beginning of his relationship with his wife his wife, military boot camp controversy, origins of his core beliefs, and of course, his valiant service during the Battle of Okinawa.
“Hacksaw Ridge” tops Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan,” the film in which many consider to be the best depiction of World War II. Sure, “Saving Private Ryan” is probably the grittiest depiction of the war, but “Hacksaw Ridge’s” choice to focus on an individual rather than a group results in a much more personal message to the audience.
If “Saving Private Ryan” gave the message that war is hell, “Hacksaw Ridge” inspires and strengthens the moral compass of the viewer with Doss’s traits of seeking peace, being a hero, and staying true to one’s core values.
Andrew Garfield portrays the valiant medic, giving his best performance since Fincher’s “The Social Network.” Mainly communicating through his eyes rather than speaking, Garfield captures the fury of emotions ranging from fear to determination on and off the battlefield.
Additionally, the supporting cast consisting of notable names such as Teresa Palmer, Vince Vaughn, Hugo Weaving and Sam Worthington all do a terrific job of adding depth to Garfield’s character.
Of course, since Desmond Doss is a medic, the audience is greeted with Gibson’s vision of terrifying imagery of mutilated soldiers, the constant sound of firearms, explosions, death, and the desperate calls for help from Doss’s fellow soldiers.
I particularly appreciate Gibson’s effort to portray the horrors of war rather than tone it down. Although all of the third act depicted the war almost in a terrifying way, there were two scenes which hit me hard.
As Doss’s fresh battalion treks up the hill to prepare for the new wave of assault, a battle-scarred group of men come down the hill filled with trucks upon trucks of dead bodies, some eyes open, some mouths gaping. The soldiers lucky enough to survive give the new troops looks of sorrow, knowing that most of them will not make it back alive. Obviously, the other scene is the extensive battle sequence. Despite the fact that the viewer does expect to see many die, the film showcases so many soldiers dropping left and right, even characters that the viewer gets familiar with are at risk, possibly getting into individual scuffles with Japanese soldiers, being pierced by bayonets, ripped apart by machine guns, all suffering without bias.
However, what is most impressive is that amidst the carnage, Gibson finds a way to focus more on Doss, carefully detailing many of the numerous heroic acts he did, risking his life, consistently saying the phrase, “Please Lord, let me get one more,” before heading out into the battlefield despite his horrendous injuries.
There aren’t that many words to describe how inspiring Gibson portrays Doss other than epic. Each save gave me the sensation of relief, widening my astonishment, wondering how a man could be willing to risk his life so many times.
Apart from the war scenes, the film does a terrific job of detailing Doss’s background. Rather than jumping right into the war, the film’s choice to incorporate Doss’s family trying to stop their son from going to war, his beautifully captured relationship with Dorothy (Teresa Palmer), and his natural knack for helping people from a young age helps the audience believe that Doss was a real man.
To be honest, I cannot think of any issues about this movie. Every decision to do something in the film clearly makes sense to me, and everything ranging from set design, writing, and acting are seamlessly composed together.
Ultimately, “Hacksaw Ridge” is a beautiful film that depicts Desmond Doss’s heroic efforts in saving a multitude of soldiers in the Battle of Okinawa without carrying a firearm. To the grittiness of war and the sense of epicness that the film induces, “Hacksaw Ridge” strives to inspire all to support peace, and look out for one another.