Nominated for 6 Academy Awards (including best picture) and winner of 2. Hacksaw Ridge is based on the true story of Desmond Doss, a World War II army medic who was a pacifist and the first conscientious objector to receive a Medal of Honour. During the Battle of Okinawa., Doss single-handedly helped rescue 75 wounded soldiers without firing a single shot.
Andrew Garfield gives a career best performance as the central character and is captivating to watch. Particularly for a British actor, he really channeled the persona of a young religious man from 1940’s Virginia. The nuances in his performance and his subtle and mid mannered approach to delivering the dialogue worked really well when juxtaposed with the intensity of the army training and the full blown warfare sequences.
The supporting cast were surprisingly excellent. Surprising only in regards to some of the names that were included. I’m a big Hugo Weaving fan, so it was to be expected that I thought he was great. I was more shocked by names such as Sam Worthington and Vince Vaughn. Sam Worthington, not generally a name I would associate with hard hitting drama, as I know him generally from films such as Terminator Salvation, the abysmal remake of Clash of the Titans and Avatar. Big blockbusters, but not really the type of films that require an actor to overexert themselves. And then we have Vince Vaughn . It took a while for me to get my head around it. After his introductory scene as Sgt. Howell, my initial thought was, “Hang on a minute. Vince Vaughn is on screen in a film that isn’t shit. Not only that, he’s actually really good.” It’s been a long time since I’ve really enjoyed a Vince Vaughn performance, as for the last decade or so, he’s been pretty stagnant. Mel Gibson may be the new Tarantino in terms of revitalising an actors career by casting them in a role that’s far from their comfort zone.
Without doubt, the crucial component that makes the film as great as it is, is Mel Gibson. I think Gibson is an outstanding director, and Hacksaw Ridge blends a combination of his finest directorial traits. His flair for directing epic battle scenes such as those in Braveheart is thoroughly on display for the second half of the film, during some breathtaking combat. His compulsion towards gore, first displayed in The Passion of the Christ, is in free-flow, gruesomely capturing the atrocities of war. And his fascination with religion, be it the ancient rituals of the Mayans in Apocalypto, the controversial retelling of Christ’s last days, or the pacifism of Desmond Doss based on his religious beliefs as a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Gibson is a director who likes to explore religious themes and motifs extensively throughout his work.
I’m not a huge fan of the War genre in general. When pushed I would cite Full Metal Jacket as my favourite war film to date, but Hacksaw Ridge was a really fine piece of work. The fact that it’s based on such a bizarre and wonderful true story only makes it more engaging, and I feel it may be Gibson’s finest directed film to date.