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  • Hacksaw Ridge | Review

    By | November 4, 2016

    hacksaw ridge

    Director: Mel Gibson

    Writers: Robert Schenkkan, Andrew Knight

    Starring: Andrew Garfield, Richard Pyros, Jacob Warner, Milo Gibson, Darcy Bryce, Roman Guerriero, James Lugton, Kasia Stelmach, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths

    Hacksaw Ridge tells the bloody tale of the WWII Battle of Okinawa through the eyes of a field medic, Desmond Doss, who also happens to be a conscientious objector. Doss himself prefers the title “conscientious cooperator,” being a Seventh-day Adventist who joined the war effort because of a sense of needing to serve, but only if he could serve in a way that fit his beliefs. It’s a fascinating angle from which to look at the War and the film does an admirable job of delving into how Doss and his convictions are tested as he finds himself isolated from his fellow soldiers at a time when everyone involved is being tested in their beliefs, their willpower and their ability to cope with the horrors and stresses of warfare.

    Of course, this is a war film directed by the infamous Mel Gibson, who clearly has a thing for pain, so you know you will be subjected to scenes of excessively graphic and extreme violence. Not to say that that is all there is to the film. Prior to all of that , we get (drill) Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) scrubbing the peach fuzz off the face of his troops and nicknaming Doss “Private Cornstalk.” It is the goal of him and Captain Glover (Sam Worthington) to find a way to isolate Doss and bust him out of the ranks. After all, nobody wants a “conscientious cooperator” complicating their mission.

    As Doss and his fellow soldiers are soon enough faced with the horrors, with young men’s bodies being torn apart by bullets and grenades and the bodies begin to pile high before eventually being hauled off in truckloads, Gibson manages to frame much of it through the eyes of Doss. A virgin to such bloodshed, we see him and his fellow youthful and inexperienced soldiers quickly gain a personal education on the horrors and the costs of war.

    We learn that Doss came to his worldview honestly as Gibson reveals an early scene of his father, Thomas Doss (Hugo Weaving), consumed with grief at the Arlington Cemetery grave sites of his fellow WWI soldiers. He survived his wartime experience but so many of his friends did not and he’s fill with remorse and regrets. He survived, but his memories and survivor’s remorse won’t allow him to thrive and he looks to the bottle for solace, often raging at his wife and sons. This comes out as raging anger at his wife and sons and leads him to question his sons’ decisions to enlist to fight in WWII.

    Desmond explains to his father his desire to serve as a medic, saving his fellow soldiers, not killing the enemy. In his wide-eyed delivery and his stubbornness and with his skinny, gangly build, Andrew Garfield brings to mind a young Jimmy Stewart. Many of his fellow soldiers see Doss as a threat and a liability but he holds strong to his conviction and refuses to back down.

    The problem with Gibson’s approach to telling Desmond Doss’ story is that he wants to both critique war and fetishize violence, an impossibility. It’s also clear that he’s a man who believes in the whitewashed better past as his vision of 1940’s Lynchburg, Virginia, is right out of a Trump supporter’s playbook, all cornpone, patriotic goodness and completely unbelievable. And of course, this being a Gibson film, there is plenty of Christian faith shoehorned into the action. Somehow, I found it to be equal parts compelling and nauseating, which is about how I feel about Gibson himself.

    Rating: 7/10


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