Hacksaw Ridge (15)

Dir: Mel Gibson

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths.

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“What you did on that ridge is nothing short of a miracle …”

War is absolute hell but occasionally there are still angels to found – even on the battlefield and this ‘based on true events’ film shines the spotlight on one unlikely such hero who stood by his Christian faith and made an incredible difference as a result.

Hacksaw Ridge is the astonishing story of Desmond T. Doss (Andrew ‘Amazing Spider Man’ Garfield) – a Seventh Day Adventist who became the first Conscientious Objector in American history to be awarded the Military Medal of Honour. He achieved this feat on the front line of the battle of Okinawa – which was a desperate attempt by the US to take the tactically important ridge despite the Japanese being dug in to defend it – whilst refusing to carry a weapon or attack the enemy. Doss served as a field medic and his willingness to stay behind and try to save those injured when his battalion was overrun saw him single-handedly save the lives of over 75 of his comrades.

Director Mel Gibson begins the film with Doss’s early life in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains where his embittered war veteran father Tom Doss (Hugo ‘The Matrix’ Weaving) is quick to anger and often whips him and his brother with his belt. We get to know young Doss and journey with him as he awkwardly woos hottie nurse Dorothy (Teresa ‘Triple 9’ Palmer), and finds a better use for his belt in saving an injured man’s leg with by using it as a tourniquet after a car accident.

When the Second World War involves America, Doss signs up for military training but his faith based refusal to wield a weapon brings him into the firing line of Vince Vaughn’s task master sergeant as well as barracks bullyboys including Lucky Ford (Gibson’s son Milo).
Eventually facing a Court-martial for his objections, Doss fights for the right to enter combat only with his medical kit.

The final half of the film is an inferno of visceral war sequences – be prepared for some of the most brutal, harrowing and probably accurately grim scenes every committed to screen. The battle scenes are up there with Saving Private Ryan in their brutality and excellent depiction of just how random, awful and desperate man to man combat is.

Doss’s improbable bravery in the face of sheer horror is very well handled, Garfield is superb in the lead role and the despite Gibson laying on the faith angle hard it never weakens the film, unlike in many films that try to depict faith in a positive way and end up as almost unwatchable sermons-in-disguise. Hacksaw Ridge is an emotionally charged and intensely intimate study of one man’s struggle to make a difference and the huge impact it had. It’s is also an epic and unforgettable film that deserves to be seen.

Thinking Material

Biblical themes abound but arise naturally from the source material here rather than being shoe-horned in. Doss’s willingness to potentially sacrifice himself for his injured comrades is humbling and awe-inspiring in equal measure. Hacksaw Ridge has been described by its makers as an ‘anti-war’ movie but it is more than that, by the end this is relentless assault on the senses that will move you and leave you pondering just how much of a positive difference you’re making for you fellow man. You don’t have to go to war to be a hero, it’s all about how you live your life.

Rating:
*****

5 out of 5 stars
Related Films: Saving Private Ryan, Full Metal Jacket, The Passion of the Christ

  • Geoff Powell

    A review that largely puts into words just how moving and inspiring I found this film, thanks Matt. Mel Gibson really goes to town on depicting violence but in the case of the bloody battles in Normandy on D-Day, as in (Saving Pte Ryan) and various battles on Pacific Islands acting as stepping stones to invade Japan, as in (The Thin Red Line) – I don’t think the violence depicted is exaggerated or embellished. It’s more horrific than any horror film as you know these sorts of battles were real and you can picture yourself there if you’d been unfortunate enough to have been young and fighting fit in that era. Doss is both, but decides that he can Join up without compromising his relationship with God, to whom he has promised not to kill another person or even be violent to them. This is just too individual for the infantry teams that the US Army needs to churn out to fight WWII in both Europe & The Far East by 1944/45. But God has other ideas. It is great to see another side of bravery and heroism. God and Pte Doss’s battalion, (armed to the teeth) help keep him safe as he throws himself into ridiculous danger as a stretcher bearer. The brave thing, I thought, was not launching yourself into the battle danger for the first time being young n fit n feeling indestructible – it was the returning to danger time and time again once they’d seen just how hellish it was. I think Mel Gibson will pick up Oscars for Hacksaw Ridge. A great and sobering reminder of the terrible human cost and waste of warfare. Also brings up issues of getting bullied for being a Christian or a minority. A sobering reminder of the cost and sacrifice needed if you decide to make a stand and stand-out as a Christian, go against the flow, take on authority. This film will go down in my ‘Top 10 Films of all time’ along with the gritty ‘Shawshank Redemption’ and the less gritty but equally inspiring Eric Lidell in ‘Chariots of Fire.’ A great film to take your mates to, but make it early enough to go on and have a pint or coffee afterwards as discussion/banter is bound to follow that! God Bless,