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When thinking about war films, it's very hard not to go straight to the
classics such as Apocalypse Now, Platoon or Saving Private Ryan. You
have to make something very special to be mentioned in the same
sentence as films like those and in Hacksaw Ridge, I think Mel Gibson
has made one of the all time great war films.
Some war films use a particular war from history to tell a fictional story, all three of the above for example however, a war film for me becomes something else entirely when it tells a true story, especially one as remarkable as the story that Hacksaw Ridge is based on.
Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield) became the first Conscientious Objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honour even though he refused to kill or even carry a rifle while serving as a medic during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II. Doss' phenomenal story of courage saw him single-handedly save the lives of over 75 of his comrades while under constant enemy fire.
Hacksaw Ridge is very much a film of two halves; the first introducing us to Doss, exploring both his personal life and his motivations for choosing to become a Conscientious Objector and serve as a medic, the second depicting the Battle of Okinawa at Hacksaw Ridge, the site of one of the bravest human feats in history. Both tell the story of the determined individual that Doss was and Mel Gibson does a wonderful job in directing the film.
Gibson has attracted a lot of bad press over the years but there is no denying that he is a good director, and in Hacksaw Ridge, he may just have made his best film yet. It's the emotional power of the story that Gibson taps into so successfully that makes Hacksaw Ridge such compelling viewing, whether it be Doss' arduous journey through combat training or the visceral war sequences. I was an emotional wreck as the credits started to roll.
Speaking of war sequences, Hacksaw Ridge possesses some of the most brutal and harrowing you'll ever see, reminiscent of the opening to Saving Private Ryan. Due to the fact that Doss served as a medic, there are parts where a strong stomach is needed as he obviously has to tend to a number of seriously wounded soldiers. The relentlessness of the sequences is admirable from Gibson and they're wonderfully shot by Simon Duggan.
Coming to the performances, Hacksaw Ridge features an amazing lead performance from Andrew Garfield, who wanted to move away from his days as Spider-Man with a chance to play such an inspiring real life hero. I thought Garfield was always one of the best things about the Amazing Spider-Man films but it's great to see him really grow as an actor. His performance as Doss is one of the best of the year and I would love to see him get some form of recognition come awards season.
The supporting cast threw me a little but they all play their part in excelling the film, expected from the likes of Hugo Weaving and Teresa Palmer but the film surprised me with how good some of the cast were. Sam Worthington and Luke Bracey were two that come to mind but the real surprise was Vince Vaughn, who I never thought I'd see play a part in a war film, particularly that of an Army Sergeant.
Few films this year have hit me emotionally as Hacksaw Ridge did and that's why I have to say it's a most welcome return to filmmaking from Mel Gibson. It's right up there as one of the best films of the year and definitely one to see on the big screen.
Hacksaw Ridge is the latest film from the infamous Mel Gibson and it is as electrifying as one would come to expect. Telling the story of Desmond Doss, an Army medic that refused to carry a weapon through the hell fire of battle in Okinawa at the height of World War II. The untold story of Doss is one that is of the finer war hero stories that anyone could tell. Starring Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington and Teresa Palmer, Hacksaw Ridge is a beautifully acted and viciously portrayed war film that will stick with you from the minute the film starts until the second the end credits start. It will leave you clawing your seat, wiping away the sweat from your palms as we see Garfield's Doss save as many lives as he possibly can while dodging bullets and hand grenades. The film starts in the most somber of times in American history, the second world war. Desmond Doss, the son of a PTSD-riddled alcoholic Army man (Hugo Weaving) who served in World War I, is also as much as a devout Christian as he is a patriot, leading him to join the fight against the oppressive Japanese military. Doss is in love with a small town girl Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer) who is scared that she'll never see Doss again, especially after the persecution he is sure to face. When in training camp, Doss refuses to touch a gun and is actually court marshaled for his refusal. This leads to a trial in which he is allowed by his superior officers to go into Okinawa with no fire arm to protect him. Much of the film is steeped in realism, something that Mel Gibson specializes in when it comes to violence. While the story and plot line may sound very traditional, the way it is portrayed is a fresh burst of life into a tired genre such as this. That, coupled with the amazing true-life story of Desmond Doss being portrayed on screen, makes Hacksaw Ridge a wild and brutal trip down the path to Christianity and the power that faith can give a man. Gibson, a devout Catholic himself, would be the director to bring this story to life. His religious views seep through his very being, especially through his films and this film is no exception. The film settles in the idea that God is literally protecting Doss, not only physically but spiritually as well. Doss is constantly tested throughout the film, almost needing to take a life (which is the ultimate sin to him) in many scenes. The fact that this man did not fire a single round and saved as many men as he did is astounding and the film really does an amazing job at showing the harsh realities of war but also showing the good that can be brought out in a man through his faith. The film itself, is one of Gibson's less preachy works which makes it more accessible. Even if faith-based films are not your thing, you can appreciate the craft that went into making this film. Hacksaw Ridge displays war as atrocious as it truly is. There is blood, there is gore and there are a couple wounds that will cut even the strongest of men down. This is an extremely violent film but it is extremely violent in the sense that there is enough going on around us to never make us truly settle in the violence which would take away a lot of the impact that Gibson is trying to portray. The film is paced very nicely and does feel more like a traditional war film without it really being the traditional World War II film. The filmmaking is traditional but the story is unique and is definitely the driving force to run out and see this film. The performance from Andrew Garfield is amazing. He sheds any sort of preconceived notion and really embodies the roll of Doss quite well. He is far from a revelation but he is on the right track in delivering a very fine performance. The screenplay is tight and taught. Like I said, there are scenes that are heart pounding in this film. Personally, I found myself holding my breath during some of the action sequences. It was THAT intense at parts. While I do have great things to say about this film, I will say, I was a bit disappointed in the performances all around. While I thought Garfield did an amazing job carrying a film that was not Spider-Man, I wish he was a little better. I felt the same way with the rest of the cast. The melodrama that is portrayed very early on in the film is something that does begin to corrode the realist efforts of everything else. However, once the action starts, so does the really great acting on everyone's parts. Gibson is an actor that revels in the moments of pure chaos and he expects the same thing from his actors. It makes for some intense scenes that are elevated by the pure realism that the actors portray. You actually feel as though you are watching these people go to war. It is a testament to Mel Gibson as a director. He really knows how to put you in the moment and Hacksaw Ridge just solidifies his talent. Overall, I felt Hacksaw Ridge was an extremely brutal and visceral war film that brings up questions of warfare, humanity and religion while displaying Gibson's excellent eye for technical accuracy and assaulting imagery. Say what you will about Gibson as a person but as a director he is sharp, gritty and a master at what he does.
War films can be a bit hard to sit through, with its graphic depictions
of key battles in history, strong themes of power, brotherhood and the
effect it has among the world but with Mel Gibson's latest war drama
'Hacksaw Ridge' it manages to be something more that we can grasp it.
The true life story of Desmond Doss is finally brought to the big screen, Doss was a US Army medic who served during WWII, but coming from a family with a strong religious beliefs and a father that struggled with the aftermath of WWI (a veteran himself) it lead him to be a Seventh-day Adventist, refusing to bare a firearm and the use of violence against another. His personal choice would affect his country's army and persuaded a court hearing to charge Doss for his personal beliefs and objection to bare arms but despite this, he is given the chance though to fight alongside his 'brothers' in the Battle of Okinawa, a battle which the American forces fought against the invading Japanese in an intense and brutal battle. It is here in this key battle that Doss was recognised as a true hero for his country, as he managed to rescue the lives of 75 soldiers wounded in battle.
Gibson returns to the director's chair to helm this true story, giving his touch of humanistic quality, anti-war themes and brutality to the horrors of war to much great detail. The direction is pretty much on point throughout and never goes dull or loses itself during the 2 ½ running time. The first half of the film is about character and what establishes Doss to become a legend that he is known for, while the 2nd half of the film focuses on his role during the Battle of Okinawa and the brutal battle itself. The violence here is given so much detail, not holding back on the horrors of war and the devastating effect it carried on both sides. The production design, sound mixing, editing and scale of the battle is as intense, horrifying and respectful to the details and real life experiences to what we've read in history books, but it is yet filmed with beautiful and yet brutal detailing that echoes much to Saving Private Ryan's D-Day battle sequence. The 2nd half of the film is much darker than the first half and people will need a strong stomach to handle the graphic depictions of violence and deaths we see throughout, but it does get emotional at times and in the last few minutes of the film, though overall the film is emotional with Doss's back-story, his personal lifestyle and the brotherhood that Doss and his army experience and share on the battlefield.
In terms of acting, the cast as a whole is incredible with Andrew Garfield, Hugo Weaving, Vince Vaughn, Luke Bracey and Teresa Palmer giving the best key performances of the film. Garfield has come a long way to prove himself as a worthy actor, breaking away from his well known role as Spider-Man prior to HR. To describe his role as Doss, he gives a quality that defines him as a simple man with values in his life while facing a few struggles that form his belief of not bearing violence or firearms. Garfield must have given much study and preparation for the role, as his character's journey from a wise simple man to a hero of his army is given so much heart, emotion and bravery to make the journey of Doss so believable.
Overall, Hacksaw Ridge is a film that will leave audiences in state of emotion that describes the horrors of war, the bravery of Doss and his army and a sense of thankfulness to our past ancestors who had lived in a time to fight for freedom and peace when the world was divided. An incredible film that will indeed earn its amount for Oscar nominations and wins in 2017 (possibly for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Production Design, Music Score, Sound Mixing & Editing and Script) alongside other film awards. A must see film if you have studied history at school, have an interest in history or if you love a solid war film that's true to its core. A masterpiece that will not be forgotten so quickly or never will, we both highly recommend it.
5/5 Autistic Reviewers
As someone from Sydney, Australia I was proud at the way this was
filmed. Using the Hollywood model, there would have been lots of sets
but using actual buildings allowed a lot of warmth to come through in
the natural light. Gibson is a fine director, I was impressed with his
framing, he shoots very closely for the acting stuff (more head and
shoulder) which is quite interesting on the eye. Using more natural
light it is quite beautiful. I suspect Gibson will not yet have been
forgiven for his personal life to get the recognition he deserves.
This movie could have been another Forest Gump, it could overly sentimental, instead, carries an appropriate amount of sincerity. The backstory is a major part of the movie. Doss is portrayed as uneasy with the girls who fell for the first pretty thing he saw. This could have been so Forest Gump-like but strikes a nice chord.
The cast was excellent. Hugo Weaving was perfection. He carried the first half of the movie as the battle-fatigued (PTSD) WW1 vet father. Some may complain that the women are poorly portrayed as are the Japanese, who are largely like ants coming from their mound or canon fodder.
As brutal as the second half is, I am sure it could not convey how truly gallant Doss was or brutal it was in reality.
I was lucky enough to sneak into a cast & crew screening at the Newtown
Dendy cinema. I thought 10.30AM on a Sunday was too early for a Mel
Gibson movie, that I might be in for something along the lines of the
heavy-handedness of THE PASSION OF THE Christ, and the adrenaline
pumped brilliance of APOCALYPTO.
I was proved wrong because after the first thirty minutes I wasn't sure if this was a Mel Gibson film when I was placed into a comfort zone, with its melodrama set in a small Virginia town during the Forties, a schmaltzy romance, and the cliché violent drunken father who survived a brutal war. The performances were maybe a little let down by the clumsy dialogue, but all directed safely with a natural sense of storytelling.
By the 2nd act, I was put on high alert in the military training with our protagonist, Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield who I at first felt was wrongly cast, but he really came through in the end). It was here when the true purpose of the story began to evolve, that of Doss' moral and internal conflict with using a gun! What he had to endure and stand-up for was a courage I greatly admired. It was also in this phase of the film that the dialogue and characters began to shine. Maybe it was the introduction of Vince Vaughn's character. We all know how Vaughn is notorious in ad-libbing, and it seemed to help because the other actors bounced off it well.
Now the story had me in their pocket because by the 3rd act I was with our protagonist and his platoon when they got to the battlefield graveyard of Hacksaw Ridge. You thought the horrific situation in WE WERE SOLDIERS was brutal, well this was captured so vividly that you felt you were there. It was almost on par with the brilliance of GAME OF THRONES; BATTLE OF THE BASTARDS.
Now I felt I was in a Mel Gibson film. As with Braveheart, the battle scenes in Hacksaw Ridge didn't hold back. Maybe a notch better because of today's CGI (and I didn't even notice the effects!). The scenes were unflinching, haunting and in your face. Possibly showing you the true horror of war. Definitely not for the squeamish.
The religious aspect of the film was relevant to the story, so as a non-believer I thought it was an integral part of the protagonist and had to be told, so it didn't bother me as much.
Overall the technical aspect of the film was brilliant, but then again I didn't really notice it because I was too distracted by the story and the characters, and when that occurs, I know the film has succeeded.
Hacksaw Ridge is not a film for the feint-hearted. Right away the
opening scenes portray the horror of war, and the emotional journey is
only beginning as the audience is led through the story of war-hero
Desmond Doss. One of the great feats of storytelling from Mel Gibson
(director) and Andrew Garfield (leading role, Desmond Doss) is to lead
the audience along Doss' journey with a feeling of having experienced
the journey as Doss, and experiencing the wide range of emotions
endured by this heroic character along his journey.
Neither war itself nor violence are glorified in the film, yet they also not derided. The elements of conflict that draw the storyteller the heroism of overcoming adversity, the bonding of soldiers, and the brave resolve on which soldiers must rely to perform their duty amidst such chaos and terror these elements are all present, but they placed alongside the horror, the madness and the terror of war, and used to draw in the audience for Doss' journey. The lasting psychological impact for those who survive conflict is well told by Hugo Weaving's portrayal of Doss' father, whose lines could serve as a mouthpiece for many veterans.
The supporting roles add depth, with both script and performance making very few, if any, of the supporting characters two dimensional. Vince Vaughn's excellent turn as Doss' training sergeant provides both humour and pathos to bring laughs and pause- for-thought at well scripted points of the tale, allowing the audience to gather their breath.
By the end of the film, audience members will leave the cinema feeling tired, worn out by having experienced Doss' journey of hope, innocence, love, confusion, anger, faith, and courage. Hacksaw Ridge is in no way a popcorn-lazy-Sunday-afternoon film; it is a journey.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Based on the true story of US Army medic Desmond T. Doss, a man who refused to bear arms, yet was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman for single-handedly saving the lives of over 75 of his comrades while under constant enemy fire during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II. If you've seen Braveheart you know that Gibson is one of the few directors who have mastered the art of film making. If you want further proof than look no further, As this is a another fine example of his work. What stands out even more then the story line is Garfield's extraordinary performance. I wouldn't be surprised if he won his first academy award from this. As he is the heart and soul of this movie, perfectly cast. Honestly, I'm not the biggest fan of biographies and I rarely make exceptions. However when I heard that Gibson was overlooking this, I was ready to make that exception and I'm glad that I did. As this might win him his third academy award.
I was fortunate enough to see an advanced screening of HACKSAW RIDGE in
Hollywood and was impressed. The screenplay is authentically-driven to
the last detail and portrays the horrors (and prejudices) of wartime
conduct. I knew we were watching an epic film when at the conclusion,
the audience was stunned so much so that the applause was delayed.
If you consider yourself a true patriot of America, this movie portrays YOUR values in a blessed light. For ONE gentlemen, amidst extremely adverse treatment by his own comrades and even more deadly hated by his enemy to have save SO many men... is simply epic.
I watched the advanced screening with members of the military and faith community alike. At no time did anyone retract from the horrors of war or add asinine political commentary. We all understood that soldiers fight for one another before they fight for a cause and that hatred of war is universal; even among soldiers.
Good war-films can be very disturbing to watch. The dramatic realism of
modern digital effects spares little and many audiences will find
Hacksaw Ridge (2016) one of the most violent sensory assaults that can
be experienced in a cinema. If it were not a true story that celebrates
an unusual hero the film could have been accused of a gratuitous
display of unrelenting carnage and military triumphalism.
The film plays in two halves: the early life and romance of Army Medic Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) and the actual Battle of Hacksaw Ridge. Raised in bible best Virginia, Doss had a troubled upbringing under an abusive father. A devout Seventh-day Adventist, he swore never to commit violence or even carry a weapon but felt duty-bound to enlist in the Army. Not long after meeting the one love of his life, nurse Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer), he enlisted with the belief that he could serve his God unarmed and without killing enemy soldiers.
Branded a coward and bullied to leave, he was eventually granted conscientious objector status and became one of the troops sent to capture Hacksaw Ridge in the Battle of Okinawa of May 1945. While the assault was forced to retreat under overwhelming enemy fire, Doss remained behind and single-handedly evacuated 75 casualties, lowering them by rope from an escarpment over 100 metres high. The Ridge was eventually captured and Doss became one of the most decorated heroes of World War II.
The heroism depicted in this story is of such an extraordinary magnitude that it can easily overwhelm any consideration of the film's merits. With an uncomplicated and factual narrative arc, the story rests on two pillars: acting and filming. On both scores, this film deserves high praise. While the early life and romance chapter drifts towards melodrama, Garfield is cast to perfection as the wide-eyed and straight talking man of unshakeable principle and Palmer convincingly plays his adorable emotional anchor. Together with a strong support cast that includes several big-name stars, this is a powerful ensemble that carries the story convincingly.
The most outstanding element of this film, however, is its powerhouse hyper-realistic cinematography and spectacular set constructions that relentlessly convey the brutality of war. While it is an outstanding technical production, giving spectacle precedence over narrative is the film's Achilles Heel. One or maybe a few helmeted heads shredded or bodies bayonetted can convey much, but twenty deadens the senses. If ever there was a case where less could have been more, this is it. Otherwise this is a gripping film with forceful storytelling about a remarkable war hero.
Just watched this movie at the pre-screening and feel like I owe it to the creators to write a review. Having read other reviews, it is hard to stay original, so first are few thoughts that I shared with the others. Great to have Mel Gibson back in the directors seat. I will be surprised if we don't see this film in a few Oscars categories. Now, few thoughts of my own. The movie depicts brutality of war in gory details, so much so, that I had to turn my eyes away from screen couple of times. However, I do understand why this was important to the story line. It was done so that we could truly appreciate Doss's act of bravery, feel it like we were there and witnessed it firsthand - nothing was left out. The story grabs you from beginning and does not let you off until very end - after the movie I turned back and half of the girls in the theater were still wiping tears. Bottom line - instant classic that will find it's place on the shelf next to the likes of Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers.
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