War is brutal. War has been brutal. War and killing is wrong. But there are soldiers who fought for their principles as well as helping the war effort. In Hacksaw Ridge, one such man is being immortalised on the big screen.
Hacksaw Ridge revolves around the true story of Desmond Doss who, during one of the bloodiest battles of WWII wound up saving the lives of 75 men without firing or carrying a gun. As the only soldier to tackle the front line without a weapon, Doss believed that killing was wrong and braved fire whilst tending to the wounded as a medic.
Andrew Garfield is certainly having a fair stab at dramas since he was mercilessly ripped from the red and blue Spider-Man costume. Joking aside, the British/American actor has always been a fearless performer from his earnest depictions of suffering in the likes of Never Let Me Go to powerful and understandable desperation in 99 Homes. With luscious locks, Garfield has tackled both Martin Scorsese’s Christian epic Silence and this Gibson outing – earning himself an Academy Award nomination for his troubles. Now, whilst many will have questions over the boyish charms and wavering accents in both films, there is no doubt that Garfield dives into the depths of all of his characters and Hacksaw Ridge‘s Doss is no different. As a joyful young teen, resilient in his faith, Garfield has a child-like rambunctiousness about him that allows you to instantly connect with him. On the war-front, he is immersed in his convictions, willing himself to go on to save lives, and the result is a ferocious performance with a heart-wrenching finale that shakes through you.
There is something, however, ultimately lacking in Gibson’s movie. For a start, the story doesn’t get interesting until a good hour and a half into the film. There is a lot of build up that is tedious. Its linear narrative means the sheer emotional punch of Doss’ story is woefully in the latter half, creating this dull lead-up until the jaw-dropping spectacle.
Now Gibson isn’t a director to shy away from graphic war sequences and he doesn’t lack in making us vividly aware of the grit and bloodshed that happened during WW2. To his credit, Gibson utilises this in an empathetic manner: We feel for these guys who are all gung-ho going into the war but are blistered by the gruesome reality of it. There are elements of camaraderie unlike any other when faced with your new friend literally blowing up beside you. The grim detailed and unflinching look at war will turn your stomach, especially when you realise that this is still happening all over the world.
It’s just – without Doss’ war story, it’s just an achingly familiar war movie. The first half is torturous whilst the other is tentative. There are also small details that really soil the film such as Teresa Palmer’s atrocious wig, cheesy dialogue sandwiched into baby-faces, and Vince Fucking Vaughn. There is just so much more that the film could’ve done but it seem determined to keep to a strict format that undersells Doss’ tale.
Sure, it’s worth a watch because of its nominations but at a 2 hour 20 minute runtime where only half of that is any good, you’ll wish for more.
Hacksaw Ridge is out in cinemas now!