Hacksaw Ridge

hacksaw-ridge-2016-andrew-garfieldThere are two main takeaways from Hacksaw Ridge: (1) even American acting jobs are now going overseas, as aside from Vince Vaughn every American soldier in this movie seems to be played by an Australian (included in that tally is Andrew Garfield, who I have since learned is British, not Australian, but still…); and (2) if the Japanese had just prayed harder they might have won the Second World War.

The Australian angle is natural since this movie is brought to you by “the director of Braveheart”. A similar thing is happening right now to Ben Affleck, now known as the artist who formerly directed Argo and the Town. Is this going to be a thing? Because I find it annoying that their actual names aren’t mentioned in the promotion of these movies at all. If the reference to their past movies means anything to you then you know who’s being referred to, so let’s say their name already and move on! Conversely, if the reference to the movie doesn’t mean anything to you then it’s unlikely to be a selling point. Either way, it’s wasted trailer time that could be better spent on spoiling more of the plot.

hacksaw_ridgeIncidentally, if the intent behind not putting Mel Gibson’s name up front in the marketing was to create some separation from those all-too-frequent racist comments in Mel’s past, it might also have been a good idea to cast at least one non-white guy. Just saying.

The prayer angle refers to Desmond Doss, a devout Seventh Day Adventist who was the first American conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor. Doss doesn’t want to kill anyone or even hold a gun, but he still enlists during WWII to serve his country as a medic. In typically American fashion, his refusal to carry a gun while training to march into a hail of bullets is viewed as a sign of cowardice rather than bravery (or insanity, or a mix of both). His objection is based on religious grounds as well as a bad childhood, and due to his objection every soldier he comes across in basic training looks down on him and tries to force him out. Fortunately for them,hacksaw-ridge-2016-ryan-corr-vince-vaughn he doesn’t hold a grudge, and hauls 75 of them off the Okinawa battlefield even after they made his life so rough.

Doss’ story is an incredible one and Mel Gibson’s direction does it justice. It’s a bit over the top at times, and you may get tired of the battleground shots being blurred or showing just the barrel of a firing gun or being in slow motion complete with matching audio. Despite that, the movie shines at the important moments, naturally displaying Doss winning over his detractors and putting the audience at Doss’ side as he sneaks through enemy territory looking for one more wounded soldier to save. Though the characters are largely one-dimensional, the cast led by Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington deliver quite a few memorable moments, including some well-timed humour amongst the horrors of war.

Hacksaw Ridge is cheesy and over-the-top in a mostly good way, and the sum of its parts is enough to overcome some significant flaws. Its unusual perspective and celebration of a dogged outlier makes it a worthy addition to the bloated catalogue of WWII movies.  Hacksaw Ridge earns a score of eight cringe-inducing battle wounds out of ten.

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20 thoughts on “Hacksaw Ridge

  1. J.

    I don’t think I’ve watched a ‘war movie’ since Inglorious Basterds! That was quite a while ago…

    Not sure this is the right one to kick start the war movie experience… especially with big Vince and Sam leading the pack.

    Also, for a second I was at a loss to remember who made Braveheart! How could I forget that!!

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    1. Sean Post author

      There are a lot of war movies higher on my list than this one. Saving Private Ryan and the Great Escape are two off the top of my head that are way better WWII movies. This is essentially a much better crafted Pearl Harbor.

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    1. Sean Post author

      The concept is foreign to all the officers in the movie and by reputation Doss is one of the first COs. Compounding the problem is the fact that Doss has put himself in an apparently contradictory position (wanting to go to war while not touching a weapon) so those officers would have a fairly good reason for being confused if they understood the basic concept (but most of them don’t).

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  2. ruth

    “Doss’ story is an incredible one and Mel Gibson’s direction does it justice” Glad to hear! My friend Ted is going to the screening tonight as there’s a conflict for me w/ Doctor Strange’s screening, but I might give this a rent later.

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  3. kmSalvatore

    yeah….im gonna pass on this one. they have started showing the commercials for this movie, opening soon. im not going to pay to see war.. no matter what war it is.. i see enough of it on TV, on the news. Great review Sean, thanks

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  6. Jim Whitley

    On Veterans day I took the family to see Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge” about the 96th and the 77th fight on Kakazu ridge Okinawa. The boys in the 77th are marching to the battle front. trucks stacked with the body of the boys from the 96th drive past, my heart sank. I was born in the 96th, the boys held and kissed me, many would never have a son. Doss saved a lot more than 75, he blessed his company many times and they didn’t loose a boy. they delayed attacks to be blessed. read the true story. . Mel didn’t have time to tell the whole story. a month of battle. 3 mortar burst a second. 70 machine gun cross fire. crawling in a mire of blood, shit and guts. about 25 medal of honor on Okinawa and many hundred more deserved.
    My father came home wounded. Grandmothers lover Erne Pyle was killed. I joined UDT (SEALS) at 17 how stupid. I have stopped so many boys from going. My own grandson wouldn’t listen and lost a leg. it’s in a mans dna to fight, how will we ever be able to stop war?

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