Personally, I’d argue that we haven’t had a great war movie since Saving Private Ryan. Sure enough, the Hurt Locker was good but not a classic. Inglorious Basterds was magnificent, but only has tenuous links to reality. Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson sets out to reset the clocks.
This review contains spoilers. But the film is a true story, so that’s kinda like having a spoiler warning on a review of Titanic.
Hacksaw Ridge review
All the talk surrounding Hacksaw Ridge so far has been its award-nominated credentials. So much so, I initially missed Mel Gibson being the director. The controversial Aussie is extremely hit-and-miss with his acting these days but is settling nicely into the director’s chair. Gibson has notably directed Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto to date. So, just how did he fair with Hacksaw Ridge?
The official trailer
What’s the movie about
Hacksaw Ridge follows the real-life experiences of Desmon Doss during World War Two. Taking a refreshing break from movies battling Nazi forces, Doss’ story takes place through the Battle of Okinawa. Doss enlisted in the United States army in 1942 but refused to carry a weapon or to kill an enemy. He would enter into battle without a weapon as a field medic. During the Battle of Okinawa, Doss was injured four times but still saved the lives of 75 men. He would go on to be the only conscientious objector to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour.
The actors of Hacksaw Ridge
When it comes to actors, Hacksaw Ridge brings Band of Brothers to mind. Band of Brothers had an amazing cast of actors you’d recognise but couldn’t name. Hacksaw Ridge is somewhat similar, including a rare “serious” appearance from Vince Vaughan.
Doss is played by Andrew Garfield, best known for roles in Spiderman and The Social Network really steps up his game for this role. Physically, what he achieves seems unlikely, but the same could be said of the real-life Doss. There are plenty of other familiar faces like Hugo Weaving of Matrix fame throughout, with all delivering great performances.
There are plenty of other familiar faces like Hugo Weaving of Matrix fame throughout, with all delivering great performances.
Is Hacksaw Ridge a great war movie?
Hacksaw Ridge provides a great emotional background to the characters and then plays out an amazing story. Truth be told, the scriptwriters are only partially responsible for the amazing story. Doss’ real tales of war are simply outstanding. For years, Doss refused to allow any movie to be made fearing it would be inaccurate.
Doss’ real tales of war are simply outstanding
Gibson’s portrayal is relatively accurate and cinematically magnificent. He seamlessly combines the blood-soaked fields of war with an inherently human aspect of the same. As the movie kicks into battle, it echoes Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart and of course the opening scenes from the Medal of Honour game. Some of the characters play out predictable roles, you know the usual hard-ass Seargent come grateful Seargent. But none of it feels tired. As a fan of war movies, this still felt somewhat fresh.
Before the battle against the Japanese begins, Doss’ battle with his own demons and the US Army’s regulations is fascinating. It’s worth noting that while Doss refused to carry a weapon, the movie adaption of his wartime acts has some impressively violent scenes throughout Hacksaw Ridge. Gibson does tend to make great violent movies.
Hacksaw Ridge Irish release date
Hacksaw Ridge is due for release in Ireland on 27 January.
Bonus: Desmon Doss documentary
Desmond Doss’ inspiring story is also portrayed in a documentary. This is conveniently available on YouTube.