Hacksaw Ridge

by Alan Rapp on November 6, 2016

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Hacksaw Ridge
  • IMDb: link

Hacksaw RidgeGrabbing a rifle and racing straight into gunfire is certainly an act of bravery. What then is making the same mad dash while refusing to carry a weapon of any kind? The latest film from Mel Gibson is based on the true story of contentious objector Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) who enlisted for the Army during World War II to serve his country as a field medic on the battlefield but earned the ire of the Army and his own company by his refusal to even touch a weapon.

Merriam-Webster defines a hero as “a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities.” It’s a term that is certainly overused, but it’s also impossible to describe Doss’ journey and his actions on the battlefield without using that word.

While not always a fan of Gibson’s work behind the camera, I will freely admit that the man has an unique understanding of complex emotions on the battlefield. The war scenes of Hacksaw Ridge are as brutal as any you are going to find in a war film which makes the “miracle” that Doss was able to achieve in Okinawa all the more powerful. Because of these sequences, Hacksaw Ridge isn’t a movie I’d recommend to all audiences. It certainly earns its R-rating.

The film jumps around a bit before finally delivering Doss to Hacksaw Ridge in Okinawa where his heroism would earn him the first Medal of Honor of any contentious objector in United States Military history. The script offers us backstory to Doss’ relationship to his parents (Hugo Weaving and Rachel Griffiths), brother, and wife (Teresa Palmer) which are used to set-up the unusual nature of the young man whose journey to the battlefield was nearly as violent as his time in combat. There are two scenes, one of Desmond in a childish fight with his brother and another standing up to his violent drunk of a father, which set Desmond on the path he will walk for the rest of his life. These sequences help inform the audience of who Doss is, which is important as much of the film after his enlistment focuses primarily on how others see the soldier.

Hacksaw Ridge is a violent story which is also filled with hope, love, and a religious theme which never feels forced on the audience. Despite the distrust, despite the death, despite the horrors of the battlefield, Gibson’s latest is a powerful movie highlighting what the strength and conviction of one man can accomplish when given the chance. It’s a tale of bigotry and acceptance, of standing by your beliefs even when doing otherwise would be far easier, and how an act of true heroism can come at the most improbable time from the most unlikely of heroes.

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