Hacksaw Ridge

Drama , History , War Feb 04, 2017 No Comments

© 2016 Lionsgate Movies

©2016 Lionsgate Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Directed by Mel Gibson | Drama, History, War | R | 2h 19m

Our Rating: $11.00

Before I start reviewing HACKSAW RIDGE, I have to be totally honest about my bias: I love Andrew Garfield. One of the main reasons I saw this movie was because I love him. On a scale of 1 – 10, he’s an 11. If his name is in the credits, I will watch no matter what. Shallow, yes, but do I care? Nope. He’s an amazing actor and if anyone argues with me, I will fight them.

But to get to the point: HACKSAW RIDGE tells the story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a Seventh Day Adventist assigned to a combat unit in World War II. He refuses to carry a weapon, despite intense bullying and constant harassment about his decision. At one point, he is even jailed because of his beliefs. The men in his unit don’t want him there––but by the end, I sure think they appreciated his presence in their unit.

While overall HACKSAW RIDGE is a great movie, it takes a bit to get there. The film can be divided into three acts. ACT I, Doss’s life pre-enlistment, starts out slow. Like painstakingly slow. However, the background on Doss and his family is crucial to the plot’s development (and Doss’s life). It touches on two key instances that influence Doss’s personal stance later on in the film.

  1. His father (Hugo Weaving), a World War I Veteran traumatized and haunted by his experiences, is now an abusive drunk who spends his time in the cemetery where his comrades are buried. In the opening scene, Doss thinks he’s killed his brother Hal after hitting him with a brick. While you could probably draw a parallel between Doss’s violence and his father’s, the scene really doesn’t have much impact on the rest of the film. It’s not until later when Doss breaks up a fight between his parents, wielding a gun on his father, that he makes the choice to never hold a gun again.
  2. The movie would have been better had it started with Doss and the accident outside the church where a man is pinned beneath his car. It’s there that Doss discovers he wants to help people, leading to his decision to become a doctor, and ultimately to join the army.

ACT II mainly focuses on Doss’s combat training and the harassment he receives from his unit and COs. They all believe he is crazy and ready to get them killed for not wanting to carry a gun. It’s here that Vince Vaughn, playing Sergeant Howell, pops up.

(Side Note: Does anyone else struggle when mainly comedic actors pop up in serious movies? Yes he’s a good actor but it’s just weird. Almost like you expect him to start a buddy comedy with another actor at any point.)

(Another Side Note: After years of seeing movies, we’ve become ruined by movies that have unexpected things happen. See: the opening scene of Selma. Unfortunately, we’ve been conditioned to expect something unexpected to happen in all movies. It rarely happens but the Oscars Noms of 2015 have scarred us for life. The Vince Vaughn thing is definitely a direct result of this.)

ACT III focuses on Doss’s time in Japan and this is when the movie really finds its footing. If you’re not good with war violence and gore, I would not recommend HACKSAW RIDGE. Or maybe stop before this point and fast forward to the end. It’s a worthy movie to watch, even if you don’t think you can handle the violence. I’ve perfected the art of watching movies with my eyes down at the worst parts (and I almost passed out when watching The Impossible––a story for another time). Whether or not this is the most accurate depiction of what happened, it is truly amazing to watch Doss save all of those lives. (The real Desmond T. Doss is credited with saving 75 lives, although the number may be closer to 50.)

This brings up one of my complaints about this movie: I didn’t know the characters names. I know, a random almost non-issue really. I think part of it is the movie tried to do too much. There was no true chance to establish a relationship with the other characters because there was so much content that had to be squeezed into the movie as a whole. As a result, it lost a little bit of it’s emotional punch when they’re fighting and these characters die. You see their faces and then it’s kind of like “oh, who was that again?”. Had the movie focused a little less on background and more on the combat unit in training, it might have helped.

Now that I’ve talked about the movie for pages and pages, Assdrew Andrew Garfield needs some attention. He takes this role and makes it his own. Maybe it’s his amazing ability to give the big innocent eyes? (Anyone ever watch Boy A?) If Casey Affleck wasn’t almost a guarantee for the Best Actor win at the Oscars, Garfield would be the winner (at least out of the movies seen at this point). You can tell he’s a dedicated actor who really puts all of his effort into the characters he portrays.

And say what you will about Mel Gibson, but the man truly does know how to direct a war movie. It’s where he excels. The beginning may drag but the second they enter Japan, you are fully immersed in what’s going on.

The chances of this movie winning Best Motion Picture at the Oscars are pretty low since the critics all seem totally in love with La La Land but HACKSAW RIDGE is a movie worth seeing simply to witness this amazing story about what one single man can accomplish.