Desmond Doss played life on the hardest possible level and had a smile on his face the entire time… How is that even possible?
Hacksaw Ridge tells the incredible true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) as he enlists in the US Army during WWII. He also happens to be a conscientious objector and wants only to save the lives of his men rather than kill another human being. It is an addition to Mel Gibson’s insane directing filmography and also stars Teresa Palmer, Vince Vaughn, and Sam Worthington.
My Thoughts On The Characters And Story
Hacksaw Ridge is the kind of movie where you discuss it with your peers hours after watching it. The first half of this film is a beautiful character piece on a simple man with firm beliefs as he woos the love of his life and struggles with enlisting as “killing” is essentially top priority in war and he holds the opposite belief of that mantra. The second half of this film is a brutal, graphic depiction of the Hacksaw Ridge battle in Okinawa during World War II and fucking hell, it was deliciously brilliant. The battle sequences in Hacksaw Ridge, particularly the very first one, rivals that of Steven Spielberg’s 1998 classic Saving Private Ryan. That is how great they are.
Speaking solely on the war sequence aspect of it, they are essentially flawless. Some emotional moments may have lingered a bit longer than I prefer however the second they hit Okinawa to the closing credits, the tension overpowered me at certain parts and the odds of victory were insurmountable. I had no idea who Desmond Doss was and what the battle for Hacksaw Ridge was so watching this battle was so enjoyable, regardless of the horrific violence occurring on screen. War is hardcore, man. Director Gibson does not shy away from the rawness of it and I appreciate it wholeheartedly.
Andrew Garfield is a revelation as Doss. This is easily the best performance he’s given in his career (in my opinion) and he owned every single moment he was on screen. I would not be surprised at all if he received an Academy Award nom for his portrayal as the real-life medic since his character is well acted and fleshed out, I felt an immediate connection with him and wanted to see his arc progress. The chemistry was phenomenal with not only his love interest, portrayed wonderfully by Teresa Palmer, but with every character he interacted with. Hugo Weaving was brilliant as Doss’ veteran father and Rachel Griffiths of Six Feet Under fame, AKA my personal favourite TV series of all-time, was equally wonderful. The secondary characters were all fine however I have to say, when I saw Vince Vaughn, all I could think of was “yup, that’s Vince Vaughn.” He wasn’t bad or anything, he was serviceable… It’s just certain insults he was delivering made me think he was his Wedding Crashers character undercover as a Sergeant.
I have to say, I didn’t expect the film to delve so deeply into the relationship between Doss and his future wife Dorothy as much as it did during the first half but I appreciate the decision for it. Besides his faith, Doss’ love for his wife was a major aspect to his character and if you didn’t feel as connected to her as he was, the entire second half would’ve been for moot. Thankfully, the relationship between the two is executed so perfectly and that connection is certainly achieved.
How Were The Other Aspects Of Hacksaw Ridge?
Mel Gibson’s direction is easily one of my favourite aspects of this film. He is a genius behind the camera and his ability to shoot the rawness and terror of war is simply beautiful. The “true story” aspect to it as well initially made me think, “hmm.. I’m pretty sure most of this succumbed to the Hollywoodization of the ‘Based On A True Story’ line, which is totally fine because it’s a movie and must be entertaining first and foremost”… However, in an interview with The Today Show Gibson mentioned (~3:55 of the link) another absolutely crazy thing Doss did in real life that they chose not to add to the movie because it would have been “so unbelievable”, as Gibson puts it.
After [Doss] gets the shrapnel and he’s carried off on a stretcher… He sees a guy who’s been shot and he jumps off the stretcher, tends to his wounds and says put him on the stretcher then he crawls back as he’s being shot at by snipers.
Clay Davis accurately sums up my feelings on the matter
There are plenty of beautiful shots in the film with a few instances of musical usage that pulled on the heartstrings a bit, there is one particular sequence that actually uses no score whatsoever and instead all you hear are the sounds of war that is scarily effective. Small warning though: if you have a weak stomach, you may feel the need to close your eyes occasionally.
If you’re a fan of brutal depictions of war and characters you want to actually care about, check out Hacksaw Ridge.
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Hacksaw Ridge receives 4.5/5 Matt Damon heads.