Gibson Returns Strong in the Faith/War film: Hacksaw Ridge
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When making a movie that centers on a Christian character, great care must be taken for it to appeal to both audiences of believers and non-believers. Hollywood has surprisingly shown to be capable of this formula from A Man for All Seasons, Dead Man Walking, The Mission, Chariots of Fire, and A Walk to Remember. Nowadays, when one hears the term “Christian movie,” films like God’s Not Dead and War Room come to mind. I’m not against these types of movies but the problems most of them present is that they are more focused on its message than executing a good movie. It preaches to the choir while alienating everyone else.
Hacksaw Ridge thankfully goes the right way. The protagonist has a religious upbringing, is ridiculed and beaten for his beliefs; but in spite of all that he remains firm with his faith. All backed up by a great cast, script, and direction from Mel Gibson (Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ).
Based on a true story, Desmond Doss was a Seventh Day Adventist who served in the army during World War II. What made him unique was that he refused to carry or touch a weapon of any kind. This didn’t please his fellow comrade-in-arms or commanding officers, who did whatever it took to have him discharged. Why go through all that trouble and put up with such humiliation and enlist in the war where killings are going to be committed left and right? Doss simply replies, “With the world so set on tearing itself apart, it don’t seem like such a bad thing to me to want to put a little bit of it back together.” That alone sums up the heart of this movie.
Gibson does what Spielberg did with Saving Private Ryan on its depiction of war violence but brings it to a whole new level and does not hold back on showing its full ferocity in the Battle of Okinawa. Whether it’s with the Scotsmen in Braveheart, the Mayans in Apocalypto or the last hours of Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, Gibson has a talent of captivating audiences with such intense and brutal images that will leave you in shock and awe. We witness the carnage with Doss who in midst of all this, risked his life to save his wounded companions even the ones who mocked him. It may not sound heroic but after seeing this film, you’ll be amazed on how he managed to survive that onslaught and the countless of lives he rescued. Let alone without a weapon to defend himself.
I had my doubts with Andrew Garfield in the lead role especially with his hockey accent, but he ended up giving a great performance and won me over along with the rest of the cast. Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies) plays Dorothy Schutte the woman Desmond fell in love with, Hugo Weaving (The Matrix) as Desmond’s father Tom Doss a drunk World War I veteran, Sam Worthington (Avatar) as Captain John Glover, who Desmond served under and Luke Bracey (2015’s Point Break) as Smitty a soldier who gives Desmond a hard time. The real surprise came from Vince Vaughn as Sergeant Howell, another army officer who Desmond served under. I didn’t think I would be able to take a comedic actor like Vaughn seriously, especially with a résumé that includes Wedding Crashers and Old School and yet, he nailed it as the aggressive and tough sergeant with shades of the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket. Come award season, give this man a nomination at the very least.
Without a doubt, Hacksaw Ridge is not only one of the best movies of the year, its joins the ranks of films like Saving Private Ryan and The Hurt Locker as one of the best war movies of the decade.
On a final note, they say the best art comes from those who suffer the most. Having been a decade since he directed his last film and making headlines for all the wrong reasons, Mel Gibson proves that’s he’s still got talent behind the camera. The idea that this movie was done by such a man like Gibson, felt like he was doing penance for his past sins and the opportunity for a second chance. If anything Mr. Gibson, here’s to hoping for a fresh start and new beginning.