Review: ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ Is An Oscar Worthy, Emotional Thrill Ride
“Hacksaw Ridge” brings cinematic wartime elements into an engaging true story.
Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge” tells the true story of WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss. He served during the Battle of Okinawa, refused to kill people, and became the first Conscientious Objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
War films tend to be formulaic but a safe bet for being a crowd-pleaser. There’s usually a focus on the broader, global sense of the war which takes away from character intimacy. “Hacksaw Ridge” maintains its crowd-pleaser status, while also transforming into the embodiment of a great war film. Of the many war films I’ve seen over my lifetime, this film will stand out as one of my favorites.
Cinematics (Cinematography, Acting, Plot, etc.) – 4.5
Mel Gibson truly captured the honesty of this story. He also romanticized things just enough, creating an emotional appeal without tainting the film’s factual basis. Unlike some “based on a true story films,” “Hacksaw Ridge” had me questioning accuracy less than normal. Even key dialogue was almost verbatim to Desmond Doss’ real life words. It felt genuine in both times of war and bonding with other characters.
I thoroughly enjoyed the character development from beginning to end. Building the family dynamic was an important part of the first act. Even though these moments were intermittent, the frequency was just enough to create a connection. I understood Doss’ personal convictions and reasoning after seeing his childhood and relationships with family members. And when it comes to that understanding, something must be said for Andrew Garfield. He gave a phenomenal performance. It was easy to accept him as this kindhearted person and the emotional burdens he faced. Garfield brought me through a full gamut of emotions and I’m hoping that the Academy Awards are keeping an eye on him.
Alongside Garfield, the other most notable performance came from Hugo Weaving. As Desmond’s father Tom Doss, he carries a very significant role. He’s a troubled veteran who is a bit more than jaded by the thought of war. His ups and downs with his family carried me along for the ride and supplemented my connection to the main character. Essentially Andrew Garfield and Hugo Weaving dictated the emotional weight of the film.
Among the other cast members there were no subpar performances. They just didn’t hold the significance of Desmond and his father. Desmond’s love interest, Dorothy Schutte, is played by Teresa Palmer. The chemistry between Palmer and Garfield was there and Palmer worked well in the role she was given. Vince Vaughn was adequate in his role as Desmond’s superior Sergeant Howell. I enjoyed Vaughn, but unfortunately I couldn’t shake his ties to comedy. That’s not to say his performance was not good, it’s just a personal dilemma I had that others may share. Sam Worthington maintained his clean cut performance as Captain Glover. But much like Vaughn, he more served a purpose of pure supplemental value. The only other performance I wanted to note was from Luke Bracy. As Smitty, he was Doss’ opposition and a road block in his journey. He presented an opposing ideology and this created some welcomed conflict with Doss. Bracy did a great job of building tension and establishing the dissenting opinion.
The character development was a driving force in “Hacksaw Ridge.” It was the foundation for the story and the story was told well. Much like the raw nature of “Saving Private Ryan’s” Normandy scene, “Hacksaw Ridge” emulated that robust scenery in Okinawa. As the film was about a field medic, the severity of the injuries added to the job’s significance. There are a few uneasy visuals, but they definitely add to the hardships of this war. Mel Gibson proved that he knows how to capture the terror of war while establishing a juxtaposition with the good natured people who fight in these wars. If I had any critique it would be on some of the religious aspects of the film. It’s part of the character, but it walked a very thin line of overshadowing Desmond’s acts of heroism. It was a very minor aspect that I noticed, but nothing that takes away from the quality of this film.
Overall “Hacksaw Ridge” has me excited for what’s next for Mel Gibson. From cinematography, to character development, to performances, and to story, this film provides the full package.
Entertainment Value – 4.5
I was fully engaged in “Hacksaw Ridge” from beginning to end. Even with the preparatory building to the third act, the suspense and connection to the characters had me intrigued. With a war setting in Japan and a home setting in the Blue Ridge Mountains, even visual appeal remained consistent. Even though much of the excitement came from the battle, the characters were unique and piqued my interest.
When the battle finally came, the visuals were spot on. The heart-pounding intensity was there and dictated by the war scenes. It seemed authentically gruesome which made the soldiers seem more brave by embracing their mortality. I’d go as far to say this was one of the most entertaining films of the year.
Re-Watchability – 4
The story lends itself to watching this film just a few times. But despite it being framed in this manor, I think I’m ready to experience this journey again. This is something that I may not seek out again in theaters but if someone had not seen it, I would tag along without hesitating. Once this hits digital home release, I will be adding this to my collection as well.
- Entertainment Value
"Hacksaw Ridge" is one of my favorite (if not the favorite) films of the year. Mel Gibson and Andrew Garfield show off their talents and bring this story to life. I was fully engaged from beginning to end and felt the emotional connection to the true story. 4.5 out of 5
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