War…war never changes…and apparently that’s good for Hollywood cause they love themselves some war films…especially World War Two films. That being said, Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge takes a different view on the war we all know and…love (???) and presents a story that is lighter while showing the horrors of WWII.
Story: The story follows the life of Desmond Doss, a corporal in the US Army and a conscientious objector. The story follows him briefly as a young boy before proceeding to him falling in love, enlisting in the army, and later serving in Okinawa. The story is engaging and interesting yet also a little silly, especially in the first half before Okinawa. I felt like that first half was not hitting the feels it was aiming for, yet, the second half without a doubt makes up for it. It does a good job of painting the horrors of the second world war (and more specifically the Pacific Front) and having a happy/feel-good story to it that’ll leave you in a good mood as the credits roll.
Acting: The acting here is no better than good. Andrew Garfield does a good job but never really takes it to that next level. Vince Vaughn once again does a decent job with a more serious role (the previous in my mind being season two of True Detective…which I loved by the way) but feels a bit too forced. I could go on with the rest of the cast but I want to highlight Hugo Weaving for a second. Agent Smith here plays Doss’ father, who deals with PTSD from serving in World War One, and plays the part perfectly. I was first surprised to see Red Skull in the film and later shocked at how good he played the part. He probably won’t win any accolades for this part but he wins in my mind.
Presentation: So I’m going to give points here for the amazing soundtrack and some of the shots throughout. There are some excellent shots showing the duality of the war, such as the chaos of Hacksaw Ridge itself versus the calm and ‘clean’ staging area below. I’m also going to remove points because while some of those shots are fantastic, there are a lot more where I was left thinking “ok…Mel…you’re not that good…please ease off on the metaphors.”
Effect: I’ll first say that the opening hour (maybe a little more) was not that great, while the last hour is nothing short of spectacular. After thinking about this for a bit, it’s best to think of this as two different movies; one about a kid getting ready for war and another about his experience in one of the bloodiest battles in the war. It’s apparent that Mel Gibson cannot direct a movie that’s not in about a war, but he does do violence well. The shots and focus on different parts of the battlefield are nothing short of perfect. He really captures the spirit of this bloody conflict well. I’m also giving bonus points for not holding back and showing just how brutal the Japanese were in this war.
Other: Like I said, there are a few scenes that are just plain silly and don’t fit well in a war movie. Other than that, this is a great film that is worth the watch.
This is an excellent war movie but it is not the best one I’ve seen. This is no Saving Private Ryan. This is no Band of Brothers or The Pacific (and yes I realize those are HBO mini-series but when it comes to WWII media, you cannot leave them out of the conversation). Hacksaw Ridge is a solid war movie that tells a story the likes of which we will probably not hear anytime soon.