So last month I was lucky enough to go to an exclusive screening of Hacksaw Ridge, which won’t be out in the UK until 2017. Mel Gibson is back and this time he’s behind the scenes with a World War 2 movie that some critics are seeing as his Hollywood redemption. But is it actually any good?
Hackshaw Ridge tells the true story of Desmond Doss, the first Conscientious Objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor depsite refusing to hold a gun.
I came out of this screening feeling completely overwhelmed by what I just saw. It was such a a powerful experience that I was raving about to my friends afterwards.
The film had such a compelling story about a conscientious objector (or co operator as Doss liked to put it) and I was surprised I never heard about it before. Doss’ beliefs may be the focus of the movie but the film never feel preachy or try to convince you that Doss is right or the army is right, just that no one should go against their beliefs whatever that is. It also shows that you don’t have to hold a gun or fight in a war to be brave.
The first part of the film shows Doss early life as we get to know the young man and his loved ones. Then we see him volunteer for the army where his fellow soldiers and superiors are distrustful of Doss believing he is a coward and a liability. How can he help his follow men if he doesn’t have a gun? But throughout the training Doss doesn’t compromise on his beliefs-to serve his country and maintain his pacifist views. Two views that seem conflicting to the army but Doss had absolute belief in.
As we see Doss and the other soldiers head off to combat the brutal reality of war hits them, and the audience. There is no discretion shots or bloodless injuries instead the audience is subjected to extraordinary and brutal scenes of war. Gibson does a fine job directing throughout but really exels during the battlefield scenes as the soldiers come under constant fire.
The film does have a few flaws such as some moments which almost crosses into cheesiness. There’s also the fact that most of the soldiers in Doss regiment fail to stand out apart from Luke Bracey’s aggressive and determined Smitty and Vince Vaughn’s memorable turn as Sergeant Howell who tries to force Doss into quiting.
Through it all Garfield is outstanding. Doss could have come across as a bland do-gooder or a bit preachy but Garfield gives grace, intelligence and stoicism to his role of a true life hero. Can this be the year Garfield finally gets recognised this award season? His chances may be better than Gibson who may struggle to get such recognition considering his past, unacceptable behaviour. But with a film that promotes tolerance maybe Gibson can work his way back out of the Hollywood wilderness.
Rating 5/5 – outstanding, emotional and great work from Gibson and Garfield