Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Film Review: Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Hacksaw Ridge (Review)
United States/2016
Format Viewed For Review: FandangoNow
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...a brutal depiction of war with compelling pacifistic themes and deep character."

The story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a pacificist combat medic who refused to touch a gun during the Battle of Okinawa.

Hacksaw Ridge is a biographical war film about Desmond Doss. The film can be neatly split into two halves. The first half of the plot depicts Doss' upbringing in Virginia and his troubled time during his training. He adequately completes his training, but, due to his refusal to touch a weapon, he is put at odds against his superiors. Eventually, he is allowed to join his peers in the Battle of Okinawa. The second half of the film focuses on the combat while occasionally reaffirming Doss' staunch beliefs with flashbacks or scenes challenging his conviction. Although it doesn't take any risks—and that's not a bad thing—it does lead to a strong climax and a compelling ending.

Hacksaw Ridge is a powerful war movie. Yes, I know a few viewers out there consider war films to be Oscar Bait or 'American propaganda.' Still, that doesn't take away from the quality of this film. Hacksaw Ridge offers more than war. It offers a compelling look at a very interesting person. The focus on character, even during its bloodiest battles, allows the film to really connect with the audience—regardless of background. This isn't the type of film that made me proud to be American. (It didn't make me dislike being American, either.) It made me proud of humanity. It truly is an inspirational film. Doss' dedication to his beliefs is admirable. To create these feelings in a viewer... I think that's a special achievement.

Of course, on top of the character, you have a very tense and unnerving film about war. It doesn't sugarcoat anything. If you're solely looking for bloody war, you will not be disappointed with the second half of the film. The firefights are gruesome and uncompromising. They often leave you in awe, too.

The acting was great. Andrew Garfield delivers a stellar performance as Desmond Doss. Vince Vaughn was also superb. The supporting castmates—Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving, and the rest—were also great. The film was shot beautifully. From the faith to the violence, it paints a haunting but optimistic portrait. The music was great—I'm listening to it now, as a matter of fact. The special effects can be hit-or-miss. Sometimes, the film is seamlessly brutal; during others, it's blatantly fake. The film was written by Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight and directed by Mel Gibson. The writing worked well in balancing character development and action. The writing is safe and neatly structured, so it may feel like another war film on the surface, but it's very deep and insightful when you dig into its layers. Mel Gibson performs very well as the director, too.

Overall, Hacksaw Ridge is a fantastic film. It is a brutal depiction of war with compelling pacifistic themes and deep character. It is an interesting and compelling war drama that is a step above the typical 'Oscar Bait.' If you're a fan of the genre, if you're looking for hope, this is a film for you.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, brief nudity.

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