It’s a strange thing why it took so long for Hollywood to make a movie about one of the most important chapters of WWII, especially in regards to the valor, fearlessness and unconditional love of one of the bravest American soldiers that ever lived!
That’s right: Hacksaw Ridge tells the TRUE story of one Private Desmond T. Doss, a US Army Medic during World War II.
I mean, seriously, if this man was so important, why hasn’t there been a single war movie about him? He’s not mentioned in other movies about WWII. Movies like Saving Private Ryan, The thin red line or Band of Brothers, or any other modern take on US soldiers fighting and dying in Germany back in the 1940’s.
Suffice to say: after this movie no one will ever forget this man’s legendary heroism.
Private Desmond Doss, who died in 2006 at a very respectable age, saved close to a hundred men all by himself, whilst trying to stay clear of the bombs and the bullets that surrounded him on the battlefield.
In an effort to tell his story as realistic as possible, Mel Gibson – fresh from his return as a crazy gunman in The Expendables 3 and a trigger-happy, irresponsible dad trying to coax his daughter into family reconciliation in the surprise-hit action movie Blood Father – sets himself nicely up behind the camera once more.
Being just as comfortable in front of it as behind it, Mel Gibson is one of those rare gems who happens to be a fine actor and a more-than-decent director too.
Hacksaw Ridge may not be a masterpiece in directing the way Braveheart is – still his finest hour in cinematography – but luckily Mel Gibson has had the wits *not* to turn his latest movie into a shameless, empty, egg-headed blood fest like The Passion of the Christ.
So, what makes Hacksaw Ridge one of this year’s finest movies?
Simple. Director Mel Gibson doesn’t pull any cheap tricks. He makes his new movie with so much enthusiasm and authenticity that we can safely say this is his 2nd finest directorial outcome, only barely beaten by the wonderfully-romantic/tragic Scottish story of the blue-faced warriors, which will always remain his number 1.
Hacksaw Ridge is messy and chaotic like any self-respecting war movie should be!
It’s also a movie that’s not afraid to pull serious punches. People actually die in this movie, and not just for the purpose of shock, but to tell the story as it probably happened, so many years ago. To pay respect to all those brave soldiers who died giving their lives for their country, and for the sake of freedom.
The story begins when young soldier-boy Desmond Doss, during his personal army training, refuses to grab a weapon or kill anyone.
This particular behavior is met with a great deal of hatred and misunderstanding by his superiors as well as his fellow comrades – most of whom call him a ‘spineless coward’ – and he has the struggle of a lifetime to keep himself going.
As it goes with stories about real-life heroes, the tide turns and our beloved peace-keeping soldier earns his stripes during the war!
He becomes an Army Medic and – whilst faced with a great deal many trials and errors – he manages to stay alive long enough to prove to everyone how brave he can be (to say more would be to ruin a perfectly good movie … so I’ll just shut my mouth).
As mentioned before, the directing of Mel Gibson is beyond great. It’s an Oscar-worthy achievement that truly showcases how much of a detailed eye for vision the American star has (yup, Mel is not from Australia, he was born in NY).
With a great and most important chapter in US history comes the responsibility to bulk up your classic war movie with a stellar cast. And boy-oh-boy, does this movie have a set of wonderful actors …
The lead part is taken by previous Spider-man actor Andrew Garfield. Here’s a young man who’s had his fair share of dramatic roles – be sure to watch Boy A if you wanna see his dark side – but never before did he star in something this big.
Hacksaw Ridge isn’t just a drama – it’s a huge, super expensive war movie where every shot looks like it cost a million dollars!
Whether achieved by clever CGI or actual explosions on a closed movie set, what transpires on the screen is so real … so raw … so bloody disgusting and emotionally charged (though not nearly as riveting as the near-perfect Band of Brothers), that you cannot finish the movie with dry eyes.
Let’s face it! There has to be at least one scene that’ll grab you firmly by the throat.
And if the performance of Andrew Garfield doesn’t take you by the gut – which it should coz the man does some very fine acting – there’s a whole series of A-class actors waiting to drag you deeper into the mud and blood of this eerie-realistic war movie!
One such actor is definitely Hugo Weaving. He plays an insufferable drunk to the point where you don’t know whether to hate him or pity him, as he clearly grieves from his own war-experiences. What’s most impressive is how he manages to make his Australian accent disappear and speak with a thick American tongue.
Or how about Private Desmond Doss’ girlfriend, beautifully played by still unknown Australian actress Teresa Palmer? (she was actually born in Australia, unlike Mel Gibson.)
She plays alongside our hero with a freshness and clarity that’ll fill your heart with hope, and although she never becomes the true star of the movie, she still poses an important chapter in his life.
Just as vital though slightly more on the front line are Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington.
Though the first one is mostly a comedian who has more chick-flicks behind his name than you might realize, he does a very fine job of transforming into a hard-ass sergeant.
He’s never as scary as R. Lee Ermey in Full metal Jacket, but then again: the actor’s never been a real militant. As it goes with casting a comedian in a serious role, we do get a few well-timed-jokes from him.
He also plays a superior person, though a captain and not a sergeant, but his appearance is a bit more gruff. Sam Worthington can easily carry a certain amount of drama, and isn’t afraid to show it off against a background of dead bodies!
The only real flaw that keeps this movie from becoming a certified classic is how the character sometimes becomes too much of a flim-flam.
If you know that our hero has been struggling near-out of breath during the greater part of the movie dragging dying corpses of his fellow comrades through the mud and blood … yet in one semi-ridiculous scene becomes an invincible Captain America who turns into a David Beckham/Andre Agassi-spoof when faced with a few flying grenades … then it hurts me to tell that the movie loses a bit of its hard-earned credibility.
Still: when you put all elements together, Hacksaw Ridge is a very decent war movie. It’s not perfect. It’s not even on par with some of the great classic war movies you might’ve seen. But it’s truly and utterly good.
And because this is one of the very few American WWII-movies that doesn’t feature Germans but solely Japanese bad guys – this is one war movie you won’t forget overnight!
Did you know?
Though most of the film’s characters are Americans, only one American actor was cast: Vince Vaughn. Excepting him and star Andrew Garfield, a British native, the entire cast is comprised of Australian actors speaking with American accents.
Give it to me short:
Hacksaw Ridge is a war movie that instantly reminds you of the greater works of Steven Spielberg, such as ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and the even more impressive ‘Bands of Brothers’.
Much like those war movies, the new Mel Gibson-directed TRUE story of Private Desmond Doss who refused to take up arms only to become the most legendary Army Medic in US history is also a story that’ll grab you firmly by the throat … yet fill your heart with a sense of warm hope and everlasting love.
As gruesome and chaotic as the battles, so beautiful is the love that ensues between the soldier and his true love.
The lead part is played by Andrew Garfield who puts his Spider-man suit to rest and goes back to his roots as a promising young talent with a skill for playing dramatic roles. His movie-wife is brought to life by the Australian stunning beauty Rachel Griffiths. She may not be a familiar face, but her acting is nonetheless very impressive.
There’s also the side-story of the drunk father, an amazing feat by Matrix-Mr. Smith Hugo Weaving. Or how about the two agitated superiors who think of the brave soldier as nothing more than a coward for his perseverance *not* to pick up a rifle and shoot the enemy?
Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington – one a die-hard comedian, the other a struggling fantasy actor – both deliver compelling performances that may not necessarily provide them with Oscars, but nevertheless enrich the movie’s engrossing list of cast members.
In the end, Hacksaw Ridge is one of the finest directorial feats of Mel Gibson and a war movie you have to see. The chapter itself is monumental and so unbelievable you find it hard to think it’s actually based on true facts. The movie itself is an entertaining piece of high-class drama, making it almost worthy to being called a masterpiece … almost!