Hacksaw Ridge (2016) - Review
by Bryan Mero
Not since Saving Private Ryan (1998) have we seen World War II portrayed like this on the big screen. Hacksaw Ridge (2016), directed by Mel Gibson, will definitely be compared to Saving Private Ryan, almost every new World War II movie will, and the comparison will be genuine. Where Saving Private Ryan threw you into the heart of battle from minute one, Hacksaw Ridge gives you a glimpse of it at first and then follows the story of Desmond Dos (Andrew Garfield).
Hacksaw Ridge is a true story about Desmond T. Doss. A medic in the army during World War II who would not handle a gun because of his religious beliefs (Seventh-Day Adventist). The movie shows us why he had such strong beliefs, his abusive WWI veteran father (Hugo Weaving), relationship with his brother and mother and his future wife Dorothy. The first part of the movie is basically the story of a tough life with the hope of love. Desmond then volunteers for the army in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and goes to boot camp. You can imagine the horror of any drill sergeant or captain that had a private that wouldn't handle a gun when training for war. Desmond goes to trial but finally gets to stay and serve. Serve he does as the battle of Okinawa rages and his unit is thrown right into the meat grinder. As his fellow troops retreated, Desmond stayed and attended to the wounded in the midst of friendly and enemy fire.
Hacksaw Ridge has many themes to it. It's a drama, a comedy and a horror film all in one. It's also a movie about faith and staying with your convictions. Even Dorothy (Teresa Palmer), who loves him dearly, asks him to just handle a gun and compromise a little. Sometimes the little compromises we make can turn into larger compromises and we never look back. This is really what Hacksaw Ridge is about. How far will you go to stay faithful to your beliefs and are your beliefs worth that kind of commitment? Hacksaw Ridge answers these questions for Desmond.
There has been a lot of talk of the battle scenes. The battle of Hacksaw Ridge plays much like a horror film. The soldiers are walking into certain death. The troops we get to know in basic training are forever changed once they climb onto the ridge. The tension grows as the mist of smoke hovers over the ground. Visibility is so low they can hardly see each other and then shots ring out and the man you've been serving with for months suddenly shudders and dies right next to you. The most rattling sound for me was the 'plunk' of a bullet striking a helmet. That is the last sound you want to hear on the battlefield. Hacksaw Ridge will make you cringe. From the sounds of battle, to the torn up soldiers giving life and limb to serve their country this movie will make you squirm.
The movie moves at a pace worthy of some classic World War II films. It looks much like The Big Red One (1980), The Great Escape (1963) and The Dirty Dozen (1967) in parts and then turns it up during the huge battle scenes at the end. The most powerful part of this movie is realizing that this is a true story and the words from Desmond Doss himself play out in the movie in front of you. For those who have a heart, it should bring a tear to your eye and new perspective on war, faith and dedication.
A word of warning, this is rated "R" for a lot of gore, blood and violence. If your a little queasy at the sight of blood, be forewarned but don't let it stop you from seeing this amazing film. I'm hoping the Academy will give Hacksaw Ridge recognition with some Oscar nominations. Please go see and support this film.