Film Review: Hacksaw Ridge

Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge is a brutal true story which illustrates the director’s flair for storytelling. Switching between sentiment and violence, the film is utterly compelling at times.

Desmond Doss signs up to join the army during World War II, feeling it is his duty to serve his country as a medic. His religious beliefs mean that he refuses to fire a weapon. Seen as a conscientious objector, Desmond enters a gruelling battle with his regiment…

Hacksaw Ridge is based on the true story of Desmond Doss, who was awarded the Medal of Honour for his bravery in battle. Written by Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight, the film focuses on Doss from his early family life to his later heroics in battle. The film is a sincere portrait of an extraordinary individual.

Director Mel Gibson concentrates on a different aspect of Doss’ life in each of the film’s three acts. The first explores the protagonist’s childhood; giving colour to his beliefs and his relationship with his family. There is also an emphasis on his father’s trauma following military service. The story moves on to Desmond as a young man. The scenes in which he woos Dorothy are heady with sentiment. At times the film is aware of this corniness. Nevertheless, the scenes are very watchable.

The mood shifts between this sweet sentimentality and more forceful drama. There is plenty of humour to be found at training camp, but again this switches quickly with the onset of darker scenes. It is the action scenes which are most memorable in Gibson’s film, however. The war sequences are absolutely brutal, offering a dizzying and terrifying depiction of battle. Viewers who have seen Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ will not be surprised by the level of violence, yet Hacksaw Ridge is unrelenting in its portrayal of carnage. At times difficult to watch, the direction, editing, cinematography and sound design create haunting sequences.

Andrew Garfield delivers a convincing performance as Doss. He is cute in the romantic scenes, and very authentic in depicting Desmond’s struggle. Hugo Weaving puts in a great turn as Desmond’s father, and Vince Vaughn is well cast in his role.

With Hacksaw Ridge, Gibson reminds cinemagoers of his adept storytelling abilities. The film is a testament to conviction, as well as the brutality of war.

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