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Review

‘Hacksaw Ridge’ joins the list of spectacular war films

December 7, 2016

“Hacksaw Ridge” is based off of the true story of Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield). Doss joins the army during World War II after coming to the conclusion that he can no longer sit idly by and watch others join and die defending his country.

He decides to enlist with one objection: He will not touch a gun. Instead of taking lives, Doss wishes to become a medic and save lives. This mentality brings on hardships that Doss could have never imagined. However, through his courage and strength, he earns everyone’s trust and becomes a hero, saving 75 lives without ever firing a single shot.

Have you ever been to a movie where, once the movie is over and the credits start to roll in, you’re left there glued to your chair, sitting in silence, contemplating what you just saw? Well ladies and gentlemen, this is that kind of a film.

This is by far one of the most powerful movies that I have seen in a very long time. When thinking of classic war films, one might think of “Saving Private Ryan,” “Platoon,” “Apocalypse Now,” “The Hurt Locker” and many other countless films that have stood the test of time. Well everyone, it’s time to add “Hacksaw Ridge” to that list.

To address the elephant in the room, yes, this movie is directed by Mel Gibson. Yes, Gibson has a lot of personal issues and demons that he has been fighting and he has developed a reputation of being a little (or a lot) crazy.

While I would not dispute that, one thing is for certain: The man is a genius when it comes to bringing powerful films to the big screen. He has directed and produced “Braveheart,” “Apocalypto” and “Passion of the Christ,” and then acted in countless other brilliant films. The man has talent, people. Gibson once again brings a powerful and extremely emotional movie that had me moved and in tears.

Now, let’s talk about the story. “Hacksaw Ridge” is two hours and 20 minutes long, which means it has a lot of time to build and grow a personality. This movie has two separate acts: Pre-Hacksaw Ridge and at Hacksaw Ridge (this was the location where the battle was taking place).

The beauty of these two acts is that each one of them could stand as a separate movie away from the other. Pre-conflict was all about morality, standing up for what you believe, perseverance and love. This, to me, could have been separate and still would have been a very good drama that would have had a lot to offer.

Then, we have a second act that only builds upon the first. When the action finally comes, it hits you like a brick wall. It is sudden and it is extremely intense. Gibson, just like all of his other films, does not hold back or pull any punches. This is the most intense and graphic war violence we have seen since the “Saving Private Ryan” D-Day sequence.

With a cast of Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Vince Vaughn, Hugo Weaving and more, you know you should be in for a treat. Garfield is phenomenal. I feel like he is one of Hollywood’s most underrated talents. Yes, he was a big name when he was Spiderman but he has also delivered some fantastic performances in “The Social Network” and “99 Homes.” Yes, he was good in the “Spiderman” films but he wasn’t really given chances to shine. This is that moment for him, and I hope that when award season rolls around, he will be recognized for the work that he put into this film.

Alongside him is a very talented cast that did some great work. My real only flaw with the film is that the group of characters in the unit that Doss was stationed isn’t as close as it could have been. They give them several moments of humor and fun at the beginning, but really never fully dive into the emotional connection to these characters, minus one that I won’t spoil.

One of the reasons that “Saving Private Ryan” is, in my opinion, the best war film ever created, is not only for the amazing directing and action scenes, but because of the chemistry and close friendships that those men have with one another. When of them dies, you are devastated. This isn’t nearly strong enough in “Hacksaw Ridge.” Yes, you feel sad, but not devastated. I feel this is a wasted opportunity that could’ve been so much better.

Having said that, what this film lacks in an overall group dynamic is compensated by one of the best individual war hero stories ever. I can’t recall a single other film where I was this emotionally connected to or rooting for them to survive than I was with Doss. When you consider that this is based off of a true story, it just makes it that much more powerful to see the pure amount of bravery that this man had. It is truly something amazing to see.

“Hacksaw Ridge” is a must see. I cannot stress that enough. I really do hope that come award season, this movie gets the recognition that it deserves.

 

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