Movie Name: Hacksaw Ridge
Studio: Pandemonium Films
Release Date(s): September 4, 2016 (Venice Film Festival)/November 4, 2016 (US)
MPAA Rating: R
Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) doesn’t believe in raising a weapon toward another man after nearly killing his brother in a childhood fight. When war breaks out, Doss decides he can best serve his country by volunteering to be a medic in the army, but Doss is labeled as a conscious objector when he refuses to hold a weapon. Overcoming the military hurdles could be easy but gaining the respect of his fellow officers could be difficult…yet Doss is up for the challenge. When Doss and his troop are ordered to take Hacksaw Ridge in Okinawa, Doss is about to prove that true courage doesn’t come from a gun.
Directed by Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge is a biopic war picture based on the 2004 documentary The Conscientious Objector. The film was generally well-regarded by critics and fans and received Academy Awards for Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing with nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Garfield), and Best Sound Editing.
War pictures kind of leave me numb. It is partially the point of war pictures in that it shows how soldiers have to block out emotion and everything they are seeing to keep fighting. Hacksaw Ridge is a war picture for people who can’t block out what they are seeing. A good story comes to the screen, but Hacksaw Ridge faces the problems many modern war movies face.
I have to admire Desmond Doss, but I also have to question his actions. Rather than state up front “I will not carry a weapon due to my religious beliefs”, Doss joins the military and then acts surprised when this causes a problem. Do you need a weapon to be a military hero? No…Doss proves this, and I don’t know that he would have been allowed to join the military if he had stated this up front, but it also seems like a lot of the confusion would have been avoided and/or just prevented if Doss had been upfront about his beliefs. This alone makes good movie fodder in that it creates debate…something I feel that good movies often do.
Garfield also is a winner. I have always like Garfield from his earliest films like Red Riding and Never Let Me Go. I think Amazing Spider-Man kind of sidelined his acting career by being a so-so box office response. He gives a lot of heart to his character. I’ve never been much of a Sam Worthington or a Vince Vaughn fan because I don’t think they have a lot of range, but they do work as military men who have clear beliefs and actions. Due to being an Australian film, Hugo Weaving and Rachel Griffiths makes sense, but it does feel like rather odd casting.
One of Hacksaw Ridge’s problems is Saving Private Ryan. Though I don’t like the story in Saving Private Ryan, it provided the definitive World War II battle front. It had a gritty realism that Hacksaw Ridge just doesn’t seem to have. Hacksaw Ridge does have some moments, but it doesn’t attain Saving Private Ryan’s battle achievement.
Hacksaw Ridge is a better discussion movie than an actual war movie. The first half of the film interested me much more than the battle half. I knew that Doss would prove himself so it seems like a lot more shooting and death instead of morality questions. The ideals of Doss and his faith is admirable, but war is not pretty and like it or not I don’t know that faith can win wars…but it can’t hurt.