Blu-ray l DVD l 4K Ultra HD
Director: Mel Gibson
Screenwriter: Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Vince Vaughn
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Rated PG | 104 Minutes
Release Date: February 21, 2017
I’m not one for the over-dramatized, based on a true story kind of movie. But for most of them, there is something special and inspirational that makes me want to know more about the subject’s story. Case in point, Hacksaw Ridge.
Now I didn’t know anything about Desmond Doss’ harrowing story of how he refused to take up arms during World War II, but ended up saving multiple lives during the Battle of Okinawa. But to see it on the big screen was something else. The fact that it was also directed by Mel Gibson did add some concern to it, given his outrageous behavior and reputation. Still, the film managed to meet my expectations. Check out my review below.
The biography is pretty simple. Andrew Garfield is Desmond Doss, an Army soldier who took a life of pacifism after nearly killing his younger brother. He would stay committed to that vow throughout the Battle of Okinawa. That’s the story. While it is straightforward, it’s the rousing execution that has you hooked. Gibson can tell a well-crafted story of a man who refused to discharge a weapon amidst the chaotic battle where lives are being lost and gunfire spreads like an inferno.
After falling in love and marrying his wife Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer), Doss becomes interested in her work and soon becomes a medic. When his neighborhood starts to enlist in the army, Doss follows suit. But as a conscious objector, he is assigned as a medic. This does not bode well for him as he is put through grueling labor and his superior officers brand him as a coward because of his faith as a Seventh Day Adventist. But his faith never waivers, even when he arrested for insubordination for his refusal to carry a firearm.
But his biggest test comes when he sent to the Pacific theater to participate in the Battle of Okinawa. There, infantrymen literally face an uphill climb when they tasked with climbing the cliff face of the Maeda Escarpment, nicknamed “Hacksaw Ridge,” in order to face the opposing Japanese forces.
When it comes down to it, this is more about Gibson’s direction and ability to tell a story, as well as Garfield’s performance. While the other pieces are vital, they don’t carry as much weight as those two. Which makes it more of a character piece than an ensemble one. And for the most part, it works. Sure there is a slight slant with Doss’ devotion to his religion. But it never feels like religious propaganda, but more of how his faith made him into the soldier that we see in the film. Of course, there was a chance that his story could get lost due in part to how a majority of audiences aren’t as accepting to films with a religious slant, but for Hacksaw Ridge, it is the kind of inspirational film that you can watch without feeling like you are having religion shoved down your throat.
The battle sequences are intense and subversive, with smoke and dirt clouding one’s vision as we see Doss carry the injured through a hail of gunfire. All of that is intensified when it goes through the cliched slo-mo sequences. So even though it has been done before, it still makes for a great scene.
There isn’t much to the bonus features. After all, the movie is a pretty straightforward dramatization of the events that inspired the film. However, if you are interested in them, check out “The Soul of War,” a documentary feature that details the making of the film including the real life people and story, casting, filming, special effects, and stunts with interviews from Mel Gibson, Andrew Garfield, and more. There’s also a Veterans Day greeting from Mel Gibson himself. Deleted scenes are also a part of the bonus features.