For all his personal sins, Mel Gibson has established himself as an actor and director of note. While he has done some cinematic turkeys, his success rate has usually been high. As a director he has found a more enthusiastic audience with his 5th effort adding to his professional allure. An interesting exploration of another facet of World War 2, Hacksaw Ridge continues the slow climb back to movie redemption for cinema’s once golden boy.
World War 2 US army medic Desmond T Doss (Andrew Garfield) is a devout Christian refusing to bear arms. A conscientious objector to the war, he still does his best to save the lives of his comrades any way possible. Looked upon by Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) and Captain Glover (Sam Worthington) with bemusement, Doss raises the ire of his more gung-ho friends. It’s only during the Battle of Okinawa that he proves his mettle with his colleagues’ fate resting in his hands free of deadly weaponry.
Hacksaw Ridge is an engaging exploration of someone’s convictions despite the odds. Wanting to prove to his comrades he has what it takes to thwart the enemy without violence, the reaction of Desmond’s team is easy to understand. The story successfully shows why he took a stand and how he used it to his advantage. It’s all the more remarkable given its factual basis, even if those portrayed are shown as one-dimensional caricatures rather than real people.
Whilst the sketchy characters are disappointing with Garfield’s Forrest Gump-like role wearing thin, Hacksaw Ridge succeeds in the battle scenes. War’s fierce brutality is seen in bloody starkness with Gibson’s command of the camera evident. Trench warfare is shocking and grisly with the cinematography diving you head-first into the danger zone. Every flint of dirt and noise is keenly felt and pack a punch until the needlessly sentimental ‘how America won the war’ flag-waving finale.
It’s a long way down if you’ve committed unpardonable transgressions, which Mel Gibson knows too well. Hacksaw Ridge should salvage some of his professional reputation. Staying behind the camera would perhaps suit him best as this latest film proves his skills when away from the glare of the public eye.
Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Rating out of 10: 6