Hacksaw Ridge

 

starstarstarstar

 

 

The true story of a remarkably brave conscientious objector who was awarded the Medal of Honor.

 

Hacksaw Ridge    

Andrew Garfield

 

Desmond Doss, who died in 2006, won a Medal of Honor following the battle of Okinawa in the Second World War and he was the first conscientious objector to do so. Brought up in West Virginia and possessed of a strong religious belief, he vowed following a violent incident in his childhood never to take up arms. As a young man he accepted that he had a duty to join up but, intending to become a medic, he refused to touch any weapon. Although those training with him were ready to brand him a coward, he would win the admiration of all when he rescued 75 wounded men at Okinawa.

 

This man’s story sounds like one that might have been filmed by Clint Eastwood, but in fact Hacksaw Ridge finds Mel Gibson on compellingly proficient form as its director. Just as Eastwood would have done, his telling of the tale from a screenplay by Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight underlines the sheer horror of war but admires the courage of the soldiers while not hesitating to express approval of Doss for being true to his own pacifist beliefs. Once it has given us a brief indication of the savagery to come, Gibson’s film is made up of three sections: the home life of Doss as a child and as a young man, his period of training and (by far the most substantial part) the events in Japan at Okinawa.

 

Hacksaw Ridge is a mainstream commercial movie and, as such, is not devoid of Hollywood-style gestures. They include the treatment of the naive youth’s romance with his wife-to-be (Teresa Palmer), a partly comic turn from Vince Vaughn as a sergeant in charge of recruits and one rescue bid towards the end involving the same sergeant which is given special dramatic force. The music score by Rupert Gregson-Williams is in keeping with these elements. But as popular cinema Hacksaw Ridge, which should be a huge hit, knows exactly what it is doing. If Rachel Griffiths has limited opportunities as our hero’s mother, Hugo Weaving is on top form as his father and, far more than other roles that he has undertaken including that in Scorsese’s recent Silence, this film should turn Andrew Garfield who plays Desmond Doss into an out-and-out star. The film is already famed for the stark realism of its battle scenes and they will certainly satisfy audiences who are drawn to that element yet, contrary to my fears when approaching Hacksaw Ridge, Gibson does not wallow in the violence for its own sake but stresses it to show beyond doubt the true nature of war. 

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Vince Vaughn, Rachel Griffiths, Nathaniel Buzolic, Milo Gibson, Richard Roxburgh, Darcy Bryce.

Dir Mel Gibson, Pro Terry Benedict, Paul Currie, Bruce Davey, William D. Johnson, Bill Mechanic, Brian Oliver and David Permut, Screenplay Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight, Ph Simon Duggan, Pro Des Barry Robison, Ed  John Gilbert, Music Rupert Gregson-Williams, Costumes Lizzy Gardiner.

 

Summit Entertainment/Cross Creek Pictures/Demarest Media/Argent Pictures/Pandemonium Films/Permut Presentations-Lionsgate.
139 mins. Australia/USA/UK/People's Republic of China. 2016. Rel: 27 January 2017. Cert. 15.