Hacksaw Ridge

Director: Mel Gibson.
Screenplay: Robert Schenkkan, Andrew Knight.
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Vince Vaughn, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Teresa Palmer, Luke Bracey, Richard Pyros, Jacob Warner, Milo Gibson, Darcy Bryce, James Lugton, Nathaniel Buzolic, Troy Pickering, Richard Roxburgh.

“In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons”

It’s hard to believe that Apocalypto in 2006 was the last time Mel Gibson was behind the camera. I suppose 10 years in movie-making exile is where antisemitic rants gets you in Hollywood. That aside, it’s a pleasure to see Gibson directing again as he often delivers big, entertaining spectacles and his latest certainly falls into line with that.

Plot: The true story of private Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield) who joins the army during WWII but refuses to bear arms due to being a conscientious objector. At the battle of Okinawa, Doss serves as a medic, saving numerous lives and becomes the first man in history to win a Medal of Honor without ever firing a gun.

If you consider the material of Hacksaw Ridge, you might notice that’s it ripe material for Mel Gibson and his personal beliefs. As a man who has been very outspoken (a bit too much) on his Christian values, this film seems like the perfect vehicle for him to channel these beliefs. Faith and religion course throughout this and, as much as you may want to overlook it, it just won’t let you. This is a film about a saviour and it can’t help but bombard you with religious rhetoric and imagery. In the end, you could ask where God is in all this bloodshed and mayhem but that might be a tad too philosophical for what Gibson is going for here.

Sadly, that’s what’s missing from Hacksaw Ridge; Its jingoism feels out of touch and I couldn’t help but wonder what, say, Terrence Malick might have done with the material. If you consider Malick’s The Thin Red Line, for example, you’ll find a philosophical depth that’s lacking from Gibson’s film yet it would have benefited greatly from.

There’s also a contradictory nature; Despite feeling like an old-fashioned, Hollywood style picture it has many riffs and rip-off’s of contemporary war movies. There are several unashamed nods to Full Metal Jacket, Saving Private Ryan and Gibson’s own Braveheart and Hacksaw‘s major problem is that it doesn’t come close to bettering any of them.

I’m also not sold on the choice of leading man; Andrew Garfield is not a bad actor by any means but he doesn’t deliver a performance that’s worthy of the Oscar nomination he’s received for this. I don’t know, maybe it’s just his appearance that throws me off. He’s too boyish or maybe it’s just that I can’t help but focus on how disproportionate his hair is to his face. It’s not the first time in a film that I’ve noticed his monumentally large hair. It’s very distracting.

That said, despite its cliches and sometimes woefully written dialogue, this still has much to offer in terms of entertainment and it’s a pleasure to see Gibson calling the shots with his usual visceral approach. He still has a ferocious ability to stage a good action set-piece and Hacksaw provides a good number of them.

Although old sugar tits just can’t help but put his Christian values and themes of religious devotion into this, it’s hard not to be swept up in the combat and the man behind the astounding true story. It’s not subtle storytelling from Gibson but it’s simple and effective nonetheless.

Mark Walker

Trivia: Producer Hal B. Wallis had previously tried to buy this story from Desmond T. Doss in the 1950s and hoped that Audie Murphy would star, but Doss had no interest in motion pictures and didn’t want his story turned into a typical Hollywood movie.

26 Responses to “Hacksaw Ridge”

  1. Your review is a lot more mixed than some I’ve read, but that’s why I like it. You got a good balance there and I must confess to wanting to see the film so I can give my own thoughts on it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ll take old sugar tits any time I can. I liked the film very much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There many positives I took from it too, Cindy. I just didn’t quite think that the award nomination were entirely warranted. I had some real issues with the dialogue and sub-par references to better war movies.


  3. I really liked this one and have always felt it does more than people give it credit for. It’s basically a movie of contradictions. I agree the first act is a bit cheesy and idyllic but I think intentionally so. It’s Desmond’s naive view of the world that slowly begins to be tore down. Of course it is obliterated once that first bullet rings out on the ridge. You’re right, the main story is pretty simple, but I really like some of the things it does.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I liked it too, man. There were some glaring issues for me though. When compared to the likes of Full Metal Jacket, Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line, it pales in comparison. It’s a decent film and very well shot but it kinda felt like it wasn’t treading any new ground. That said, I still enjoyed it for what it was.


  4. Good review. I thought this movie was decent but what I liked most was the underlying story rather than how Gibson brought it to the screen. I would not have nominated the film, Gibson or Garfield for any awards if I were running things.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. There have been several questioning comments as to why there’s so much love for this. Have yet to see this yet but still interested. Nicely scribed as always mate!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Good review. I think it’s worth watching and I agree there are many other war movies that are better.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “…how disproportionate his hair is to his face.” – Awwwww Mark xD His hair is fantastic! But this did make me laugh.

    Sorry to see you didn’t enjoy this more. I quite liked it because, as much as the whole religious aspect was there, I didn’t ever get the impression that I was being lectured or about to be condemned to hell for any which reason.

    Great review, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting review (first-time visitor). I get it, that this film covers a lot of ground trod by Spielberg and others, but I think it’s unique — even compared to films like “Letters from Iwo Jima” or HBO’s “The Pacific” mini-series, which sought to humanize the enemy. It focuses on one man trying to act humanely in a maelstrom of horror. I think religion was the point. Here’s a heavy-duty Christian pacifist who went to war, a decision that must have tested his faith, and then took on his barracks mates, superior officers and the entire Marine Corps command system to serve in combat. To me, religion, or maybe faith is a better word, is as central to this film as any movie about Joan of Arc. (I am far from a bible-thumper, myself). As for Garfield, I think his look was perfect for the part. He’s a skinny beanpole like Doss, and has the almost absurd canopy of hair that many young men sported in the 1940s. That said, I still enjoyed reading your review.


    • Yeah, I get that religion was the point but I don’t particularly like being force fed it. That said, how else was Gibson going to tackle the story? I can forgive that side of things but the Full Metal Jacket boot camp stuff didn’t work for me. It was a very tame Kubrick rip-off. When all’s said and done, though, I still enjoyed the film. It’s good to see Gibson directing again.

      Thanks for stopping by, John. Always nice to hear new opinions. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mark, I take your point, although I think “We Were Soldiers Once,” (Gibson starred but didn’t direct) was much more preachy about religion and war. I do agree it’s good to see Gibson directing again. BTW, you’ve got an interesting, thoughtful blog here. “I’ll be back.” Cheers!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I wasn’t much of a fan of We Were Soldiers either, John. Admittedly, it’s been a while, though, and I don’t remember a lot about it. I just remember that if had the great Sam Elliott. 😉

        Thank for stopping by, though, John. Very much appreciated my friend. 🙂


  9. I feel so alone. Why am I the only one who thought this movie was utter shit?? I mean, maggots in a rotting corpse? Did we reeeally need that? Trust Mel to fucking deliver that.

    And then there is the 15 minute straight up rom-com near the start. Made me want to gouge my eyes and eardrums out.

    What am I missing? The amazing true story? Is that what makes this so popular? I dunno, I agree with your faults but I felt there was a ton more.

    This made me laugh tho – “maybe it’s just that I can’t help but focus on how disproportionate his hair is to his face”

    Hahahahaha!! I initially thought the same thing in Silence. Tho he actually really is brilliant in that, large hair or not!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha! What’s Garfield’s hair-do all about, man. It’s fucking huuuuge! And he’s got a wee tiny face. It’s very distracting.

      Anyway, I thought this flick was ok. Not great! I enjoyed the battle scenes but the boot camp and romantic crap should’ve been left aside.


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