The magnitude of WWII will be understood by anyone. Its the worst war we’ve endured as humans and hopefully the last one we’ll ever go through of such grand proportions. On one side, we can study the events of WWII for what they were and implement them into our studies of history to avoid the reoccurrence of these events ever again, and on the other side we’ve got thousands of people in business suits mining these stories to make a profit. For the most part these stories are magnificent displays about the hardships of war, the triumph and the loss of humanity, but as of late, these stories simply seem to be rapidly strung together, attached to a big name and sent off to your local cinema in search of money. Well, here comes Mel Gibson to change that and bring back that emotional gut-punch these films seem to be lacking as of late.
Honestly, for a lot of people it’s very hard to separate art from artist and I feel like that’s something that may affect this film in the long-run. But, taking the film for what it is and seeing Mel Gibson only as a director, this man has crafted a WWII epic for the modern movie-goer. Gibson’s passion for the project is ever-present and the way he conducts the story is wonderfully done. Splitting the film in two: the first part focusing on Desmond Doss’s (Garfield) stance for his beliefs and the second part juxtaposing that with the horrifying and confusing nature of war. You’ve seen Braveheart and you know how seriously Gibson takes the topic of people standing up for what they believe, so here he also captures that confidence present in Desmond Doss about his beliefs. Sure, everyone sees him as a coward at the moment but then he proves them wrong. And, as you know, Mel Gibson also happened to have directed films like Apocalypto in the past, making him no stranger to the depiction of violence screen. When we get to Hacksaw Ridge we are immersed into the grotesque and unflinching war-scene that happens there each day. But, more on that later.
As I stated above, Hacksaw Ridge is divided in two parts, the first centering around Desmond’s youth and the way in which he stood for what he believed in. Not only are we given an entry point to understand Desmond during this act, but we’re also introduced to one of the most fascinating characters in this story, Tom Doss played by Hugo Weaving. Sure he’s Elrond and Red Skull, but most importantly Hugo Weaving is a fantastic actor capable of playing any character presented to him. Here, Weaving fully displays all his acting chops by playing Tom Doss, as father still suffering from PTSD of when we was in war and tries to drown those maddening thoughts in alcohol, but he still loves his children and just Weaving plays this whirlwind of emotions that acts like a bomb without a timer that could just go off at anytime is mesmerizing. Gibson also introduces us to Desmond’s main drive-force during this section of the film, no not Dorothy, God. Which is so much more interesting than your typical I’ll keep on fighting for love because by depicting someone who’s main driving-force is his faith in God, your making a statement about how despite the fact that Desmond had to live through Hell on Earth while at Hacksaw Ridge, he still has faith in God which meant he still had faith in humanity. And of course, we’re also introduced to Teresa Palmer who plays Desmond’s love interest, Dorothy. And in their relationship you see pure love for one another, not something necessarily all about appearance and money, but an innocently beautiful and everlasting love. These are all things that play into Desmond’s character, building him as that singular American hero that he is.
Then we’ve got the second part that depicts the pure horror and terror of war. This is something that hasn’t been done in Hollywood for a while now and the only recent film I can really compare to Hacksaw Ridge in its depiction of barbarity of WWII is last year’s Son of Saul and the visceral war-torn Europe it was able to capture. Not only does Gibson manage to capture the true nastiness WWII’s battlefields, but he also uses them intelligently as a backdrop to develop the characterization of basically every single soldier in Desmond’s troop. And here where Luke Bracey shines. Sure, he was terribly miscast in the Point Break remake, but the guy is good actor and he proves it here, adding layer upon layer to a soldier that probably would’ve been a throw-away character in any other version of the script. Plus, its in this part of the film that you get the heroic actions of Desmond for which he is remembered to this day. His unwillingness to carry a weapon into the Hell that is Hacksaw Ridge pays off here in a brilliant sequence in which Desmond one man after another, pleading to God to let him save one more, racking like a hundred saved men. The story of Desmond Doss is one of true heroism and the righteousness of standing up for your beliefs.
Hacksaw Ridge is an unrelenting look at war aimed at exploring the specs of humanity within it. With the story of Desmond Doss, Mel Gibson crafts an epic war film about peace that perfectly contrasts the horror of war with the beauty of salvation which Doss brings to it. Not only this, but Gibson also gives us some amazing performances that we’ll remember as some truly special demonstrations of emotive performances. Hugo Weacing is great, Luke Bracey is awesome, and Andrew Garfield is spectacular, but most importantly the man behind the camera, Mel Gibson directs an amazing film with Hacksaw Ridge.