By Michael Kaye
Hacksaw Ridge (Review)
This November got off to a fantastic start. It began with a fully realized Doctor Strange movie from Marvel Studios, something I never thought would happen in a million years, followed by Dreamworks' Trolls, an animated jukebox musical based on Thomas Dam's good luck troll dolls that was better than it had any right to be. And now, we end the first weekend of November on a high note, with Mel Gibson's latest directorial effort Hacksaw Ridge, starring Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Luke Bracey and Teresa Palmer.
Here's the story, based on true events. WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people and becomes the first Conscientious Objector in American history to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.
I'm only saying now because as of this writing, I have yet to see La La Land, but Hacksaw Ridge is my current frontrunner for Best Picture at the 89th Academy Awards. Is it better than Braveheart, which I previously called Mel Gibson's magnum opus? We'll answer that at the end of this review. For now, here are my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, I was completely blown away by the cast. I'm still very bitter about Andrew Garfield being subbed for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Social Network, but if all goes according to plan, a nom for this performance could easily make up for it. I didn't know much about Desmond Doss before this movie, but Garfield completely embodied the character. Not a lot of people have been talking about Hugo Weaving yet, but holy shit he's amazing in the first half of the film. We've seen him play villains, we've seen him play antiheroes, but I don't think we've ever seen him in a role like this before. He plays Desmond's father Tom Doss, a former soldier who's turned to alcoholism after the loss of his friends in combat. It's honestly the best performance I've seen from him in a very long time. It's unfortunate that True Detective Season 2 didn't exactly work out, but I'm glad to see Vince Vaughn show up as Sergeant Howell, who did remind me a little of R. Lee Ermey from Full Metal Jacket. Other great performances come from actors such as Luke Bracey as Smitty Ryker, Teresa Palmer as Dorothy Schutte, and introducing Milo Gibson as Lucky Ford.
Mel Gibson did one hell of a job directing this movie. I already thew my two cents in the discussion of some of his comments about the film industry during his press tour in my previous editorial, so I won't waste too much time repeating myself here. Instead I'll just say that Gibson puts his money where his mouth is. You don't have to like him as a person, or agree with his religious beliefs, but you do need to give credit where credit is due. This guy knows how to tell a story and get you invested in all of the characters, even ones that barely have a minute of screen time. He claims that he didn't direct a war story, but rather "a love story," and I can totally see where he's coming from. Braveheart was executed in a similar manner, as William Wallace's motivations were fueled by not only the love for his wife, but the love for his people. Desmond Doss goes through a similar character arc, just without the actual fighting. As far as the action is concerned, this is some of the most epic violence I've seen in a movie so far this year. Clearly taking queues from films like Saving Private Ryan, Fury and even a touch of Band of Brothers, this movie succeeded in ripping off the rose tinted glasses and completely de-glamorizing war.
The music was composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams, who was recently confirmed to score Wonder Woman next year. This guy doesn't get nearly enough credit for his work, primarily because he's stuck composing for Happy Madison's shittier movies. But he deserves so much better, and I'm glad he gets to fill this movie with a beautifully bombastic score that almost rivals James Horner's work on Braveheart.
Finally, here's where I'd have any sort of minor complaints, but mostly positive thoughts, and that's the screenplay written by Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan. They really did a solid job bringing the incredible story of Desmond Doss to the big screen, walking that fine line between staying as historically accurate as possible and telling a compelling story. Where the movie fumbles is maybe the first 20 minutes, where there are one or two moments that seem eerily reminiscent of Pearl Harbor. But honestly, those are the tiniest of dents in the film's otherwise mighty armor.
Hacksaw Ridge is definitely one of the must-see movies of the year. Don't wait for the blu-ray release, and don't sit this one out just because you don't like Mel Gibson as a person. It's chock full of everything that's great in a war film, with great performances, masterfully crafted action, and a hauntingly beautiful score.
Now I want to hear from you guys. Have you seen Hacksaw Ridge, and if so what did you think? Also, what are some of your favorite war films? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned as always for more awesome content coming your way!