If there was ever a “true story” that needed to be seen by audiences, look no further than this incredible picture. Director Mel Gibson has achieved nothing short of cinematic wonder helming this moving war film. Like Braveheart, this movie’s legacy will undoubtedly stand the test of time. There are some great renditions from the supporting cast which includes Vince Vaughn, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer and Hugo Weaving but even their combined efforts can’t match Andrew Garfield who turns in the performance of his career. He bares his soul as Doss and brings interesting nuance to this unique character. Doss has deeply held religious beliefs that stem from a troubling incident during his childhood. This microcosm of a moment is crucial as it explores the darkness he has learnt to suppress. The undying love that Doss has for comrades and enemies alike is incomparable to anything you’ve ever seen before. His philosophy is one that we don’t have to necessarily agree with but appeals to the basic tenets of compassion. Doss is vulnerable and idealistic to a fault but follows through on his convictions and that is all we should ever ask of anyone.
The movie is impressively well paced with some genuine light hearted sequences that transpire in the first third of the running time. Doss’ blossoming relationship with his girlfriend Dorothy springs to mind. Her presence is felt throughout because of an important item gifted to Doss that only strengthens the overarching themes of the film. Vince Vaughn’s introductory scene as Sergeant Howell is an absolute riot as he relentlessly tears down the mental fortitude of his soldiers. It is this incredibly difficult balancing act that makes the movie work. Not many movies manage to explore every glimpse into the human experience. There is always a well-deserved reprieve following the merciless violence. But make no mistake; there is nothing that will prepare you for the unsparing bloodshed when it comes. The jaw-dropping action stands on equal footing with legends like Saving Private Ryan. The cinematography is particularly impactful as the low angle shots of the war-tom combat zone are ripe with the decaying and disease-ridden remains of the fallen. The battle sequences are expertly choreographed and somehow depicts the overwhelming nature of war while ensuring you are never unable to follow what’s going on. Words don’t do justice to some of the beautiful imagery on display here. No shot lacks clear intent as the movie is stunning from beginning to end. It is actually the final shot, one of peaceful suspension in the air that stuck with me, especially when contrasted against the first brutal frame of the film.
As audiences, we’ve been conditioned to view the triumphant cheers of the crowd as the validation of an enjoyable movie. There are several instances of that transpiring during the screening I attended but it was the long stretches of silence that spoke volumes. When the gentle stirring score picks up in the midst of an impassioned exchange of dialogue or a wordless sequence of ferocity, you can’t help but sit in silent awe. I don’t know how movies like this are made but I’m eternally grateful that they are. With all of the moving parts, you’d think something would come undone. It is miraculous that everything from the work of the makeup artists to the fearlessness of the stuntmen pay off and deliver one hell of an emotionally satisfying ride.
Hacksaw Ridge is Mel Gibson’s directorial return to the big screen after a decade and sets the bar even higher than Braveheart already did. I urge you to see this picture for the chance to have a truly meaningful movie going experience. It is the one of the best war films in recent years that is both heart-rending and uplifting and earns the right to be a contender for Best Picture.