Famous for films such as Braveheart (1995) and Apocalypto (2006), Mel Gibson is back and is just as violent, bloody, and grisly as ever with his most recent movie “Hacksaw Ridge,” released on November 4, 2016. Taking place in World War II during the battle of Okinawa, 1945, Hacksaw Ridge tells the incredible, but true story of Private Desmond Doss, portrayed by actor Andrew Garfield, who served as a medic in the U.S. army, becoming the first conscientious objector to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Throughout the entire battle, because of his Seventh-day Adventist beliefs, upbringing, and personal values, Doss willingly chooses not to pick up a single weapon or fire a single round at the opposing side. “Hacksaw Ridge” stands out as a well-worth watching film that delivers and depicts the real brutality and horrors of war, while attempting to tell a story of bravery, valor, courage, but most importantly, sticking to one’s own principles, values, and beliefs.
One of the movie’s clear strengths is Gibson’s choice of cast. Most actors involved with this film should be recognizable to any moviegoer. Garfield does a remarkable job in portraying the real life southerner Desmond Doss from Lynchburg, Virginia. Other actors, such as Luke Bracey, who plays Private Smitty Ryker, and Sam Worthington as Captain Glover all made this movie what it is: a stand out, action packed thrill ride.
This brings us to our next positive strength about the movie, which is its earnest and sincere plea for individuals to stick to their own values, morals, and beliefs and act on them. It seems as if there are two stories to this movie: one deals with the life of Doss leading up to the battle of Okinawa, where he is seen coping with his past, inner conflicts, and finding his identity in terms of values; the other deals solely on the battlefield of “Hacksaw Ridge” itself, when Doss has to put these values and beliefs into practice. “Hacksaw Ridge” in both of these parts makes you believe in yourself and the power of acting on your principles.
When watching the film, one wonders why and how someone can be courageous enough to walk through a hellish fight such as “Hacksaw Ridge,” let alone not picking up a weapon to defend you through it. Gibson seeks every opportunity possible to show Doss’s internal problems externally. The moment that got me the most, and noted a significant turning point in the movie was during Doss’ court martial and after his dad intervened.
Once the action began it really began: you know right away way “Hacksaw Ridge” is a Mel Gibson movie. The violence, fire, chaos gore, pandemonium, and bloodshed all hits you at once like a freight train: everything builds up to this second half of the movie. The violence is designed no more or less to show exactly what happened at this battle and how it occurred in the eyes of history, including the soldiers who partook in it. The violence also gives Doss the setting in which Doss tested his beliefs.
In all of Gibson’s films prior to this one, the idea and concept of war and how it is conducted is tossed around, but hardly, if at all, is the notion of peace or humanity. Gibson presents a fascinating take on this idea, stressing how, while, unfortunately, war is something that is not going away anytime soon due to human biology, culture, and politics, there are still certain actions and decisions we can make to change the outcome of a war or conflict. I knew from this point on Doss would be walking through the gates of hell to put his ultimate beliefs to the ultimate test.
It is difficult to not watch this film and not be moved by Doss’ story. “Hacksaw Ridge” no doubt delivers a top-notch, stellar performance from the cast, action-packed battle scenes, and a message that all can take to heart. Altogether, this film presents a fantastic historical look into the battle of “Hacksaw Ridge,” tells an incredible story of a her, and leaves audiences satisfied.
Mel Gibson behind camera (Andrew Cooper, SMPS)