A well crafted, perhaps overly patriotic film finds a glimmer of hope among the brutality of war.
Hacksaw Ridge tells us the story of Desmond Doss, a combat medic on the front line of battle during WWII, who refused to carry a weapon of any kind. The tale is quite remarkable, and unsurprisingly has been in the sights of many potential filmmakers for a long time. In “Braveheart” director Mel Gibson’s hands, Desmond Doss becomes a figure of faith personified as an instrument against evil.
The film is unapologetically black and white in its approach. The Americans are the just on the side of good, and the Japanese are a relentless horde of evil. The film smacks you across the face with its patriotism, but due to a stellar performance from Andrew Garfield it provides just enough emotional depth to elevate the story from the crowd.
Garfield provides humour and humanity to Doss, pulling the character from annoying preacher to someone whose plight we can empathise with. Hugo Weaving makes a welcome turn as Doss’ battle scarred father, though the prewar setup of the film lacks much meaningful substance. The story plays out predictably, plodding along until the moment our hero reaches the titular “Hacksaw Ridge.”
From here on, the film descends into a savage and horrific depiction of battle that will surely snap the audience to attention. The relentless barrage of fire is an impressive feat of work, feeling very raw and very real. The supporting cast give believable performances, allowing you to feel the loss as several inevitably lose their lives in the chaos.
Doss’s story is an incredible human triumph, and deserves the attention the film gives it. Though the direction attempts to tell the audience what it should be feeling at each turn, the film is best appreciated when these moments take you by surprise. There’s just a feeling that perhaps the film would be better taking as many risks as its hero.