Hacksaw Ridge: Review

Written by: Don Cabuhat

Film | Feb 24, 2017

Andrew Garfield film review Hacksaw Ridge Mel Gibson

Oscar bait films (films that are Academy Award nomination magnets) aren't necessarily bad, but they definitely make use of their "Oscar-ness" to get moviegoers to watch them, resulting in greater profit for the studio that made them. These are usually movies that have experienced, celebrity status directors and a solid cast. Period piece war movies are one of the biggest Oscar bait movies around.

Hacksaw Ridge is definitely one such film, but that doesn't make its story any less compelling.

"A soldier saves 75 lives in World War 2 without firing a single shot - A true story" is the tagline for the movie. Nowadays when a movie has a "based on a true story" tagline, I approach it with skepticism; this usually means that it is "stretched from an idea based on a true story".

A man named Desmond Doss from Lynchburg, Virginia enlists in the army to fight in World War 2. The twist is that Desmond is a Seventh-day Adventist and his belief is that the biggest sin a man can commit is taking away another person's life. Despite this, his sense of righteousness compels him to do what he can to help his country win the war. Armed with a firm, unwavering resolve, he joins the military as a medic. This premise that I find to be too good to be true, that borders on laughably stupid, is also 100% historically accurate.

Mel Gibson returns after a 10-year hiatus and provides solid direction for a film that is generally right up his alley. Armed with the ability to craft great set pieces and the sensibility to manipulate tension in heavier scenes while still focusing on the human aspects of the film, Gibson once again shows why he is considered one of the better directors in Hollywood today (until you remember the guy is bat-shit crazy). Of course, the blood and gore that are present in every movie he directs is still there, but this time he balances it out with moments of levity and humor, which I think is a great touch from the man.

Andrew Garfield delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as he produces a likable, relatable and vulnerable lead the audience gets to root for right from the get-go. The man's charm is undeniable (which sometimes makes me forget that he has the same smiling, crying, flirty, and sad faces in each of his movies); you can feel his sincerity when he acts and that genuine love for his craft reverberates throughout the whole film.

Sadly, sincerity isn't enough to elevate the movie into anything special. It's ironic that a story you wouldn't believe was real if a friend told it to you in a bar could feel so generic. The story beats are obvious which tends to make the story feel slow, resulting in it feeling boring. A story that should have been so different just feels like any other passable war movie.

I get how incredible the story is. Frankly, just knowing what really happened is crazy in its own right; I still catch myself thinking that these things couldn't possibly have happened. The story is, in every metric, insane. But the film falls short in creating a memorable product that is worthy of the story it was based on.

Even with all the right pieces, I would have a hard time believing that Hacksaw Ridge would matter even if it weren't tailor-made for the Oscars.

About the author: Don Cabuhat

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