Directed by Mel Gibson and based on a real-life superhero’s true story, Hacksaw Ridge tells the tale of Desmond T. Doss, a WWII American Army Medic who served during the Battle of Okinawa. Refusing to train in the use of, handle or carry a firearm of any sort, Doss went on to become the first Conscientious Objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery in a battle. Oh… and he is a Seventh Day Adventist who would like Saturdays off to observe the Sabbath. Oh… and he wants to become an Army medic directly so he can go about the business of saving lives instead of taking lives.
This movie takes quite a while to “get started,” with the first half playing like many, many movies made before. We are introduced to Doss’ childhood, which despite including his abusive, alcoholic father, looks quite idyllic. Doss gets older. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy goes off to war. Although billed as a drama/romance, this could have been the beginning of any movie that could have gone in any number of directions from this point.
Naturally, this refusal to carry a firearm during a war causes quite a stir in the ranks. This portion of the movie was also very cookie cutter, boilerplate, standard… Boy refuses to carry firearm. Boy is put on trial. Boy is triumphant over the United States Army and allowed to serve in WWII firearm free. Boy goes off to war. Again. Even the eleventh hour save that we all knew was coming (or the movie would have been over before he becomes a hero) seemed sort of lackluster, not because it was not done well, but because it feels as though it has been done to death.
The introduction to the infantry rifle company to which Doss was assigned is pretty standard; a room full of men making fast introductions; doing and saying things to make themselves memorable so that when they are being maimed and killed later we will be connected to them and feel something for them. This is where the movie shows promise because these scenes are successfully executed and you will remember the characters, if not by name then by face. None were physically similar, and Sergeant Howell (played by Vince Vaughn, who provides some much needed comic relief before the bloody battles begin) helps us to remember each one in his own special way.
Where this movie shines brilliantly is during the battle scenes. Mel Gibson knows about action and it shows. You have rarely seen war depicted so graphically and brutally with the blowing up, out and/or away of body parts. There was enough light so you could actually tell who was killing who (always a problem for me personally during battles. Everyone gets all muddled up in chaos and it is usually too dark and/or smoky to make out much of anything). There was some spectacular special and visual effects work done here.
Hacksaw Ridge earned 7 bloops out of 10 overall. Because of its historical content it is a good movie worth seeing. It earned 6 bloops out of 10 for the run-of-the-mill “romance” (not bad, but it could have been better) and 8 bloops out of 10 for the “drama” (because it features great battles that should not be missed and the end of the movie was great). If you absolutely love war movies, you may like this one more than I did.
I’m happy Mr. Gibson is back, and if you’re a fan who would like to see more of him, stream Blood Father (2016). It’s an entertaining flick. Sort of like Taken, but the daughter is not so innocent and the father is not such a “good guy.”
1 = worst ever, avoid at all cost
2 = very bad, forget about it!
3 = poor movie, not recommended
4 = not good, even for free – NO!
5 = so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6 = not bad, could have been better
7 = good movie, worth seeing
8 = great movie, don’t miss it!
9 = excellent movie, a must see!
10 = a masterpiece, go see it now!