Hacksaw Ridge tells the astonishing story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a religious American soldier who refuses to be armed while he serves as a medic during WWII’s Battle of Okinawa. It’s a sometimes horrifying watch that delivers the devastating bloodiness of war with strong conviction while paying great respect to the courage of the individuals involved.
Hacksaw Ridge is far from your average war film. Doss’ commitment to God grounds the surreal aspects of the war in the best of human nature; as a result, it hones the idea that bravery comes in many forms. Garfield puts in a measured performance as he transforms from a goofy sweetheart to hardened war hero and, although the screenplay takes a while to make it to the main action, it’s hard not to root for Doss and his colleagues long before they begin their fight. Indeed, the time spent building the troops individual identities more than pays off for the film’s emotional narrative as the consequences of war become apparent.
The battle scenes are intricately harrowing in their execution. Mel Gibson’s direction puts the viewer right amidst the trauma; it’s gory, bloody and shocking at times as corpses pop up on screen, blood shoots out of bodies and limbs are flung far from their owners. More disturbing, however, is the visceral sense of danger created by the suspense of the enemy who creeps up on the viewer’s instincts on more than one occasion. It took me a good few hours to shake the feeling that I’d just lived through hell on earth.
Overall, it took a while for Hacksaw Ridge to hit its stride but I ultimately found it an all consuming watch. In a similar vein to Lion, if you didn’t know it’s a true story the plot would surpass the realms of belief, but it is true and that makes it all the more awe-inspiring. Again, like Lion, I challenge anyone to resist crying when the film’s real life protagonists appear on the screen before the credits roll. I give Hacksaw Ridge a rating of 4/5.