Hacksaw Ridge: A Review

Vaughn Battista

Hacksaw Ridge, released on November 4th, 2016, is the latest film by the controversial director Mel Gibson. The film stars Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss, the soldier who, during the storm on Okinawa in World War 2, was a conscientious objector, which meant that he enlisted into the army but did not fire a gun.

The film begins with his early life, from childhood to where he was enlisted. During this time, Hacksaw Ridge was a bit boring, as it followed many cliches and it felt like the film was going through the motions. Even with the lackluster plot, the beginning of the film thrives due to performances by Andrew Garfield and Hugo Weaving. Andrew Garfield, most known for playing  Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider – Man series, pulls off the best performance of his career, playing a sympathetic character whose values you can get behind. Hugo Weaving has been known for fictional characters like V from V for Vendetta and Agent Smith from The Matrix series, so seeing him in a more nuanced role was quite refreshing. He plays the alcoholic father of Desmond Doss who is abusive, but manages to stray away from the “abusive father” stereotype by actually redeeming himself.

Once Desmond enlists himself in the army, the film really picks up, and you begin to see Desmond’s core values be tested by the military. Another standout performance is introduced with Vince Vaughn, who usually plays comedic roles. Even though his character has moments of levity, his dramatic performance was a pleasant surprise. Hacksaw Ridge skims the line between being to preachy towards Christianity, which is the main reason Desmond doesn’t kill, but it barely avoids it. Seeing Desmond deal with being abused for his values and having him still stand for them makes him a very likable character.

The rest of the movie is devoted towards his time in Japan, trying to take the area known as Hacksaw Ridge. The buildup to the action was extremely tense, and the payoff was fantastic. The war scenes are some of the most frightening and brutal that I have ever seen, almost matching the likes of Saving Private Ryan. Even better are the satisfying moments when Desmond shows his comrades that he can be useful even if he doesn’t fight.

Overall, Hacksaw Ridge was a great film. It was elevated by fantastic, nuanced performances, likable characters, beautifully shot and tense action, and a plot that takes a while to get going, but soon becomes very gripping. The film is one of the best of the year, and it is definitely worth checking out.

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