Sunday, 29 January 2017

#11 HACKSAW RIDGE



Starring Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths and Vince Vaughn. Written by Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan. Directed by Mel Gibson. Budget $40 million. Running time 139 minutes. 15 Certificate.

The true life story of Desmond Doss, the second World War conscientious objector who whilst refusing to bear arms against his fellow man still enlisted to become a battlefield medic. The film follows his life from young violent boy, the son of a traumatised WWI corporal, who grows up to be a devout Seventh Day Adventist. After enduring a bruising basic training and being court marshaled for disobeying a direct order, Desmond (Andrew Garfield) is given the right to go into battle unarmed. Then it's a cut to the Hacksaw Ridge of the title for a harrowing, brutal, bruising and extremely gory hour of non-stop action and bloodshed, just to show our plucky hero what he's missing. In the ensuing battle Desmond single-handedly rescues 75 of his fellow comrades thus winning the Congressional Medal of Honor. Oops, spoiler alert, but then this is a 'true story'.

Extremely well directed by Mel Gibson, who seems to have finally atoned for his past indiscretions, this movie is as much about faith as it is anything, which coming from a devout Catholic like Gibson is hardly surprising. Although for a film whose hero is a pacifist it certainly doesn't skimp on the action. This is most certainly a film of three acts. The first deals with Doss's life back home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and his romance with nurse (Rachel Griffiths). The second act is the training camp, which is perhaps the most entertaining and enjoyable and the third act is the assault on the ridge. Of the three acts, it's the first part which is perhaps the least successful. It's very much a Norman Rockwell rendition of rural America, all good teeth and clean white linen, despite the post-traumatic syndrome and Doss is presented as almost the personification of virtue. Although that said, where as the Bible features heavily and various characters talk about religion this aspect of the story always feels skimmed over and Doss's personal faith or beliefs, apart from the not killing and not eating meat is never really completely explored. It all feels as if Gibson is marking time and setting the groundwork so he can get on with the bit he really likes, the violence and action. And in that department, very much like Braveheart and Apocalypto, he doesn't disappoint.

The acting is good surprisingly from both Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington and even Garfield, although he still has a face you want to hit. But this isn't a deep and cereberal film, it's a Ronsil movie and does exactly what it says on the tin. It's a harrowing and visceral film enriched by footage at the end of the real Doss and those who knew him including, in one case, a man whose life he saved.

8/10

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