Today marks Independence Day, one of the proudest holidays in the United States. It is a triumphant moment for every American, especially veterans, and to every veteran or active solider of the branches of the US military, we as a community, HBB Reviews, salute you and thank you for your sacrifices and duty. In such a distinguishable fashion, let us review one of the best war films of the past decade that highlights the bravery and heart of almost every soldier…Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge. Hacksaw Ridge is more than a typical war film. It is an emotional story that doesn’t become so hoodwinked in complicated political themes as to where the heart of the film is strayed. Bolstered by astounding performances by its cast and heartily disturbing war sequences, Hacksaw Ridge delivers a quiet and subtle message of hope and perseverance in such a devastating time.
HACKSAW RIDGE is the extraordinary true story of Desmond Doss [Andrew Garfield] who, in Okinawa during the bloodiest battle of WWII, saved 75 men without firing or carrying a gun. He was the only American soldier in WWII to fight on the front lines without a weapon, as he believed that while the war was justified, killing was nevertheless wrong. As an army medic, he single-handedly evacuated the wounded from behind enemy lines, braved fire while tending to soldiers and was wounded by a grenade and hit by snipers. Doss was the first conscientious objector to ever earn the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Like any other film, what makes a film great or poor is its screenplay. A film is nothing without this key element. Fortunately, however, Hacksaw Ridge’s screenplay is what makes the film great. The screenplay’s biggest triumph is its storytelling. Unlike recent war films which try to drag out the complicated political themes, Hacksaw Ridge is refreshingly simple. It has a plot that it sticks to for the rest of the film. It is a story of a World War II medic, Desmond Doss, and it doesn’t try to be anything else. As a result, the film never slows down to a drastic halt, in terms of pacing. Even in the first act, where casual audience members may be bored, characterization and tone is created. These elements make the first act intriguing and makes the emotional impact of the final two acts all the more powerful. In addition, the film also is well written. While it may bear certain dialogue clichés of other war films, it never strays too far into the clichés and instead uses mostly original dialogue to convey its excellent story. The dialogue, comparable to films such as 2017’s Logan, propels the story and feels like the vehicle for driving the plot. Ultimately, the screenplay of Hacksaw Ridge is one of quiet strength. On the surface, not anything particularly innovative is visible. But underneath, Hacksaw Ridge is refreshing in its old-fashioned design and has both a thematic story alongside crisp dialogue that bears certain clichés.
However, the biggest boon of Hacksaw Ridge isn’t its screenplay. The biggest impression the film makes is its performances. The cast isn’t particularly large and most of its characters are pushed into momentary cameos and side characters. However, what is displayed constantly is excellent. Andrew Garfield revolutionizes his career with this film, coming after a disastrous failure in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It is a career-defining performance that is easily worth the awards accolade and nominations he received. In addition, Hugo Weaving makes a powerful performance as Desmond’s father. His harkened portrayal of the character is nothing short of breathtaking, and similar to Garfield, delivers a performance that is riveting and easily a career-defining moment. While they may not have particularly large roles, the side characters of Hacksaw Ridge are all mostly notable. Teresa Palmer delivers a subtle performance, creating stirring emotions in every frame she occupies. Vince Vaughn makes an entertaining if somewhat déjà vu performance as his character, and Sam Worthington as Captain Glover is riveting just as well. These performances propel the screenplay forward and onto the silver screen and help make the dialogue and story succeed in spades.
Ultimately, however, Hacksaw Ridge is more than a well-written and performed war drama. It is a pure Mel Gibson film. The gruesome action sequences of the film left my stomach churning and it is all due to Gibson’s excellent direction. His style of filmmaking bleeds into every frame, particularly in the last two acts. For a comeback to a very competitive industry, Gibson couldn’t have created a finer job directing. He is ultimately the key behind the success of Hacksaw Ridge. Without Gibson, the film would have been an entertaining drama but nothing more. He is the reason why the film is such a resounding success and why it received a ten-minute standing ovation at its initial premiere.