Based on the true story of a man who enlisted in WWII and never once fired a weapon. During his time in training, Desmond Doss received a great amount of ridicule and potential incarceration for his sticking to his morals. But it is due to these morals that he became a legend and saved many lives.
I’m normally not a fan of war movies. To this day I can’t ever get through Saving Private Ryan. It’s rare instances like this one in which it spares some time to establish a story and develop characters prior to throwing them into battle that I enjoy war films. Hacksaw Ridge, for me, is by far my personal favorite war picture. The script does a perfect job spending its time establishing our lead character and his life prior to battle, his time during training and developing his fellow men, and then spending the rest of the film on the battlefield. Each of these moments are so perfectly established that it actually gave me the opportunity to feel something for the lead and the people around him. We get a glimpse of Doss’ family background and his relationship with his fiancé Dorothy. The relationship with his family is well-developed as caring, but also damaged due to his father’s history with the war. And his relationship with Dorothy is very charming and heart-felt. But it’s when he sets off to war and his relationships with everyone else that truly help shape not only Doss but also those in the war with him. The battle scenes are gun-wrenching and brutal, maybe not as much as the opening for Saving Private Ryan, but it packs the punch to the gut and shows the horrors of it all. The capture of this is thanks to the amazing direction by Mel Gibson, not only does he successfully put us on the battlefield amidst the chaos but even in Doss’ hometown and his ventures in the woods, Gibson puts us perfectly in the setting there. The story itself is emotional, inspiring, and shows great human triumph and strength of our morals.
The entire cast does a tremendous job. Andrew Garfield provides his strongest performance yet, and one that definitely deserves Oscar recognition. His performance is at times charming, and he shares great chemistry with Teresa Palmer (whom herself provides a lot of charm and heart in role as Dorothy). As the story progresses, Garfield perfectly captures the fear, but also hope that Doss is feeling in the position he’s in, as well as his inner strength. Vince Vaughn also provides a surprisingly strong performance Sergeant Howell. Vaughn of course provides humor in the hard-ass character, but as the character gradually comes to understand Doss and respect him, is when Vaughn shows his dramatic side that we rarely see from him.
Hacksaw Ridge is easily one my top favorite films of the year. It’s a film that establishes a great amount of story and character, the strength of the human spirit, and the horror of war, and never once over-does it. With brilliant direction by Mel Gibson, and strong performances from its cast only further makes the film a must-see.