Some of the greatest films of all time have portrayed the perils of war and the unwavering spirit of American patriotism. Popular films such as “Saving Private Ryan,” “Black Hawk Down” and “Braveheart” have successfully represented a nation’s threats and triumphs through brutally violent scenes and tales of heroism. “Hacksaw Ridge” joins this collection of important films by providing a gruesome image of war while offering a fresh, hopeful story of the strength of one man’s convictions.
“Hacksaw Ridge” tells the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), who, during the Battle of Okinawa, single-handedly saved 75 men from behind enemy lines without carrying a single weapon due to his religious beliefs as a Seventh-Day Adventist. Even though Doss willingly enlisted to fight because he believed the war was justified, he believed he could better serve as an Army medic. He was the only American soldier on the front lines of WWII to go into battle without a gun to protect him and became the first conscientious objector to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Andrew Garfield, best known for his roles in “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Social Network,” gives a shockingly powerful performance in his role as Doss. Garfield’s acting capabilities only scratch the surface in his previous roles, but “Hacksaw Ridge” gives him an opportunity to truly shine. His portrayal of Doss, who is from a small town in Virginia, is believable, moving and well-developed. When the trials and tribulations of war start to take a toll on Doss, Garfield subtly but convincingly shifts his portrayal of the character.
Considering the film contains multiple grotesque scenes and manages to instill fear in the audience, the romance in the film is unexpected and welcomed. Teresa Palmer plays Dorothy, Doss’ love interest and source of support from home. Palmer’s performance is pleasant, but there are no truly groundbreaking moments in her acting. The romance between Dorothy and Doss is sweet and tastefully portrayed while skillfully not detracting from the true nature of the film.
Mel Gibson, (“Braveheart,” “Apocalypto”) the director of “Hacksaw Ridge,” was likely drawn to the story for its natural charm and because of his own extensive experience directing war films. Gibson masterfully captures the gruesome elements of war while staying true to the protagonists’ wholesome values.
Known for being a “funny guy” in his previous roles, Vince Vaughn (“Dodgeball,” “Wedding Crashers”) plays a brazen sergeant whose verbal attacks on the soldiers are just as clever as they are frightening. Vaughn pro- vides surprising comedic relief in the otherwise dismal war setting and does so in a natural, charismatic manner.
Although “Hacksaw Ridge” has its moments of romance and hopefulness, Gibson’s film would not be complete without its teeth-clenching battle scenes. The film shows men getting their legs blown off, soldiers’ intestines spilling out and their bodies being decimated by flamethrowers. The patriotic narrative might be the film’s biggest appeal, but “Hacksaw Ridge” is not for the faint of heart. With visual effects that are truly stunning and gore that is clearly justified, overall, “Hacksaw Ridge” demonstrates Doss’ worthiness for the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Gibson has outdone himself yet again with this profound war film. “Hacksaw Ridge” will captivate audiences everywhere and will likely be a contender for awards this season. Doss’ mantra while saving the wounded soldiers, “please, God, help me get one more,” is a true testament to the unwavering human spirit in the face of adversity.