Starring: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Teresa Palmer
Director: Mel Gibson
Running Time: 139 mins
Hacksaw Ridge is an American film about the true story of Desmond Doss, a young man who joined up to fight in the Second World War for the US Army, however his pacifist and religious beliefs led him to refuse going into battle with a weapon of any sort.
This film has two completely different types of movies in it, and yet the whole thing works almost perfectly. At first playing out like a classic epic, with romance, drama and war altogether, Hacksaw Ridge soon becomes one of the most intense war movies you’ve ever seen, featuring exceptional directing and performances, making this easily one of the most enthralling films of the year.
But before we get into that, let’s start with the first half of the film, where we see Desmond Doss enlist in the army and begin his training. On the whole, the first hour feels incredibly like watching Forrest Gump, with the combination of a likable young man falling in love and then putting everything on the line with incredible bravery and clear-minded principles.
Fortunately, Forrest Gump’s a good movie, and so Hacksaw Ridge works really well for its first half, with an excellent blend of romantic drama, unexpectedly brilliant humour that comes from the likes of Vince Vaughn, as well as moments of recognition of the serious nature of the events that the story deals with.
I was hugely entertained by Doss’ young romance before he joins up to the army, and then found even more interest in his strong-willed commitment to his pacifist and religious beliefs, even though the film did occasionally feel a little bit on the preachy side in its opening hour.
Anyway, with a perfect mix of pleasant small town wartime drama and some great humour, I was really captivated by Hacksaw Ridge, and having a surprisingly nice time with it.
What really blew me away about this film was the contents of the following hour, featuring some of the most intense and riveting war sequences ever shown on the big screen. Somehow, Mel Gibson manages to immediately change the film from a Forrest Gump-esque drama into a no-holds-barred Saving Private Ryan-esque war movie, and yet makes the transition completely seamless.
The stark contrast between the first and second halves of the film is incredible when you look back on it, but the moment it all changes around feels completely natural, and that’s something truly impressive when it comes to Gibson’s directing.
However, from then on, Hacksaw Ridge becomes a completely breathless and exhilarating war movie the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time. Not only on a par with the opening act of Saving Private Ryan, but also having a distinctly older feel when it comes to the presentation of war and battle, the war sequences here are extremely riveting to watch, and don’t let up for any Hollywood cheese that you might expect, continuing to pound you with relentless fighting and depictions of the horrors of battle.
Gibson directs the seemingly endless battle scene in Okinawa incredibly well, giving it a powerfully gritty atmosphere complete with shaky cam and a dull, dark brown landscape, and yet provides a crystal-clear image of all the most important maneuvers on the battlefield, continuing to advance the story as the action becomes more and more jaw-dropping to watch.
As the performances from the likes of Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey and Vince Vaughn become all the more intense and battle-hardened, the film as a whole turns into a pitch-perfect depiction of the Second World War. It’s definitely a violent movie, but it’s one that doesn’t parade the violence in front of the camera to entertain you, rather using it as a vehicle to tell a genuinely fascinating story about one man and his team’s incredible bravery, making this a real gem for all fans of biographical and war films.
Overall, Hacksaw Ridge is an incredibly enthralling film. Starting off very strongly with an entertaining and captivating story about life in a small town during the war, and soon developing into what can only be described as a masterpiece of war cinema, it’s absolutely fascinating to watch, growing and growing in intensity as it goes on and yet pulling you deeper and deeper into both an uplifting and still down-to-earth story, which is why I’m giving it an 8.6.