HACKSAW RIDGE – True Courage

Release Date: November 4, 2016
Running Time: 2 hours and 11 minutes
Rated R for intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence,
including grisly bloody images
Grade: A-
Directed By: Mel Gibson

hacksaw0010

While everybody else is taking life. I’m going to be saving it. That’s gonna be my way to serve.

Desmond Doss grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia with Harold, his brother and best friend. Their father was an alcoholic and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from WWI. Desmond’s mother was caring, compassionate, and deeply religious. After a childhood sparring match with his brother which almost resulted in Harold’s death, Doss turned to the Bible for redemption and a focused way of life.

In April 1942, Doss voluntarily enlisted in the Army. Despite his father’s objections, his conscious would not allow him to stay behind, while others fought for their country’s freedom. Prior to enlisting, he met nurse Dorothy Schutte after applying a tourniquet to a man’s leg after a vehicle fell on him. For Desmond, it was love at first sight.  After Harold and others enlisted, Desmond felt like it was his mission or calling to go and help, but not fight.

Instead of being assigned as a medic, the Army placed him in training at Fort Jackson to be a rifleman in the 77th Infantry Division. Captain Glover and Sergeant Howell refused to allow him to be a medic. They believe that with enough pressure, Desmond would fall into line. His fellow soldiers taunted him mercilessly and dubbed him Doss the Coward. News traveled quickly up the ranks until Colonel Sangston insisted that Desmond could not go on leave to marry Dorothy unless his passed the infantry rifle test. Staying true to his Seventh Day Adventist beliefs, Doss refused and was court martialed.

Due to Doss’s persistence and his father’s intervention, the Army granted Doss his right to not bear arms and become a medic. When the 77th Infantry Division invaded the island of Okinawa, they were heavily outnumbered and forced to retreat. Doss, however, did not retreat, but stayed behind to save the wounded men because he didn’t value his life more than theirs. As he lowered dozens of men one by one down the Maeda Escarpment, he kept praying to God to help him to save ‘one more’.

It’s not about what you joined up for. It’s about the lives of every man here.

With bombs bursting in the air, Mel Gibson returns to the big screen with a bang. Ten years after directing Apocalypto, Gibson’s own personal religious background sets the stage for this outstanding biographical war film. The highly controversial director exquisitely blends violence and religion which is seen in his battle scenes and in his inference to baptism and ascension. We all know that war is hell, but this amazing true story remained in development hell for 14 years until Doss was convinced that celebrating his uniqueness was the right thing to do and all of the other pieces fell into place.

Stan Jensen, Seventh-day Adventist Church spokesperson, and Gregory Crosby, producer, pushed forward until they convinced Mel Gibson to direct. Unlike other gory war movies like Saving Private Ryan, Fury, Lone Survivor, and Rambo, this film begins near the beginning when the protagonist first began to form his own beliefs. The story unfolds with impeccably timed flashbacks to relay exactly why the titular character stands firm in his conviction despite incredible odds and temptation. It also includes a great deal of humor and a romantic component not usually found in this genre.

The $40 million dollar budget was well spent in the award winning direction, talented cast, undeniably astounding cinematography, incredibly graphic scenery, and heart-pounding musical composition. The cast revolves around Andrew Garfield (known for portraying a different kind of hero) and he delivers the best performance of his career. I literally experienced a shiver down my spine every time Garfield uttered the words, “please Lord help me to save one more.”

Actor Vince Vaughn also blows up the big screen with his portrayal of a sarcastic hardened soldier who is preparing his troop for the horror of battle. Avatar’s Sam Worthington perfectly balances the conflicting nature of a man trying to force a pacifist to see that war is about killing and the revelation that he seriously underestimated the protagonist. Hugo Weaving’s (The Matrix) velvety voice and calm deliverance detonates when needed to get the story to go where it is needed to go. Plus, the smooth transition from ‘reel life’ to the ‘real life’ commentary from Desmond Doss is truly an honor to the man behind the movie. Hacksaw Ridge is already racking up nominations and awards so after viewing, I’m curious to see if this one goes all the way to the Oscars. Blast your way into the theater to enjoy this one!  ~Movie Buffette

Hacksaw Ridge is a biographical war story about the courage and bravery displayed by Desmond Doss who is expertly portrayed by American-British actor Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spiderman).  Hacksaw Ridge is so much more than a war movie.  It is also about teamwork, faith, leadership and the human spirit.

The poignant film is intertwined with humor that lessens the tension created by the realistic and prolonged battle scenes. The first half of the film develops the characters and sets the stage for the heroic efforts in Japan. We gain a better understanding of Doss and what drives him. While he may be affable and cute, he is also determined and resourceful.  His love interest and future wife Dorothy is sweet and supportive. Gibson did a wonderful job telling their story with touching scenes that make you smile.

One of the best attributes of the film is the casting of Vince Vaughn as Sergeant Howell. Vaughn shines as the sergeant tasked with shaping the young men into soldiers.  The scene in the barracks is one of the best.  The dialogue is hilarious.  Half of the audience laughed out loud on several occasions. Once the unit reaches Okinawa, Vaughn switches gears and shows us his depth with a side you don’t often see.

In his first big dramatic role, Garfield shows his range.  Not only does he nail the accent and mannerisms, but he delivers a performance worthy of a possible nomination. Garfield brings Doss to life and this moving account of his life.

Hacksaw Ridge is an emotionally charged film that is balanced with flawless cinematography and direction.  The story is well worth watching, but I caution those with weak stomachs since the film features classic Gibson scenes that are amazingly realistic with graphic and grisly battles.

A.S. MacLeod

Starring:

Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss
Hugo Weaving as Tom Doss
Rachel Griffiths as Bertha Doss
Teresa Palmer as Dorothy Schutte
Sam Worthington as Captain Glover
Vince Vaughn as Sergeant Howell
Luke Pegler as Hollywood
Luke Bracey as Smitty
Milo Gibson as Lucky Ford
Goran D. Kleut as Ghoul
Firass Dirani as Vito
Richard Pyros as Teach
Robert Morgan as Colonel Sangston

About Leigh Ann Rassler

april, 2022

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