By Adam Ray Palmer
A decade has passed since Mel’s last picture he directed, now Gibson returns with his WW2 epic Hacksaw Ridge.
This film debuts here in Venice in the ‘Out of Competition’ category. Starring in this war movie is Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Hugo Weaving, Teresa Palmer and Sam Worthington.
Hacksaw Ridge looks set for an award season release, but can it collect the prizes?
Hacksaw Ridge follows WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss (Garfield), who served during the Battle of Okinawa. He refuses to kill people and becomes the first Conscientious Objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
The film begins back in Doss’ hometown of Virginia where we learn he is from a war-torn family with his father being an army veteran. His father (Hugo Weaving) suffers with PTSD from his time in WW1 and constantly inflicts violence on his two sons Desmond and Hal (Nathaniel Buzolic). The brothers have a strict upbringing and look to religion as a constant guide.
After nearly killing his brother at a young age after a vicious fight, Desmond follows a path where violence is never the answer and he becomes a holy man. In 1945, the military are in need of recruits so the brothers decide to enlist for different reasons. Desmond wants to be a medic and help people rather than be a soldier who needs to take lives.
Desmond’s unconventional beliefs made him an outsider to his barracks and squadron. He endured a tough few months before ending up in military prison. Once cleared for his sheer force of conviction and rights, he goes onto the battlefield to save 75 lives without ever picking up a weapon.
Serving as Mel Gibson’s comeback movie, Hacksaw Ridge is breath-takingly moving and really hits home just what everyday people serving their country did for us and the world. Desmond Doss’ search for redemption in the military is brave and superhuman. Garfield’s performance is hauntingly emotional. You really feel he gave it his all in his portrayal of Doss. He is a master of the ‘tears in the eye’ look. His voice is a little out of the ‘Forrest Gump’ variety but so be it.
Vince Vaughn also delights in this drama as Sergeant Howell. He’s normally at home in a buddy-comedy but this couldn’t be further from his norm. He still has a bit of humour in the first act with some great wit but when the battle scenes commence, it reminds you how good of an actor he is.
The release date for this film is bang on award season and I’m guessing Mel and his team are chasing Oscar glory. This is certainly a contender with its real-life story, acting, emotion and thrilling battle scenes. Gibson shoots the Battle of Okinawa epically with a mixture of slow-motion wide-lens shots coupled with fast-paced handheld camera sequences. It ends up being a massive free-for-all to depict the mayhem of war.
The gratuitous violence and gore is a little on the heavy side, especially for award voters too. There is no subtlety here and some scenes could benefit from it. Gibson is known for going over the top, like Apocalypto, and Hacksaw Ridge is no different. There’s also scenes that will make you jump out of your skin; I did three times. That’s a testament to how much audiences are drawn into the story, you rarely expect the heart-clenching moments.
On the whole, this film makes you think about everything in the world. From past wars and the fallen to current battles all over the world. It makes you question your beliefs and what Desmond achieved by being such a good man. Hacksaw Ridge is highly emotional and I fought back the tears twice. This film was met with the biggest applause of the festival and it isn’t hard to see why. I just think it falls short in the extreme battle scenes with having very little tenderness and also the missed opportunities to tell other key characters’ stories. It’s one helluva ride though.
Cineroom’s Rating: 4 Stars
Hacksaw Ridge is released on November 4th 2016 – certificate TBC