Hacksaw Ridge – 4/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

hacksaw-ridgeHacksaw Ridge – 4/5 – Mel Gibson is a man of many things.  For all that has been said about him, he is a formidable director.  No matter what kind of genre he tackles on the big screen; he is a master of directing something that is stark, emotional and downright entertaining.  He has reached the peak with his movie Braveheart, and kept his fervor strong in a movie like Apocalypto.  He has returned (behind the camera) once more with this WWII film.  Hacksaw Ridge delves deep into the psyche of what is the purpose of belief and worth; finding a human touch in the likes of despair in the heights of a war.  With a pretty strong main lead and a thorough character like approach; Hacksaw Ridge is one of the best War films I have seen in quite some time.

Premise: The true story about Army Medic Desmond Doss; following his selfless act in WWII that saved the lives of many American at the Battle of Okinawa.

In the lead role of Desmond Doss is Andrew Garfield.  He has been in many big films, but has never been any better than in this role.  As Desmond Doss, he creates a character that is down to the earth and very conscious of his own beliefs.  As such, this leads to conflicts with various other people throughout his life and his journey in the military.  As he comes into conflict with his stark belief in not killing while also wanting to go fight for his country, it produces a conflict beyond the physical scale.  His emotional fortitude brings out a complex scenario of the human condition.  It is an outward approach of subtlety; one that shows strength in his characterization of his righteous beliefs.  Garfield does a masterful job in bringing a stark human element to the outward conflict that everyone must have in times of war.  There are those that construe his purpose, but he never falls short of his strong conviction (Even in dire circumstances).  He gives a strong Oscar worthy performance, one that will be talked about for a while.  With the rest of the cast, there are many known names and rising newcomers.  Please refer to the film’s IMDb page for the secondary cast.  All of them do a swell job in providing girth, drama and emotional context when it comes to the common archetypes you find in any war film.  You see the wholesomeness of his family, the strength of love in his soulmate/lover, the wittiness found in his comrades, and the unstoppable force of the Japanese in the Battle of Okinawa.  You see all the colorfulness that marks the fragile parts of the main character.  There are obvious levels of contradictions throughout, but it is welcomed because it creates a sense of flawed scenarios where trust, hope and choice becomes major factors.  Even for the human strength and decent acting; there are times when the simple caricatures of each person comes out.  It provides fragments in the overall characterized approach, but it never hinders the experience.

The director goes about this story in a very simplistic way.  There is no deterrent from the normal directive or even a hint of stylizing the approach towards war.  Mel Gibson (director) gives us a straightforward story focused on the characterization of one man’s journey on helping his fellow Americans in WWII.  From this premise, we get a basic approach that focuses on the art of producing a product from a true story:

First Act – Introduction to main character.  Development of his backstory, purpose and forward momentum.  Plot points are introduced to move character from humble situation to ‘goal’ oriented dream.

Second Act – A mixture of character development, thematic exposition and revolving matters of conflict.   Furthering the main character with more ominous scenarios; with predictable ‘hopeful’ like results.

Third Act – The final confrontation on a physical, emotional and ideological scale.  Main character faces the ultimate enemy (on multiple levels).  Climax of physical and emotional results; epilogue of the feel good scenario.

What this basic outline provides is the appetite for the ongoing experience to be great.  You have this show within a strong main actor and a slow/methodical development towards the backstory, purpose and the foreshadow elements for things to come.  As you watch Desmond Doss grow throughout the film, you see him face many strong antagonists that come in the form of family, comrades, society and the ultimate enemy (choice).  Through this, the level of layering an obstructed approach helps build the themes that are strong in the main character’s conviction of ‘not killing’.  Here, you see the flaws of the human condition; one that reveals a mirror for the rest of the cast that come in contact with Desmond.  This helps produce a hearty connection for the audience towards the main character.  You feel the emotional turmoil he goes through each step of his early military career.  From enlistment, boot camp, being on the front lines and faced with no escape; you see a man who holds strong to his faith and his ‘no kill’ ideology.  What this shows is an ironic twist of hope and faith.  There are many battles that we all face, and he shows there is a way to face them in a different form of selflessness and sacrifice.  As we get to the climax, it is built through the ultimate choice Doss has to make.  All the development of the human soul, themes and linear focus helps you feel an emotional tension.  It is one that gives character flaws a purpose; showing that choice marks a path that you must believe in.  Once you come to the epilogue; you are reminded that what has unfolded is a true story from WWII.  What this reminds you is that for all the predictable elements, the generic foreshadowing and linear method; the truth factor creates an amazing experience on the big screen.

The visuals are a mix bag of homely aesthetic with the bombastic nature of war like scenarios.  With the former helping provided an attachment for the film’s first half, the latter helps enrapture the cosmetic detail of the second half, and how hard and endearing war can be.  The contrasting elements help bridge a gap of what are two distinct situations for the main character.  What it does is bring growth and transition for all the characters as well.  The cinematography of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the dire cliffs found on Okinawa helps you feel the purity of home and family while also fearing the likes of war.  The score is average for a film of this nature.  It doesn’t wow you with any details, but it helps bring arousal through the strong use of instrumental flavor.

Hacksaw Ridge is by far one of the most endearing and different War films to come to big screen in quite some time.  There is strength found throughout the direction, main characters and the overall story.  The ideas of hope and faith are strong; while it helps layer the human condition within the horrors of war.  For all the technical issues, lacking of score and some cliché characters, this is enough here for a wonderful experience.  If you are a fan of Mel Gibson as a director or any War film, this is one for you.  It is worth the full price of admission.

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