Serving your country. Based on a true story, this is about a combat medic in World War II named Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield). He did not believe in killing and refused to carry a gun, but he also wanted to do the honorable thing for the United States in wartime. This is his story about how he completed his training and saved a ton of lives in Japan against all odds. I think that there is one reason why this isn’t being pushed harder as the next Saving Private Ryan and that solely is because this is directed by Mad Mel Gibson. You can say what you will about the man’s personal life, heaven knows that the media has, but the man flat out knows how to make a tense movie, and that is exactly what he has done with Hacksaw Ridge.
This, Apocalypto, Braveheart… his work speaks for itself.
Along with Gibson, there’s a bunch of people here who desperately need a hit. Andrew Garfield has got the talent, but Spider-Man did not pan out like he thought it would, and you can tell that he wants to put that behind him and is ready to be taken seriously. Sam Worthington is arguably the most generic action star next to Jai Courtney, and he’s actually inspired in this. The person who impressed me the most in this would have to be Vince Vaughn. I do not consider to be myself a big fan of his comedy, and more often than not, I actually don’t care for his movies at all. He knocked it out of the park in this. He plays a sergeant, and while he doesn’t take it to those extreme dehumanizing levels that R. Lee Ermey did in Full Metal Jacket, he does bring exactly what is needed for this role. In fact, if he did push the envelope further, it would have made this feel less grounded in reality, so I have more respect for Vaughn for knowing where to draw the line.
Who could have possibly imagined it?
This is going to come off as very high praise, but this is like the first half of Full Metal Jacket meeting the first 15 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. While it is never as groundbreakingly brilliant as those two movies to be sure, it really isn’t that far off. In addition to being this brutal, traumatizing war movie, it does also have a religious angle to it as well. Even though I don’t consider myself to be very religious or spiritual, I really appreciated the subtlety to it, and this never feels the urge to bash you over the head with Jesus. It also helps to give the character of Doss a plentiful amount of dimension. He’s a man with a code, which is always a relatable thing in movies; it’s why Westerns usually work as well as they do, and it is also why Batman is so cool, but I digress. This is excellently made, and there is some terrific sound mixing that really made me feel physically ill when everything started to go down. It puts you right there in the trenches with the soldiers, and I was jumpy from the moment they ascended the ridge all the way to the end credits rolling. I love the moral quandary presented to this man, and I think this is one of the best movies of the year.
Hacksaw Ridge (2016) ****1/2
– Critic for Hire
Want to see where this fell in my list of best films of the 2016? See for yourself here.