Directed by Mel Gibson
Written by Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths and Vince Vaughn
Nearly a decade after “Apocalypto” Mel Gibson returns to the director’s chair with “Hacksaw Ridge,” one of only a handful of movies based on a true story that is worthy of using any variation of the phrase “inspirational true story” in the marketing of the film. Many of these true-life films should probably use a weaker synonym in place of inspirational because it takes a lot for a story to be truly inspirational and the story of Desmond Doss is truly inspirational. The actions of Doss during the Battle of Okinawa displayed the highest levels heroism and bravery.
After a decade of not having directed you would think that Gibson may be rusty or may have lost something, fortunately, that is not the case. Gibson directs the movie with what I would call heavy-handed subtlety. What that means is that while the film can be heavy-handed in some of its imagery and symbolism – take for example the final image of Doss on the field – it is delivered more like a metaphoric ton of feathers rather than a literal ton of lead. A less astute viewer may miss some of the finer points of the symbolism – I almost did, but then had my “oh that’s what he is going for” moment – even though it is apparent where he is trying to go with it. The coup de grâce of the film, as far as the direction is concerned, are the battle sequences on Okinawa. Gibson directs these sequences in a way that highlights the chaos and the hectic nature of battlefield combat. Not that Gibson was solely responsible for these sequences, as the efforts of the cinematographer and the sound and production designers were worth commendation as well.
As with most films “Hacksaw Ridge” is highlighted by its performances, and they are phenomenal performances. Everyone in the cast gives extraordinary performances, from Andrew Garfield in the lead, which should not be a surprise to anyone who has seen “99 Homes” or “The Social Network.” I would say that Garfield is the first lock for a Lead Actor nomination this year. Which for every other actor in Hollywood means that they are competing for four Lead Actor Spots. The supporting cast was incredible as well, especially Hugo Weaving, who plays Garfield’s father. Vince Vaughn shines in a non-comedic role, as well. His first scene in the film is him trying to be R. Lee Ermey in “Full Metal Jacket,” it is later in the movie when ditches that act that he turns in an excellent performance.
“Hacksaw Ridge” is one of the best movies of the year and it will be a major player come Oscar season.