By Ryan Keating-Lambert
There is little about Hacksaw Ridge that I thought was decent. It was brutally violent, cheesy and smothered in Christian metaphors and symbolism. Basically, it was a textbook Mel Gibson movie. You need to calm the f-ck down, Mel.. Put down your bible and let’s talk this through.
Young Virginian man Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) is a wholesome Christian who dreams of going to WWII to save the lives of his fellow Americans, but he’s also a pacifist which poses problems when the time comes for him to pick up a gun. Eventually, the American military allow him to be an army medic and go to Hacksaw Ridge, a perilous Japanese warzone that makes hell look like a kid’s birthday party.
Ok, so let’s get the good stuff out of the way. Gibson did reasonably well with characters. They were varied and some of them even lovable. There’s a dorky hick character in every war movie, but Hacksaw Ridge casts a spotlight on him which doesn’t happen too often. I also can’t ever recall a soldier who was so against using a weapon, and so hellbent on saving people. But at the end of the day, these strengths simply come from good source material. This film was just executed poorly.
Garfield does a really good job of not being the Amazing Spider-man which I was really happy about – he’s quite believable and doesn’t push that Southern accent too much. Almost everyone else in the cast was Australian as it was filmed in and around Sydney, and everyone does an OK job. Hugo Weaving was good as the traumatised father and it’s always nice to see him in a role where he’s not the bad guy, well not 100% bad anyway. Vince Vaughn and his ridiculous yelling though. I’m still not sure why he was there. This is a war film not Wedding Crashers.
The ridge itself is the most merciless character in the film, forever pulsating with shell explosions and rivers of blood. Bodies everywhere. Spielberg gave us guts and severed limbs in Saving Private Ryan, but Hacksaw Ridge goes one step further and shows rotten rat-infested corpses. Some of the action sequences were impressive though, and the landscape, however bleak, is still an incredible set. I just had no sense of camaraderie or togetherness with mise-en-scene and cinematography. There were no particularly memorable shots or frames, and the ones that were memorable were just too cheesy and religious. For example, the slow motion sequences – haven’t they been done to death? There was sometimes that godly light bleeding through the clouds thing as well.. That final shot was like watching Jesus Christ play ‘Call of Duty’. Films like Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line experimented with the camera and put it everywhere. The only creativity here was seen in the different types of flesh and gore thrown about the set. Honestly, it was so much that it was even comical at times.
What kind of theme was Gibson going for here? Was there an anti-gun control agenda at work? It certainly seemed so, given the emphasis on the first half of the film which is an hour of people asking him to pick up a rifle despite his uninterest. But then the second half, with a Transformers-like soundtrack, was a cocktail of violence, ‘God Bless America’ and ‘Praise the Lord’.
A decent story, and no doubt a decent man, but not a decent film.
Feature photo: Entertainment Fuse