CAPSULE: Desmond Doss was brutally mis-treated in the WWII army because as a religious contentious objector he refused to even touch a gun. He became a medic and then was the hero of a battle for a small piece of Okinawa. The film is full of pieces familiar from other films, but the realism and carnage possibly even go beyond that of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. HACKSAW RIDGE is based on a true story and directed by Mel Gibson. The film is of epic length, 140 minutes and certainly parts are a harrowing experience to watch, not to say terrifying. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Mel Gibson delivers a strong film about real life hero Desmond Doss (played as an adult by Andrew Garfield, as a teen by Darcy Bryce). From an early age he refused to kill. The film covers his youth and relationship with an abusive father (Hugo Weaving). He finds love with Nurse Dorothy Schutte (blue-water-eyed Teresa Palmer). Then he goes into the army only to face persecution for beliefs and his refusal to touch guns. Then the script follows the anticipated trajectory. The latter part of the film is mostly about taking and holding the eponymous Hacksaw Ridge, a cliff--not as high as portrayed in the film but still a formidable target. The only way up the cliff is by climbing a cargo net used as a rope ladder. (Though the film does not show it, Doss was one of three men who heroically volunteered to climb the cliff and hang the cargo net.) See the "History Vs. Hollywood" link below for a comparison of the action and the historical facts.
The script by Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight generally sticks extraordinarily closely to the historical facts. The problem with the script, based on a previous documentary, is that so many of the sequences and situations of the film were previously dramatized in films long before the script was written. Even if they are true, which apparently they are, the film has sequences familiar from THE YOUNG LIONS, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, and several more. It may just be that there is not that many different ways to tell a similar story. This one has a religious overlay, firmly establishing and reminding us of Doss's strong relationship with God and his religion.
What is unique about this film is the great lengths the film goes to recreating realistically and accurately the confusion and carnage and horrors of warfare. Some of this requires a strong stomach. At least director Mel Gibson spares us extreme close-ups.
One odd touch is that Doss, who would later awarded the Congressional Medal, is shown giving aid and comfort to an un- captured enemy soldier, which is quite literally the definition of committing "treason." Another touch that may be of interest: the film, directed by Gibson, has a character named Irv Schecter presented in a positive light. Some of my readers will know why that is interesting.
Andrew Garfield does not look at first take like someone who would be a war hero, but then neither did the real Desmond Doss. He does make this role his own. I rate HACKSAW RIDGE a +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 9/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2119532/combined
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/hacksaw_ridge
A comparison of film and fact: http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/hacksaw-ridge
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2017 Mark R. Leeper