By the end of the film the audience has had a thorough lesson in human anatomy.
Which is not necessarily a bad thing.
If you’re going to do a war film, take a leaf from Mel Gibson’s book when it comes to capturing the brutality that was the World Wars.
We’re welcomed into the idyllic hometown of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) an eager young man willing to help and serve those around him, the perfect gentleman you could say. Doss enlists into the army as a medic due to the urgency he feels to help his country win the war, which he will not do if he stays at home. Only issue being, Doss is a conscientious objector, and not only will he not fire a gun, he will not even touch one. This does not mix well with American Army, but after some debate Doss is allowed to successfully join the army, and is literally thrown into hell when he is sent to fight for control over Hacksaw Ridge, from the Japanese.
No violence is spared in Gibson’s film, and is a highly uncomfortable watch that echoes back to gore shown in Saving Private Ryan (1998). During what seems like a never-ending battle sequence, the audience is bombarded with how flimsy and delicate the human body is, but also we’re subjected to constant sounds of bullets, men screaming and explosions. A round of applause goes to Mel Gibson, as the battle sequences will not be forgotten easily. He mixes the violence with light-hearted conversations and jokes the comrades share as they stare death in the face. Gibson brilliantly captures the surrealism and magnitude of how violent, merciless the human race can become, which in itself is terrifying.
I could go on talking about the battle sequences all day, but it goes without saying that Andrew Garfield puts in a career worthy performance as Doss, an embodiment of hope inside a literal hell. The only concern is not in Garfield’s performance, but Gibson’s portrayal of Doss as almost a Christ figure on the battlefield, with how the other men originally rejected him but come to admire his courage. Then again, the film does not preach religion onto the audience; it is kept entirely within Doss’ character as he uses his faith as an anchor within chaos, and it is truly heart-breaking to see that falter when Doss questions his faith on the battlefield.
The supporting cast ground the film, Vince Vaughn is perfectly funny as Sergeant Howell, and some of Doss’ comrades are given a personality making them more rounded and not just a backdrop in Doss’ story, which unfortunately for us adds to the intensity of watching them on the battlefield, as not only do we want Doss to survive but his unit of comrades also.
Everything in the film clicks into place, Gibson has outshined himself in directing such a harrowing film. It sets a reminder of those who should be remembered and why violence on this scale should not happen again.
Hacksaw Ridge is currently playing in all major cinemas.