OSCAR WATCH: Hacksaw Ridge Review


Gibson’s tribute to one of America’s finest heroes is a serious Oscar contender

The Oscars are this Sunday and in an effort to get myself and everyone caught up, I’m reviewing  all the Best Picture contenders this year.  You can catch my Oscar predictions article here which was done before viewing most of the major nominees. Also you can check out reviews by clicking on the respective hyperlink: La La Land, Moonlight, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, and Lion.   Next up for review is Hacksaw Ridge.

Can pacifism win wars?  Perhaps the better question is whether a pacifist can help you in a war.  Mel Gibson’s movie about the bloodiest battle of World War II and one of its unlikeliest heroes is truly amazing to witness.  Hacksaw Ridge is the true story of conscientious objector Desmond T. Doss.  This movie ends up becoming one of the finest war movies of our time.

Desmond Doss nearly killed his brother when they were kids.  This experience causes him to shift his focus to God and become an active pacifist.  However being the son of a World War I vet and growing up during the WWII era, Doss also had a desire to serve.  He eventually meets his wife, who is a nurse at a hospital where he dropped off someone for treatment.  This in turn inspires him to become an army medic, as this will help him to stay true to his beliefs while also still serving his country.  When he enlists, he is faced with all sorts of hazing and is singled out by his peers and his drill sergeant for his beliefs .  The military wants everyone to train to use weapons but Doss adamantly objects.   This is not looked upon favorably obviously as everyone believes Doss is a coward who will not be able to help them in the front lines.  Soon enough, Doss faces criminal charges of insubordination in the military court…a charge that Doss refuses to admit guilty to.  As it turns out, pacifism is protected by an Act of Congress leading to charges against Doss being dropped.  Doss is allowed to serve as an army medic as he always wished to do after all.  From there, we are transported to the front lines of the battle of Okinawa, Japan.  Here we witness the horrors of war up close.  We also witness one of the greatest acts of heroism in American History as Doss comes to the aid of 75 of his fallen soldiers without firing a single bullet.

The grim depiction of war is what stands out the most about this movie.  If anything, Mel Gibson knows how to do violence in movies correctly and the attention to war detail in Hacksaw Ridge is brutal and incredible at the same time.  The movie does a great job in building up Doss in the first half as a compassionate human being so much that you are with him the whole way when the war scenes begin. Andrew Garfield is phenomenal as Desmond Doss.  Just a magnificent heartfelt performance that could net him with an Oscar for Best Actor. What a turnaround from Amazing Spiderman 2.  We are also treated to great supporting performances. Vince Vaughn really portrays the stubborn drill sergeant of Doss brilliantly.  Teresa Palmer is excellent as Doss’ wife.  Doss’ father is played by Hugo Weaving, who is just complexly fascinating in his depiction of the troubled war vet.   We cannot forget the cinematography especially when the war scenes begin.  The chaos of battle is overwhelmingly realized here. 

Mel Gibson had fallen out of favor in Hollywood, but Hacksaw Ridge is triumphant return to form for him.  Despite what you think of the man personally, there is no question that he can churn out amazing movies.  Gibson may not win the Oscar for Best Director but he’s nominated so there is that chance for redemption for him.  Hacksaw Ridge is so amazing to witness.  The fact that this is a true story makes it even more spectacular.  It should come as no surprise after watching this movie as to why it was nominated for Best Picture.  A powerful movie that everyone should see to believe.

Grade: A

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