Hacksaw Ridge is not the first ‘war’ film in which the protagonist never fires a shot. Jarhead was released in 2005 and also featured a main charterer who’s weapon was returned unused.
Now, there are several subtle differences between the two though, one was set during the first Gulf War, one is set during an often overlooked part of World War 2. One features a medic, the other a sniper. One has a rating of 7.0 on IMDB, the other is rated number #97. One left me bored and checking my watch, the other blew me away.
Actually, now that I think about it, their nothing alike at all.
No, wait, their both based on true stories.
They also have pretty much same story for the first half. But then again so does Full Metal Jacket. And Captain America: The First Avenger. Desmond Doss (played by the now Oscar nominated former Spider-man Andrew Garfield who deserves all the praise he’s currently getting) is a deeply religious man who decides to join the Army as a combat medic in a bid to do his duty. However, his complete unwillingness to so much as touch a weapon has him branded a coward until the Battle of Okinawa, whereupon he becomes the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot.
Now, as this is a feature film and not a documentary, for example the time-frame of event has been compressed significantly, oh and Desmond did get hit by a sniper, whose bullet caused him a compound fracture of one arm. This was intentionally left out of the movie by Mel Gibson, who felt audiences would find the heroic circumstances under which it happened too hard to believe.
Now i’ll confess that during the first half I was struggling to see what all the fuss was about as it seemed to be a perfectly generic training montage in which some poor deluded fool thought that the insufferably untalented Vince Vaughn would be the perfect choice for a drill Sargent.
But then, once the bland love interest with roughly six minutes of screen time has been married off and written out and Hugo Weaving has been told to go away and learn how to speak with a southern accent that can be understood with the human ear and we hit the second half we switch from ‘generic 12a army training’ to ‘Saving Private Ryans opening sequence was too restrained’ and stay there for the rest of the film. With no time to breathe and seemingly another extra being killed off every second this film really does begin to earn all of the praise that has been thrown at this.
I mean Gibson even managed to make Sam Worthington almost interesting!
On the other hand, the relatively low budget of 40 million dollars means that when the film does use CGI, it does tend to look really rather fake. Seriously, stock footage exists for a reason you know.
The second half truly shows the horrific meat grinder of war in full effect, with the idea of it as a boys-own style adventure thrown completely and just the sheer scale of the slaughter shown in full effect. Gibson holds the camera, meaning for once there is time to focus on everything and shows Dobbs heroic act for the true miracle that it was.
Hacksaw Ridge is a gripping war film featuring amazing performances that deserve all the praise that their getting. And Vince Vaughn. After a slightly slow first half the film really kicks into high gear and shows not just the horrors of war but how noble man can be in the right circumstances.
It’s just a shame La La Land will crush it at the Oscars.
My Score- See It.