It’s been a long while since we’ve seen any variation of a war movie, especially one that is based on a true story. Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge” was met with uproarious acclaim when it premiered at the 73rd Venice Film Festival and its debut in the United States on Nov. 4 could not have come at a better time, as Veterans Day was right around the corner. Although the events of that day are now long over, our nation’s proud military history reverberates through this latest biographical war film.
The film chronicles the early life and beliefs of Cpl. Desmond Doss, a World War II veteran and Medal of Honor recipient who is credited with saving 75 injured men atop Maeda Escarpment, appropriately nicknamed “Hacksaw Ridge,” during the Battle of Okinawa. Doss is noted for being a conscientious objector, which the Selective Service System describes as “one who is opposed to serving in the armed forces and/or bearing arms on the grounds of moral or religious principles.” In this case, Doss insisted on serving as a combat medic despite refusing to carry a weapon, even during battle.
Doss is played by Andrew Garfield, who should be recognized for his versatility in being able to play American and British characters due to his unique heritage. Besides this, Garfield excels in the role by grasping the innocent beliefs of a Seventh-day Adventist and the determination of “The Greatest Generation.” He’s cast alongside Sam Worthington (Captain Glover), Teresa Palmer (Dorothy Schutte) and Hugo Weaving (Tom Doss).
This project spent 14 years in limbo before being produced, which is regrettable considering that the real-life Doss passed away in 2006, ten years before the debut of “Hacksaw Ridge.” Since then, the film has gone through many producers and eight were credited with having been a part of the final version of the film. Even with eight producers, the story was still easy to follow and it’s no wonder why so many contested for the right to tell Doss’ heroic story. The way it was told gives remarkable respect to Doss’ impossible task of saving his comrades, which seems to nearly drive him to exhaustion or even death. Honestly, it’s a travesty that this story was not told sooner.
It was an immense story that needed to be told; everything from Doss’ time at boot camp to his relationship with Schutte to his time on the battlefront was told in excruciating detail and every scene was heart-pounding. It may not have held the same charm or creativity of other notable films that have debuted in 2016, but “Hacksaw Ridge” certainly made a name for itself.
Although some of the special effects (of which there were many) were mediocre and the casting of Vince Vaughn (Sergeant Howell) was questionable, “Hacksaw Ridge” has the great ending that we can all expect to come from an American war drama. “Hacksaw Ridge” will eventually take its place alongside all of the great American war films, such as the Steven Spielberg-directed “Saving Private Ryan” and the Vietnam-based film “We Were Soldiers,” which coincidentally starred Gibson himself. In the meantime, “Hacksaw Ridge” will still be in theaters for a couple more weeks, so pay a visit to your local theater to check it out.