Hacksaw Ridge is based on the true story of WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), a pacifist who joined the army and served during the Battle of Okinawa. Doss refuses to kill people and even refuses to carry a weapon, but he still receives the Medal of Honour without every having fired a shot. Doss thought it was his duty to serve his country, but his religion (he was a Seventh Day Adventist) clearly stated “thou shalt not kill”, so he enrolled as a medic. Doss suffered through the hardships of basic training where his fellow soldiers hazed him to drum him out of their outfit, a court-marshal hearing because he would not pick up a weapon for any reason (including training), and finally to the battlefield where he witnessed the horrors of war first hand.
This was one of the better looking “war films” that I have seen. The visuals were graphic, but authentic looking. The sound was incredible. The tone of the story and the pace of the action were both exceptional. I’m not a big fan of Andrew Garfield (I really didn’t like his Spider-Man, or more specifically his Peter Parker), but he did a very good job playing Desmond Doss. The performance came across as very real and very believable. Teresa Palmer was very good as his wife Dorothy, as was Hugo Weaving as his father. A pleasant surprise came in Vince Vaughn as Sgt. Howell who we first met at basic training. Howell originally seemed to be against Doss, but you could see that he was really just acting out of concern for all the soldiers in his company. He may not have agreed with Doss’ thoughts or morals but he did always treat Doss fairly, even if he was a little rough. Eventually he does understand Doss and recognizes the courage inside him.
The film wasn’t perfect of course, there were a few liberties taken. The film makes it appear as though Doss rescues 75 injured men in a single night, but in actuality this occurred over the course of several weeks and many battles. I understand making that change, it does make the story flow better. I though the film looked very authentic, but was disappointed to see that a lot of the battle “blood” appeared to be CGI. I think for all the trouble they went to of making practical effects for the fighting and the stunts, they would have used old fashioned blood packets too. Ah well, CGI blood is a lot cheaper than fake blood and squibs, and the film was done on a relatively small $40 million budget. All in all, it was a very interesting look at a story I didn’t know anything about.
Bottom Line: It’s safe to say that Mel Gibson has had some problems over the last ten years or so, but Hacksaw Ridge shows that he is still one heck of a director.