Rating: Very Severe
Running time: 2 hour 19 minutes
Director: Mel Gibson
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving, Teresa Palmer, Rachel Griffiths
Spoiler alert in effect.
What a film! I’ve been wanting to watch this for a long time now, ever since the trailer first came out. And I’m not disappointed at all. This is the first film in a long while that has sent real chills up my spine, and on more than just one occasion. It wasn’t a perfect film, but it told the story so well and so genuinely, I can’t help but feel uplifted and inspired by the end of it.
The film follows the life of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector during WWII. He’s a devout Christian and is brought up in a household with his brother, mother and alcoholic father, who fought in the first World War. He grows up witnessing his father being controlled by alcohol and the abuse his father inflicts on the family, especially his mother. Because of this, he grows averse to violence, especially the use of guns, having seen his father wielding one in front of his mother. Combined with his faith in God and the ten commandments, he vows never to kill or murder another human being. When World War 2 begins, all the men in the town eagerly sign up for service, and Doss feels the same. He decides to be a combat medic, which allows him to not have to hold a weapon. Of course, no one understands his unorthodox principles, and much ridicule and bullying ensues. The rest of the film documents the battle at Hacksaw Ridge in Japan, and the heroism of Doss.
The only thing I disliked about this film was the excessive violence and gore. The battle scenes were so graphic that it made my stomach churn. I had to look away several times. I’ve seen war movies before, but this must be the most graphic one I’ve seen. And I get that it’s trying to be realistic and true, but definitely look away if you get squeamish. Other than that, the latter half of the film is really inspiring, especially when Doss saves 75 lives up on that ridge. It really send a chill up my spine. The fact that he was willing to put his life on the line so many times, knowing he had no weapon to protect him, is true bravery and selflessness. He proved everyone wrong and did it without any arrogance. He earned the respect and awe of all his fellow soldiers, the same people who wanted to kick him out at the beginning because they believed he was a coward. Doss passed away at the age of 89.
The story in itself was truly remarkable, but it was Andrew Garfield who stole the whole show. I’ve only ever seen him act in The Amazing Spiderman, so I really got to see a new side to him. He portrays his character which such earnst and sincerity, and by the end, you forget that he’s actually not Desmond Doss. Truly remarkable acting. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely he’ll win Best Actor at the Oscars, but only because 2016 had so many great performances, from the likes of Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea and Mahershala Ali in Moonlight. The rest of the ensemble cast did a fantastic job too, with Hugo Weaving doing an amazing job playing Doss’ alcoholic father, who is such a complex character by himself. It was surprising to see how many Australian actors there were, like Teresa Palmer and Rachel Griffiths and Sam Worthington, although it makes sense, since it was shot in Australia and with Mel Gibson at the helm it was bound to have a few familiar Australian faces. They all have solid performances in supporting roles.
Overall, it was right up there amongst my favourite Oscar-nominated films of this year. I’m yet to watch Fences at the time of writing this, but it probably places third behind La La Land and Hidden Figures. Even if you’re not into war films, it’s still worth watching because it’s so much more than that. It really puts into perspective just how hard it is for people to stand up for their ideals that are not readily accepted within society, and the strength and courage they must have to continually be ready to stand their ground. But just remember, close your eyes during the battle scenes if you want to keep your food down.
1. Would do you believe that Desmond did the right thing by refusing to hold a weapon during the war?
2. Did you think the film was too gory and graphic?