Sunday, November 6, 2016
Mel Gibson is hardly subtle. In fact some say he is downright nuts. His new movie is anything but subtle. But what it is is moving, thoughtful and fascinating in a car wreck sort of way.
Hacksaw Ridge, named after a cliff that American soldiers had to climb in the 1945 Battle of Okinawa, stars Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss, a Virginia kid who enlists in the Army during the war yet refuses to handle a weapon of any kind during basic training. This of course leads to beatings by his fellow soldiers, resistance from the brass, and a court martial that goes nowhere. So Doss is unleashed on the Japanese, making a last desperate stand at Okinawa, as a weaponless medic.
The first hour or so of Gibson's movie is surprisingly thoughtful as we come to know Doss, his dysfunctional family and his new bride. We also get to know his fellow soldiers who all scoff at his religious objections to killing fellow human beings. Now in any war movie we know the guys who hate him the most will turn out to be the ones who love him the most.
The last hour or so is the first ten minutes of Saving Private Ryan tenfold. The brutality of war, in that Gibson graphic detail, is almost too much for anyone to bear. Doss saves man after man, dodging the Japanese bullets and amazing his wounded comrades. The suspense is pretty intense, now we know Doss lived but we dont know if the rest do.
Garfield is fantastic as the soft spoken Doss and surprisingly so is Vince Vaughn as the tough sergeant.
I warn you. If massive realistic violence of war is something you cannot take, dont go. I had times when I had to close my eyes and at one point fought back tears because it was emotionally draining. But that is what makes great film making to me. It made me think and it made me feel.
Stay for the credits. You get to see the real people talk about the heroism of Desmond Doss, the only conscientious objector to win a Medal of Honor. Bravery like Doss is unheard of. I wanted to know more.
It really is as good as Saving Private Ryan.