**The following is an in-depth review of “Hacksaw Ridge” and does containspoilers**
Mel Gibson may be proving himself to be a major Hollywood player once again with his latest directorial effort, a gripping and inspiring war drama called “Hacksaw Ridge.”
“Hacksaw Ridge” stars Andrew Garfield as Private Desmond Doss, a real life World War II figure who single-handedly saved almost 100 soldiers without ever picking up a rifle. Pvt. Doss also became one of the most decorated soldiers in the war, even earning the Medal of Honor.
The film begins with Desmond and his brother as young boys. They were rambunctious boys who fought between themselves on a daily basis. One day, while fighting with his brother, Desmond hit the other boy in the head with a brick and almost killed him. This became a turning point in the young boy’s life, as he swore off all violence afterward. This pacifism would become his most defining quality and would have great influence over how his life unfolded.
As a young man in Lynchburg, VA Desmond witnessed another man being hit by a car. Valuing the sanctity of life and wanting to help, Desmond raced into action and used his own belt to apply a tourniquet to the man’s wound and took him to the hospital. That hospital would have two profound influences on Desmond’s life; he found a love for helping people through the medical field and he found the love of his life – a hospital nurse named Dorothy.
Desmond begins courting the young nurse, but he also begins courting the idea of enlisting in the Army as a combat medic. Although he would not use violence, he could serve in the war by helping to path up the wounded. At first, Dorothy is against the idea of Desmond going off to war but she agrees to it as long as Desmond asks her to marry him first. He promised to marry her on his first leave home.
At first, Desmond fit in quite nicely with the other soldiers in his training unit. All that changed, however, when it came time for basic rifle marksmanship and Desmond refused to train with his rifle. The Drill Sergeant, convinced that Doss’ defiance was an act of cowardice, soon turns the entire platoon against him.
In spite of the odds, Desmond excelled in all other areas of his training and had made it to the end. This wouldn’t be the end of his problems, however. The batallion commander orders Doss to train with his weapon or face court martial. Again he refused and he was placed in a military jail.
After some pleading from his father to a General the elder Doss had served with during World War I, Desmond was ordered released, classified as a conscientious objector, and ordered to serve in the war as a medic without any weapons. It was during this time that Private Desmond Doss would – over the course of two days – rescue 75 wounded men from his company.
“Hacksaw Ridge” truly is a beautiful movie in every sense of the word. It’s well written, well acted and could possibly be Mel Gibson’s best turn as a director. It’s funny in the right places, heart warming in the right places and heart breaking in the right places. I would honestly even go so far as to say it’s the best movie of the year thus far.
This film also makes fantastic use of the three act structure. Probably not since “Superman: The Movie” in 1978 has a film made such great use of that narrative structure. It almost feels like three separate stories woven together by a single unifying thread – that thread being Desmond Doss.
The first act is a love story, and is about a young boy’s journey into finding himself. The second act is a legal drama about a young soldier standing up for his Constitutionally protected rights and his right to serve both his God and his country without being forced to compromise either. The third act is the war part of the film and shows what bravery and courage truly are.
“Hacksaw Ridge” is also probably one of the most authentic war movies ever made, both in its portrayal of every day military life and it’s portrayal of the battlefield. Much like “Saving Private Ryan,” “Hacksaw Ridge” shows the awful truth of war – the violence, the death and the bloodshed – while also reminding the audience of why we go and why it remains important for us to do so.
Parts of this movie can be extremely hard to watch, especially for our combat veterans. The film is just that authentic. You don’t just witness Desmond and his platoon on the battlefield, you’re there with them. Because of this authenticity, it might be prudent for combat veterans to attend this film with someone who can offer them emotional and spiritual support; a wife, a girlfriend or a battle buddy.
“Hacksaw Ridge” is a movie you really don’t want to miss. It does a great job of showing that some things – especially morals and values – are worth fighting for, and also that wars aren’t won by guns but by the heart and soul of the American soldier.
“Hacksaw Ridge” currently holds an 87 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.