Review: Hacksaw Ridge

Released to cinemas in January this year, I slightly panicked at the now-limited listings for Hacksaw Ridge. At just over £10 pound a ticket, I often ask myself: “is this something I have too see on the big screen, or shall I wait for the DVD?”

Luckily for me, I had my newly purchased Cineworld Unlimited card – it was a no brainer – so I asked my mother (a war film fanatic) to join me on the judges’ panel.

A story of patriotism, perseverance, and standing up for your beliefs, Mel Gibson journeys back to Maeda Escarpment, commonly known as “Hacksaw Ridge”, amidst the Second World War. Paying tribute to brave American soldiers, the film above all commemorates the heroic actions of combat medic Desmond Doss.

While collating general opinion, Hacksaw Ridge has been compared and paralleled to the likes of Saving Private Ryan, and it’s not hard to understand why. Immersed with gore and war zone realism, Gibson depicts the merciless violence and relentless efforts experienced by soldiers during this battle against the Japanese on Okinawa island in 1945.

The narrative is not complicated, following our protagonist on his journey to Hacksaw Ridge, and perfectly embodies the remarkable sincerity and determination of Doss throughout. The latter for me is where the true accomplishment of the film lies, supported by an outstanding cast that is lead by Andrew Garfield.

Garfield presents, at first, what appears to be a childish naivety that he then transcends into Doss’ genuine intentions, and valiant actions, to save the lives of his fellow troops in what seems like an impossible mission.

Following in the steps of his father and brother, Doss enlists himself to join the war as a medic aspiring and then proceeding to save lives, but not take them, while refusing to hold or fire a weapon. Tormented and terrorised by his fellow troops, and psychologically questioned by his superiors, Doss’ moral compass stays straight and he subsequently earns the respect and recognition deserved for saving 75 lives.

Despite Mel Gibson’s controversial opinions, which arguably sent him into hiding since his last feature Apocalypto back in 2006, as a director it’s unlikely he’ll go unnoticed for this acclaim-worthy achievement. Gibson shoots a clean-cut picture, which is stylised by wide landscapes and medium close-ups packed with beauty as well as destruction, placing this endearing and harrowing war film on a pedestal of its own.

As always Oscar season will be stirring with hype and injustice, especially with current front-runner La La Land at the helm. In all honesty I think as far as cinematography and art direction go, La La Land deserves the win, but for me Andrew Garfield certainly poses as a major contender for Best Actor given his soul-bearing performance and notable progression from neophyte Spider to War hero.

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