Thursday, October 27, 2016

Hacksaw Ridge - Review

   To be out of the game for nearly a decade is a long time for any director, but particularly a former Oscar winner. But that’s exactly where Mel Gibson was before the release of his newest film, Hacksaw Ridge. A few heinous comments amidst a bevy of issues in his personal life sent Gibson out of Hollywood for a large chunk of years until his return to the director’s chair in 2016 with a story worth telling and something to prove.

   The true story of Pfc. Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), who won the Congressional Medal of Honor despite refusing to bear arms during WWII on religious grounds. Doss was drafted and ostracized by fellow soldiers for his pacifist stance but went on to earn respect and adoration for his bravery, selflessness and compassion after he risked his life -- without firing a shot -- to save 75 men in the Battle of Okinawa.

   Whenever the topic of a film is based in reality, it’s hard to truly critique the narrative for what it represents. The story of Desmond Doss is no doubt worthy of a film treatment as tales of brave men always find a place in people’s hearts. And ultimately that’s what Hacksaw Ridge is, a story of bravery. There were some worries with Mel Gibson in the driver’s seat that the religious undertones would be a heavy-handed, but that apprehension was unfounded in the rather subtle implications of religion means to this one man.

   Part of the reason that the character of Desmond Doss works must be credited to the tremendous work of Andrew Garfield. Arguably giving the performance of his career, Garfield carries scenes both on and off the battlefield. There is an established character in Doss and Gibson and Garfield make sure that the audience understands him and cares about him. Garfield is not alone here though and has plenty of support for his award caliber performance. Sam Worthington, back from the dead, delivers a great performance as an adversary to Doss and Vince Vaughn is completely believable as a drill sergeant and soldier, something I never would’ve thought before this film.

   Throw these characters into a well-directed film and the results are truly special. Gibson brings an aesthetic to the film that makes it feel like an older film, from the way it’s shot to the way everything looks a little distilled. The battles themselves are absolutely brutal, rivaling the battle of Saving Private Ryan, and play as more horror than war with little glamour.

   Overall, Hacksaw Ridge is an incredible film. The return of Mel Gibson sees him almost top his best work, Braveheart, with one swing. The performances are all around top notch, with Andrew Garfield certainly standing out. Don’t be surprised if you hear Garfield’s name come Oscar season. The sum of it’s parts make Hacksaw Ridge not only worth seeing, but possibly one of the better war films ever made.

   So what do you think of Hacksaw Ridge? Are you interested in seeing it and what's the best war film in your opinion? Subscribe, share, comment below, and as always return to I Am Sam for weekly reviews and insight.

Hacksaw Ridge will be release November 4th, 2016

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