Posted Jan 27 2017

Hacksaw Ridge - This Movie Rocks, Explodes, All Kinds Of Shit. And How!

Dir: Mel Gibson

Starring Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Vince Vaughn, Rachel Griffiths, Hugo Weaving

For all the “sugar tits” moments and the anti-Semitic drunken rages, there’s no denying that Mel Gibson is a hell of an action director. He won an Oscar for his epic battle scenes in Braveheart, and viscerally delved into the heart of darkness with the undervalued Apocalypto, Now, after a decade on the benches, the man is back with the most brutally realised war film since Saving Private Ryan. This is where old fashioned biopic and visceral modernity smash together – to spectacular effect. To make use of an old cliché (often used erroneously) – when this movie hits its final act, you’ve never seen anything like it.

But it starts in an altogether more conventional place. This is the true life story of Desmond Doss, a young Virginia boy who fell in love with the first girl he ever kissed, and went off to WWII because it was the right thing to do – despite growing up in the shadow of the damage WWI had taken on his PTSD father (a brilliant Weaving.)

But, due to a couple of key moments in his growing up, Doss entered the fray as a devout 7th Day Adventist and, being a conscientious objector, he would refuse to even touch a weapon and would only serve as a medic, a choice that saw him initially derided and then abused by his own men.

In action however, at the attempted taking of the titular Ridge, Doss remained as his company retreated, tending to, and ultimately saving over seventy men, becoming the only CO ever to be awarded the Medal of Honour.

Gibson plays his movie in three clear sections - the early parts of Desmond’s life are presented as broad biopic, full of the sunshine of youth and innocence, the beauty of young love and the simplicity of life before wartime. As the film moves into his training days, there’s initially a lot of Biloxi Blues going on here (but without the laughs), especially in Vince Vaughn’s sub-Walken Sergeant.

It’s when the movie hits the war that Gibson as a filmmaker – and the film overall – really come into their own. The chaotic battle sequences he orchestrates are truly staggering – visceral, brutal, saddening and maddening, scary as all hell and full of the meaningless and meaning of what they’re depicting. The opening salvo of Private Ryan is the initial comparison, but as Hacksaw’s final act goes back for seconds, this movie moves even beyond that.

But this isn’t all about technique (which is mighty here.) Proving that Marvel’s loss is Gibson’s gain, one-time Spider-Man Garfield is simply remarkable, crawling through the devastation around him, begging his God to let him get “just one more.” Whilst this almost becomes a montage at times, it is never less than gripping, and impossible not to be moved by.

Hacksaw Ridge, if only in its final hour or so, is a towering achievement for Gibson. And it deserves to be recognised as such.

Maybe it’s time we stopped making those “Sugar tits” jokes…


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