Faith Is A Powerful Thing: A Hacksaw Ridge Review

FILM SCORE: ⭐⭐⭐1/2

Released by Summit Entertainment

Release Date: November 4th, 2016

Starring: Andrew Garfield. Sam Worthington, and Vince Vaughn

Written by Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight

Directed by Mel Gibson

Rated R (intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence including grisly                         bloody images)

Faith is a funny thing. Everyone has it, from the biggest  atheists to the most religious, faith is everywhere. Faith is not a religious thing either. As much as one person can have faith in their God, others just have faith in themselves, friends, and family. Shit, you can have faith in your car or anything for the matter. Faith is not always about religion and yet there are people who get offended every time the word is brought up.

Faith plays a huge part in Hacksaw Ridge. Everyone knows about Mel Gibson and his faith. If you don’t then you have been living under a rock for a long time now.

Hacksaw Ridge tells the story of Desmond Doss, a young man who believes in God with all his heart, but also believes that he needs to enter the service during World War II because he needs to do his part. He doesn’t believe in guns, so he enlists as a medic after being promised that he will never have to touch a gun. He finds out the hard way that no one cares about his beliefs. He is ordered to pick up a gun because his commanding officers by into the notion that if Doss does not have a gun, then he can not protect his fellow soldiers.

Doss fights this and he is court-martialed (I am not sure about these military words. I don’t know if the court-martial is the hearing or the result of the hearing.) He is told that he needs to take a gun with him, but in the end they come around and allow him onto the battleground.

The first half of the film is the story of Doss at home and at the army base. His home life is not the greatest. His father fought in World War I and has become a drunk because he blames himself for the deaths of his friends. The father also beats Doss, his brother, and his mother. It was this that I found to be the most clichéd part of the film. The actors involved (Hugo Weaving and Rachel Griffiths) are all very good given the material that they have to work with. Director Mel Gibson also keeps the scenes lively by keep the scenes to a bare minimum. He doesn’t focus too much on these scenes because he knows that we have seen them in a hundred other films.

The army scenes are more interesting. It is surprising how many of the army people are against Doss’ beliefs, even when they hold some of the same beliefs. One would think that since Gibson is a believer like Doss, that he would look unkindly on the characters that are against Doss, but he doesn’t. He creates three dimensional characters that we care about. Even the assholes that beat up Doss are given their time to be good guys as well.

With this being a war film, and a war film that comes from Mel Gibson, the man who got people into the theater to watch Jesus be the subject of the most successful  “torture porn” film of all time, we should know that this film is going to be violent. Gibson does not let us down in that regard. This film is very violent. Looking at the reason the film was given an R rating, it says that it is rated R for “intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence including grisly bloody images”. 
Notice that there is no mention of the language or nudity in the film. They don’t really need to mention these other things because we should know what we are getting into when we look at the reason for the rating, but I found it amusing nonetheless.

While the film is one of the most violent I have seen in a while, I will have to say that I was a bit let down. I was expecting the gore to be mostly practical, as Gibson has done with his other films, but as I watched the film, I noticed that the majority of the gore is CGI. This makes a lot of the violence look very fake. I can take the bullet hits, but there are moments in the film, especially the first gore shot that we see during the war scenes, which look really fake with the CGI. Now there are practical effects here and there with most of them being used for people missing legs and aftermath scenes, but I think that the film would have fared a lot better with practical effects. The CGI used here takes the audience out of the film because they are noticing it more than what is happening.

The acting here is mostly on the positive side. Andrew Garfield gives a wonderful performance as Doss. He really understands the character and his reasoning behind what he is doing. The scenes where Doss goes back and keeps getting more and more men who were wounded and left on Hacksaw Ridge is a display of some many emotions and his body movements as he tries to stay out of the sight of the enemy I think owe a tad bit to Spider-man.

Hugo Weaving, on the other hand, is given the role of the father. From the first time we see him, as he drinks at a cemetery and pours some of his hooch out for his fallen brothers, we barely ever see him not drunk. He does have a really nice scene at his son’s court-martial, but his role is mostly getting drunk and hitting his family. I also like when Weaving shows up in a film, but his talents are wasted here.

One nice thing about the film is that it is not overwrought with the Bible, God, Jesus, and faith. These things are brought up a lot in the film, but they never bring the film down. There has been a resurgence in faith based films over the last five years or so and those films try to hammer in how great God is and how important the Bible is without doing the one thing that they should be doing: making a good film. Never once did I feel that the film was preaching to the audience. Gibson and his screenwriters blend the religious aspects and the war aspects very well.

Hacksaw Ridge is a really good film and a return to form for Gibson. The film is beautiful to look at and the stunt work is impressive. I felt a little bit let down by the overuse of CGI and the clichés of Doss’ family. The acting is really good and the story is incredible. To know that this actually happened, with Doss saving 75 soldiers on his own, is mind-blowing. I think that Hacksaw Ridge will become a classic war film over time. Right now it is a really good film that could have been great.    

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