American entertainment, most of us know it’s all about the extremes these days (extreme crudeness, extreme drama, extreme stupidity). Well tonight an extreme director, Mel Gibson, takes a shot at making a movie that might defy the simplistic trend of most cinema is today. Tonight a buddy and I hit the theaters to check out Hacksaw Ridge, a war drama that pegs the life of a rare officer position (the combat medic). Will this interesting spin fit well in the library of battle based films, or has Gibson gone off the deep end. Let’s get going
- Action Packed
- Balances faith with honor
- Fantastic effects
- Good characters
Yeah, I have a lot of likes and it starts with the action this movie has to offer. Hacksaw Ridge can be described as the pacific campaign of Saving Private Ryan, with plenty of explosions, bullets, and flamethrowers to light up the silver screen. You’ll be cringing as all hell breaks loose in high definition sound and incredible special (not cheesy) effects that will drag you into the depths of battle. You might find yourself at the edge of your seat watching your hero tear through the scarred land, jumping through the carnage to take down a bunker. Like realistic portrayals of war, this is the film for you.
But Hacksaw ridge isn’t just about soldiers getting dismembered or barbecued. No it’s a tale meant to inspire people to believe in their values, defy the odds, and yes help people without killing them. Gibson and his team have designed emotionally packed scenes where the cinematography alongside the stunning orchestral work bestows the honor of our soldiers. The dialogue also preaches the message Doss’ story is designed to tell, much of which involves faith being tested against tradition. Sometimes it got a bit cheesy with the blatant, overdramatic deliveries, but it fit so well into the film it really didn’t faze me. Regardless, both patriots and religious zealots will love the balance of faith with duty, and have a character you latch onto.
As for the cast, well Hacksaw Ridge has a little something for everyone to latch onto. Doss is the picture of a perfect, good spirited southerner, complete with hick like accent (thank you Hollywood stereotype). His morals, loyalty, determination, and overall nice guy attitude are qualities that many will find endearing. Too much of a good two shoes? Well then go for the gung ho Yankee who wields a gun like Rambo named Smitty. His character is all about the action, the adrenaline, and the war hero pride you love to see in these epics. Still too serious, then throw in Vince Vaughn as a sergeant who has action, comedy, and a bit of compassion to round out the cast. The company has strong heroes to lead the charge, amidst the extras whose names you might forget.
- Slow to take off/A bit rushed
- Characters lost in the carnage
Hard to find fault in this movie, as Gibson and company did so well making this epic war drama. However, there were a few things my buddy and I found a little limiting. The main thing was how long it took the movie to take off. Sure we have to have an origin story and build up how are character had his coming to Jesus moment (a rogue brick to his brother’s head). Despite how good they did with this, it doesn’t help that it took a while for Hacksaw Ridge to take off. The first thirty minutes in particular are rushed relationships with his parents and girl, which although establishes Doss’ life, drags at times as you wait for the training to begin. In addition, some of these arks get dropped into the background, left to simmer until the ending when the campaign is over.
This was especially true for some of the soldiers, who after a five-minute introduction are dropped into a sea of extras almost never to be seen again. Doss and a few other troop members will get much of the screen time, while others will stand out only by looks before violently flopping on the desolate wasteland of the ridge. You would think a little more involvement after taking the time to name them, but no not the case. In addition, some of the romantic and family dynamics are dropped like a bad grenade, only to be tied up at the end of the show. Outside of these small flaws, the only other thing we agreed on was some random additions of Japanese customs, which while accurate was kind of pointless in the grand scheme of things.
Hacksaw Ridge is one of the best modern war movies I’ve seen…period. The nice spin on the protagonist being a pacifist drops a whole new light on the war theater and provided a character who was deeper than the barrel of a rifle. Doss’ story is certainly inspiring, and it’s nice to see a movie where both faith and honor can work in tandem without being dragged out and dull (Unbreakable). Yes it does take time to get stoked, but once the spark ignites, it shines in suspenseful, well-shot delight. Of note, this movie isn’t for the faint of heart. Weak constitutions may get sick, or have nightmares depending on how mutilated, bloody bodies affect you (PLEASE DON’T TAKE SMALL KIDS TO SEE THIS FILM). I strongly encourage a theater visit to this movie, perhaps a couple of times if you’ve got the cash.
My scores are:
Movie Overall: 8.5-9.0