Sunday, 16 July 2017

Hacksaw Ridge (2016) - Film Review


*Originally written July 16th, 2017*

"War is Hell"

Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge is certainly one of the better World War 2 films I've seen recently, but it's not without its problems. While Gibson delivers one of the most visceral war experiences on screen since Saving Private Ryan, he sadly blows his load on over the top, patriotic cheesy bullshit the film spent so long trying to avoid until its ludicrous final 5 minutes.

When I say Gibson delivers a visceral World War 2 experience, I mean it. Once the second half kicks in as we hit the battlefield, Hacksaw Ridge becomes one of the most disturbing, horrifying and grotesque visions of war I've ever seen. Gibson pulls no punches. Men are torn in half, burnt and turned into mushy puddles of flesh in a harrowing prolonged scene that introduces us to war. Gibson directs all the war imagery with the utmost precision I would expect from such a talented director.

Where the film faulters however is the first half before we get to the war. I'm not saying the first half is bad, it's just full of odd moments that are at odds with its second half and Andrew Garfield's lead character can be frustratingly annoying at times.

For the most part Andrew Garfield is very good, but a few times he slips into his mentally challenged portrayal of Peter Parker from the Amazing Spider-Man series. It feels weird to say, but it's true. He becomes weird, stuttery and a little slow. He also gets a little creepy around his love interest, despite some genuinely sweet scenes between them.

I know a lot of the film's themes surround faith and the compromises you need to make to help make a difference despite your beliefs, but Garfield's Desmond Doss annoyed me to a real extent. He's based on a real person, I understand, but the film hit breaking level points of my toleration for him. Doss refuses to even touch a weapon as he is a pacifist, which was just infuriating. He wants to be a medic and save people rather than take lives, but the way he goes about it with his overly humble sense of superiority made me want to punch him.

There are at least some more memorable characters that came off better. Vince Vaughn was surprisingly good as the hilarious commanding officer who stole every scene he was in, as was Hugo Weaving as Doss's alcoholic father who adds a lot to why Doss is why he is.

It's also a shame that Gibson decided to go full cringy "America, fuck yeah!" in the closing scenes, as the film avoided that for almost the entire runtime. The last scenes are a monstrosity of slow-motion American pandering and silly stuff like Garfield slapping a grenade in mid-air in slow-motion (I did not make that up) while the Japanese are easily defeated in a way I can only describe as "Gratuitous" and possibly offensive.

I feel like I'm talking pretty negatively about Hacksaw Ridge, but I actually liked it quite a lot. Mel Gibson is one of the few actors turned directors that can deliver excellent films with a gorgeous visual style and Andrew Garfield is a very good despite my complains. Hacksaw Ridge is one of the most graphic and visceral depictions of war made so far, I'd say it's worth checking out, especially if you're into war films.

8/10 Dans

Hacksaw Ridge is out now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

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