Cinema Review: ‘Hacksaw Ridge’

Directed by: Mel Gibson

Written by : Andrew Knight. Robert Schenkkan.

Starring: Andrew Garfield. Sam Worthington. Luke Bracey. Teresa Palmer. Hugo Weaving. Rachel Griffiths. Vince Vaughn.

Running Time: 139 Minutes.

According to common decency and song lyrics war is good for absolutely nothing, except maybe the film industry, rich people and often even the two at the same time. The horrific nature of man’s violence towards it’s fellow man can often bring out the contrasting wonder of true bravery. And also the heights some people can achieve to shine out in the darkest of times. Desmond Doss is one of these men, his war time heroics so staggering that Mel Gibson had to tone them down in the film in order to keep the narrative believable for the audience. He was simply too heroic for Hollywood.

In this cinematic outing Gibson and Andrew Garfield attempt to harness the real life magic of one man’s values in a time of horror and true compromise. Desmond Doss due to a childhood accident and his family’s stern religious beliefs, is fully opposed to violence or even holding a gun. He enlists in the army where he is met with skepticism and skeptical fists alike. Desmond fights for right to party unarmed, as a conscientious objector. The film chronicles the 77th Infantry Division and their attempt to take the  Maeda Escarpment, also known as Hacksaw Ridge. It also chronicles how casting Vince Vaughn in a serious role is like pointing a Kamikaze pilot at your own ship. The film has pulled in more nominations than if Helen Mirren played crime-fighting Jesus in space who also teaches orphans to be themselves through the power of dance. And ‘Hacksaw Ridge‘ has ultimately ended up with more gold than if a certain Bond villain was employed as the interior decorator for Fort Knox. Is it any good though?

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The story at the foundation is compelling, a man weighing up his values and defending himself as well as his country. A traumatic childhood as he fights for redemption without spilling blood, a love waiting for him beyond the dirt and dust of a battlefield he didn’t ask for. the stage is set and the trimmings are looking on point. Sadly many facets of the film are not. This film falls abruptly and suddenly like a blitz of boredom bombs, a mediocre outing so generic and pale you may as well just had a bewildered and unattached Adam Sandler in the background, trying to rewind time on his remote while a Japanese bayonet protrudes from his throat….actually that doesn’t sound bad. This movie is unfortunately another bland and emotionless pat on the back from the limp, star spangled hand of emotionless patriotism. The story of the soldiers who fought for our freedom, including my freedom to be a cynical breath-sack, is amazing. The tale of Desmond Dross is truly fantastic, and it deserved a far better film.

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Garfield is truly great as Dross, exuding the effortless charm and fire that sparks the imagination and exposes his soul. Sadly the fire he starts is quickly doused in the tidal wave of thoughtless film-cheese, spewed down from a great height. The script is as cold and plain as a hurried and shallow grave, maybe the same grave where the writers buried their creativity. Meaningless, airy lines of drab, unmemorable dialogue pat meekly at your ears like a starved kitten. Predictable over the top, unrealistic sentences used to make a good trailer instead of a compelling, relatable film. Only the show stealing scene of “Just one more” holds fast and that was written by Dross himself on the battlefield! Plus stealing this show is like saying you were the least annoying schizophrenic to enter Big Brother.

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Hugo Weaving as the father stomps around and snarls but aimlessly and with no progression. He just looks like furiously confused, like a drunk who just realised he’s lost his keys only to then realise he’s been homeless for ten years. Vince Vaughn plays a talent-less void with an army uniform draped over it, to perfection. His lack of edge and forehead maybe the only obstacle greater than the ridge itself. While Sam Worthington is so bland he could be replaced by a jar of mayonnaise dressed in a beige cardigan. Garfield and Teresa Palmer try but sadly it’s like watching two robots trying to learn love together, while deactivated, disassembled and buried on different planets.

The music could be stripped straight from any Call Of Duty game and fired straight from the nearest bugle or eagle’s mouth, whichever is more patriotic. And i’m not saying it’s wrong to be patriotic or honour achievements of heroes, The very opposite, let’s in fact try to do and do it well. The Academy Award was for directing though so that has to be good right? Sadly this is more wrong than IMDB listing Vince Vaughn as an ‘actor’. Oh yes the scope of the battle scenes are fantastic, impressive and haunting. Striking in their dark desolate vastness. The action is intense and visceral, but so is walking a large, sex crazed dog but that doesn’t mean it’s good to look at. The camera angles are mostly plain, unimaginative and dull. The only frames that stand out are the film’s poster and the famous grenade shot. Scale and organisation are impressive but the direction and filming are less than memorable, I’ve seen yoghurt adverts with more imaginative camera work. A busy screen does not make up a well shot film, a ton of explosions do not make a skillfully shot sequence. If it did Michael Bay would be a modern day Da Vinci on art-steroids (sorry art students, not a real thing…yet).

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It’s truly amazing how much of this story is true, even down to him kicking a grenade and refusing to fight on his Sabbath. A sniper’s bullet that shattered his arm was left out due to Gibson’s fear it was too remarkable for people to believe. Doss was a great man who paid a hefty price and remained humble and true. Sadly this film is a lazy, unremarkable reel of air moving gently past. The fact it won an Oscar makes me think i could get one for my performance in school when i pretended to lose my maths homework. The only truly striking moment is the real footage at the end, Doss represents himself beautifully, genuinely and with roaring humility. Watch a documentary on this great man instead.

Verdict: A sadly lacking and almost impressively, un-moving outing. A weak attempt at tribute that is far from fit for a king, and even less so for a hero.

2/5

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