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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Hacksaw Ridge 2016 * * * Stars

Hacksaw RidgeDirector: Mel Gibson
Year: 2016
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington

Having read feedback from other critics and having seen bits and pieces of The Passion of the Christ, I knew Mel Gibson was going to make a bloodily violent war film with 2016's Hacksaw Ridge (my latest review). I was right. Mel puts the "hack" in "Hacksaw" with men-at-arms having their limbs severed, their heads dismembered, and their fragile bodies being pierced by razor sharp bayonets. When Gibson perpetrates violence, it's to glorify, to sensationalize, to make you turn away in disgust. Oh and did I mention he includes several sequences of rats nibbling on decomposed body parts. Eek!

Anyway, his Hacksaw Ridge at two hours and 18 minutes, is kinda like his own starring vehicle, We Were Soldiers. Its got that earned R rating but without all the harsh language and disrespect between Battalion members. This film is split up into two halves. The first half is part Lifetime movie and part boot camp symposium. The second half is more akin to Windtalkers or Rambo. Mel Gibson with a standard canvas and minimal technical efficiency, gives us an unsettled action film that at times, tries to desensitize "Hacksaw's" true story of real-life WWII medic, Desmond Doss (played by a likable lead in Andrew Garfield). In the end, the whole thing seems to work anyway. That's thanks to closing credit interviews involving the actual Doss and his actual Captain known as Glover (played by Sam Worthington). Other thanks goes to screenwriter Andrew Knight for including the invigorating line, "lord, help me get one more". "Help me get one more!"

Now Gibson fresh from starring in this year's Blood Father, becomes a more improved Peter Berg here (remember Deepwater Horizon?). No stilted camera work, less military numbness, and a little more genuine emotion. Hear, hear! And despite a miscast Vince Vaughn (he plays a soldier fighting in the Battle of Okinawa) and war cliches like the mean drill Sergeant, the picture of some GI's girlfriend/wife tucked away, and the notion of boot camp enemies becoming best buds later on, "Hacksaw" is still worth a recommendation.

Image result for hacksaw ridge movie scenesHacksaw Ridge's story, which spans a decade between Desmond's childhood till his being drafted by the U.S. Army in 1942, is about pacifism, the notion of going into battle without carrying so much as a single weapon. Desmond Doss possesses this trait and his Army brethren try to get him kicked out before all are shipped to the islands of Japan (via World War II). Doss eventually saves over 75 infantrymen in battle and is awarded the first Medal of Honor as a conscientious objector (someone who refuses the aspect of performing military service).

All in all, the scenes of Desmond's rescue methods are Gibson's high point as a filmmaker. He depicts them as tunnel lights in the face of morbid brutality. As an audience member, you feel elated and exultant despite being turned off by his slight grandstanding of blood and guts. Therefore, I feel you should definitely see Hacksaw Ridge. It's a popcorn, combat relic that might be too commercial to sway the Academy. No matter. It manages to get a three star rating from me.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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