Guest Blogger Review: Hacksaw Ridge

Posted 31 January 2017 about Hacksaw Ridge.

Hacksaw Ridge – a film of two halves

Hacksaw Ridge is a film of two starkly contrasting halves, made whole by the link of Private Desmond Doss, charmingly played by Andrew Garfield. It is both twee and terrifying, heart rending and gut wrenching. It’s certainly not an easy watch, but then it’s never intended to be. That said, this was much more watchable than Garfield’s other recent religious epic, Silence, which tested the viewer’s endurance to the limit over its near three hour span.

Hacksaw RidgeFor those expecting a straightforward war movie, the first hour will be rather confusing, as we join Doss growing up in what, to all intents and purposes, is an episode of The Waltons (they even live in the Blue Ridge Mountains). We actually had two walk-outs in our screening as disappointed war film fans thought they had completely misjudged the movie. But they really should have stuck with it, because when the film gets started, it does so with more than a bang.

Tearing Doss from the folksy backwoods, where he climbs the ridge for fun with his brother and then his girl, it deposits him in Japan, where climbing Hacksaw Ridge is anything but. The battle scene that follows is one of the most graphic you will ever encounter on the big screen. It is visceral in both senses of the word, in that it is both deeply disturbing and it displays a grotesque amount of actual viscera in the severed limbs, spewing guts and fragments of brain flying around in the extended battle scene.

War is hell, and director Mel Gibson is determined to leave us in no doubt about this fact as the body count steadily, and sickeningly, rises all around. It is grim and grizzly, yet such is the skill of the director, you cannot take your eyes off the screen for a second.

But it is what follows that makes the movie, as the troops withdraw to safety while Doss stays behind on the ridge to retrieve the wounded. The end credits state that he saved 75 lives, but apparently this is just a compromise figure. Ever the modest hero, Doss said it was no more than 50, while his comrades in arms put the figure nearer 100. They agreed on 75.

Hacksaw Ridge has been criticised for its opening, and you can see why; it is incredibly cutesy and corny. But then it is only by knowing how ordinary Doss was, that we can truly understand how extraordinary his actions were. This was no macho hero, this was an unremarkable man driven by a remarkable belief. Personally, I would’ve liked to have seen the backstory folded into the training and courtroom scenes a little more, rather than taking up so much space at the start, but then perhaps it is the brutal juxtaposition of the two worlds that makes this film so powerful.

Like Dev Patel’s epic journey in Lion, or the equality tale of Hidden Figures, you could only make this film as a true story, because no one would believe you if you made it up; it is simply too incredible.

For more musings from Simon, visit his website!

Guest Blogger: Simon Beasor

North-West based writer, copywriter & film buff, with a MA in Screenwriting from LJMU. Read more posts by Guest Blogger: Simon Beasor

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