Cute love stories usually make me throw up a little in my mouth (unpleasant but true). I wouldn’t quite define Hacksaw Ridge as a ‘cute love story’ (the blood, guts and exploding limbs kind of dampen the mood), but Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) looks at Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer) a little too long for my liking in that cinema seat. Just watch the bloody film!
Hacksaw Ridge is a tale of two halves mixing an old-fashioned war story with modern storytelling.
The first half explores Doss’s early interactions, his childhood and the flourishing of his love interest. It’s basically used as a ploy to allow us to really get to grips with Doss’s character and how god damn nice he is.
This then makes it believable that someone so cute and sparkly would object to killing another human being in a country where not wanting to own a gun is like not wanting to have blood running through your veins.
So Doss is a conscientious objector. Not a coward like many in the Christian country would have believed back then (and speaking from personal experience, probably right now too). But hey, that’s just American hypocrisy at its finest. Something we’re all becoming accustomed to lately.
As he steps into a very brutal and real battlefield, the power of Doss’s courageousness is finally recognised.
Mel Gibson (yes, Braveheart himself!) Has restored his love affair with war flicks and this one is probably the most graphic yet. It’s like Saving Private Ryan but turned up a notch. Gibs takes you right to the heart of the battle and you leave feeling like you’re covered in specks of mud and blood and while coughing up an explosion worth of dust.
Despite the incredible graphics and visual aesthetics, the film does droop in some places. Plucky Garfield is good but not great (although speaking as a Brit who can’t seem to get past my own brummy melody, he seems to nail that Deep South twang). In the heat of battle while in the midst of the heroics that ultimately steal the show, he smirks: ‘I never claimed to be sane’. Er, yes you did mate. About half an hour ago while talking to your psychiatrist.
And what in God’s good name is Vince Vaughn doing cast as Sergeant Howell? I hate to be so narrow-minded as to believe in typecasting and like to give everyone a chance, but come on. Really?
Gibson doesn’t settle on an absolute belief. He gives us glimpses of Doss’s faith without putting it on a pedestal. He shows us the bullying nature of traditional American Christianity while also allowing us to empathise with these characters.
Confusion seems to be a key theme. The confusion of war, both on a battlefield and off. What is the right thing to do and which path is the best one to take? This is demonstrated perfectly in the misty, blood-specked battlefield of the ridge. At times I found it difficult to identify either side of soldiers and came to the conclusion that if I didn’t shoot my own soldiers, I’d most definitely accidentally shoot myself.
Gibson displays the psychological affects of war and the damage it causes. As well as the fear and intensity that’s involved with being thrown into such an unknown, surreal and frightening arena. Again. And again. After little sleep. Little food. And pretty much no recovery time. It’s easy to sympathise with these soldiers when the the real-life horrors are brought to life so clearly. For that, bravo Gibson.
However (here it comes again), some would argue that this film shouldn’t even exist as Gibson’s career should be kaput following his anti-Semitic remarks a few years’ back. It seems he has seen his chance and ran with it, all the way to the Oscars. When maybe he shouldn’t have had the chance to begin with.
Hacksaw Ridge is pure masculinity at its finest. There’s barely a female in sight, apart from the odd pretty little dame to serve as love-drunk hero’s love interest. This is kind of understandable because you know war and women weren’t a popular mix back in the 40s. But all this bravado, sweat and banter can get a bit much, you know?
Although Doss wasn’t the perfectly moulded hero we are used to seeing brace the war genre, he was still a hero. The story didn’t contain the most thrilling of plots despite his bravery but it was applaudable.
Now Gibs, maybe we can see something with a bit less testosterone next time, huh?