Monday, February 13, 2017

Movie Review: HACKSAW RIDGE (Review #2)


The true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), the conscientious objector who, at the Battle of Okinawa, won the Medal of Honor for his incredible bravery and regard for his fellow soldiers. We see his upbringing and how this shaped his views, especially his religious view and anti-killing stance. We see Doss's trials and tribulations after enlisting in the US Army and trying to become a medic up until the struggle of Hacksaw Ridge.

Mel Gibson returns triumphantly to the director's chair, after a ten year hiatus, and gives us one of the most riveting war films we've had since the 90s, a great conceptual piece that isn't just about shooting stuff and has emphasis on emotion even in the biggest scenes, even though it gets occasionally carried away with unnecessary romanticism.


In contrast with something like Silence, where the whole religious conversation and moral debate was taking place on a level that wasn't, in my opinion, respectful of an audience or of making sense, taking it to a complexity that was misjudged and contradictory, here Gibson and Garfield teach us the power of simplicity. I am deeply anti-religious, but I was engrossed and empowered by the conflict that this film raised in the themes of personal belief and struggle. The film presents its dilemma clearly and with the simple yet effective portrayal of everyone's point of view the conflict emerges naturally and hits the audience deeply, especially because of how it evolves steadily through the film and constantly puts the theme at the center of what is going on in the plot.

Andrew Garfield is really the star here, he is fully deserving of his nomination, as this performance is something that really managed to move me. He shows the definition of nailing a character and that is one thing that really hit me about his performance. He really sells the fact that this guy loved what he was doing. The situation is the most extreme in the world, the most desperate, yet Garfiled grounds the passion that this guy had for what he was doing and that is why you buy every one of his moves and stick behind him at every soldier he saves. It is simply riveting to watch this guy do what he was great at and it is powerful to see the passion he had behind it.

Then Gibson and his crew bring a technical flawlessness to the whole picture that is just as good as all of its performers. The battle is brilliantly choreographed, the stunt work is unnoticeable, editing and mixing both of sound and picture are absolutely impeccable and even in the worst chaos possible you are never lost in where you are and where you're going. The characters all stick out and manage to be recognizable, further helping the incredible smoothness and fluency of the whole second and third act.

Furthermore, none of the characters here are left to flat clich├ęs, everyone has a three dimensional rounding and it does make a difference when the conflict emerges. You root, of course, for Desmond, but you can't help but see everyone of the other points of views involved. Naturally the fantastic performances help this. Sam Worthington is definitely a highlight alongside Vince Vaughn and they both give the picture a big contribution, using their natural charisma to enhance their parts respectively.

Still, there are different elements of the film that unfortunately don't add up. Firstly, Hugo Weaving's performance belongs in another film. I love this actor, but he really did seem like there was something off about him. I wasn't ever convinced by his emotional beats, with maybe one or two exceptions. The feature also has a very exaggerated romantic and classical sensibility that makes for some scenes which don't jell with the rest of the gritty drama. Finally, the ending has some really big problems in the fact of what message it's conveying. At least the images shown felt absolutely unfit in regards to the rest of the film's message and theme. I think that it wasn't intentional, but how the ending comes off on-screen is almost in bad taste.

Fortunately, there are only moments that don't work, and for the majority of its duration this film hits the perfect notes. It has incredible action and results in a riveting war drama with great performances and touching subject matter.

James' Score: 7.5/10


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