It has been my belief that in war, most of the time there are no heroes, only participants. But, in Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge, there is a hero. A hero in its truest sense. In this year’s another sensational film, La La Land, we saw how it is important to never let go of what you want or what you dream, even if the circumstances are trying. In Hacksaw Ridge, we see even in dire situations and in face of dreadful consequences how it is important to never let go of who you are.
For in Hacksaw Ridge, the protagonist Desmond Doss reminds us that it is the belief, the ideology of person and their actions that define them and not the fulfillment of norms. Based on true events, the film tells the story of an American man who becomes the first Conscientious Objector to win the Medal of Honor. To put in a simpler term, Desmond Doss’ belief and conscience does not allow him to kill another human being, or even pick a gun. He still enlists to serve as a combat medic.
What follows, is a struggle. Both internal and external where Doss is subjected to humiliation, violence and time in jail. There even comes a time when he had to choose between love and the belief that made him the person he is. But, his unfaltering energy and determination to stay true in its own eyes make him the hero that this film is celebrating.
Mel Gibson and writers Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan strike the perfect balance between a biographical drama and a war film. At one side, the battle scenes are shot exquisitely. Filled with realism and horrors of war. Gibson doesn’t pull his punches in showing the harrowing brutality. The film would remind people of the battles in Saving Private Ryan or in the excellent mini-series Band of Brothers. At another side, there’s enough room in the film to explore the life of Doss. The relationship with his father, his love for his wife, all these beautifully depicts the tenderness, the gentle yet resolute soul of Doss.
Andrew Garfield plays Desmond Doss and I cannot imagine anyone doing a better job than him in this role. Garfield’s boyish charm reflects the character’s innocence. Be it when he flirts or when he refuses to carry firearms, he seems sincere and determined and yet gentle and sweet. The film is buoyed by the heroism of the character of Desmond Doss, which in turn is buoyed by Garfield’s acting. The chemistry between Garfield and a fine Teresa Palmer, who plays Dorothy, Desmond’s wife, strikes the emotional chord enough to give a dramatic dimension in this film. Speaking of emotional bond, Hugo Weaving churns a top performance as Doss’ father. You feel the desperation and the frustration his character feels when his sons enlist in the army, as he had watched most of his friends die while serving himself. The supporting cast of 77th Infantry Division, including Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, and Vince Vaughn, does well too. Particularly Vaughn.
Mel Gibson directs this film after a gap of approximately 10 years, and it would appear that the time has not put rust on his direction mettle. Hacksaw Ridge is perhaps the best War film of this decade and certainly one of the finest of this genre.