Tis the season, Oscar season and with Oscar season comes the inevitable Oscar bait films. These always include true stories, and there are already several contenders this year: Jackie, Loving, and now Hacksaw Ridge starring Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughan, Hugo Weaving and Teresa Palmer and directed by Mel Gibson.
Hacksaw Ridge is an incredible true story. It is the tale of Desmond Doss (Garfield) an American soldier who served during WWII. He was a combat medic who would go out with the rest of the soldiers as they tried to conquer an insurmountable battlefield in Japan known as Hacksaw Ridge. What is a tremendous aspect of Doss’ service was that he never carried a firearm due to his beliefs. He was a conscientious objector which ruffled a lot of feathers among his peers since he still wished to serve his country during wartime but did not want to take a life. It is these clashing ideals against the backdrop of WWII that sets the stage for a hell of a time at the cinema.
Mel Gibson is uncompromising with how he tells the story of Desmond Doss a man who is almost too perfect to have been real. It’s fascinating seeing this innocent and wonderfully charming young man, played with gusto by Andrew Garfield, push through all the dirt and blood that is thrown at him and still come out as someone of both good conscience and merit.
What works so well for Hacksaw Ridge is the incredible directing and cinematography. Gibson has outstanding skills that, in my opinion, truly shows the utter brutality of war. I honestly jumped at moments out of sheer terror, and there are long stretches of tension which permeate throughout the latter third of Hacksaw Ridge that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
As well as the striking imagery the cast of Hacksaw Ridge are almost universally firing on all cylinders. As I previously stated Garfield is wonderful as Doss, and he is joined by a great supporting cast but the spotlight is on him, and he shines. Hugo Weaving gives another noteworthy performance, possibly the best in the film as Doss father who is still haunted from his service in WWI. It’s captivatingly tragic, and I couldn’t take my eyes off Weaving every time he was on screen.
Unfortunately, amid these ace performances, there are sadly a few duds. Sam Worthington continues to play it on the same emotional level he’s had since he debuted in Avatar and Vince Vaughan is sadly miscast as the sergeant of the unit. Vaughan simply didn’t sell the reality of the situation to me, and ultimately his presence detracted from my overall enjoyment of the film.
However, in the end, these are minor issues, and I still found myself in awe after many scenes due to the sheer level of talent on the screen coupled with masterful cinematography and direction.
Gibson and Garfield have delivered a real contender for best picture this Oscar season, and if I were a betting man, I’d put money on Hacksaw Ridge walking away with the Best Picture Oscar. Check it out this weekend when it releases on January 27th.