Despite scoring a massive sectarian ‘own goal’ which saw his Hollywood stock plummet over the past decade – Mel Gibson is slowly making a mini movie resurgence.
He follows up his directorial Oscar-winning turn in Braveheart, and acclaimed efforts The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto, by helming this biographical war drama which has notched Academy Awards nominations for Best Director, Best Film and Best Actor for its star Andrew Garfield.
It’s particularly fitting for Garfield to receive such a nod, particularly when he was unceremoniously dumped as the previous iteration of Spider-Man (he wasn’t the problem), when the producers shoddily messed up the second film.
He stars in this World War II drama as American army medic Desmond Doss – who became the first man in US history to receive the Medal of Honour without firing a shot – as this chronicles his upbringing in a Virginian backwater town (being brought up by Hugo Weaving’s abusive alcoholic father Tom), courtship of local nurse Dorothy (Warm Bodies’ Teresa Palmer), followed by his abusive training when he enlists in the army.
As a conscientious objector – wanting to help on the battlefield but due to his faith refusing to even hold a rifle – his trials and tribulations under the watchful eye of Vince Vaughn’s (DodgeBall) Sergeant Howell, Sam Worthington’s (Avatar) Captain Glover and aggressive unit hard man ‘Smitty’ Riker (Point Break remake’s Luke Bracey) are quite jaw-droppingly unlawful, as he really goes through the ‘ringer’ to make it through training as the powers-that-be try their best to court-martial him.
But eventually when there’s no other options available for the army to stop him, Doss finally makes it to Japan for the bloody Battle of Okinawa and what he does on this ‘hell on Earth’ battleground called Hacksaw Ridge is simply remarkable.
Despite some disjointed moments where the film doesn’t quite seem what it wants to be – see Vaughn’s Full Metal Jacket-alike scene – bordering on slightly cheesy at times, there’s no denying that when the full-fledged battle of war rages this turns into a viscerally emotional drama that any fans of the genre should lap up.
The particularly intense last hour is expertly guided by Gibson and superbly delivered by Garfield, alongside a noteworthy supporting cast.
It’s no Saving Private Ryan or Platoon, but as war dramas go this is still a cut above the rest – and dishes up truly solid fare.
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Luke Bracey, Sam Worthington, Teresa Palmer, Vince Vaughn, Hugo Weaving, Luke Pegler, Rachel Griffiths, Robert Morgan & Richard Roxburgh
Running Time: 2 Hrs 19 Mins
Director: Mel Gibson
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