- Hacksaw Ridge (2017)
Slipping under the enemy lines without a weapon to protect yourself might be a lunacy – nonetheless, private Desmond Doss doesn’t want to win the war by killing, but rather by repairing the world that has gone madly wrong. Mel Gibson recruited Andrew Garfield to recreate a true story of a guy who swapped a rifle for syringes with morphine in Hacksaw Ridge, bringing salvation to his comrades in the middle of a WWII bloodshed.
A peaceful town doesn’t show you what it’s like to witness the barbarian circumstances of the war, Desmond Doss’s father warns him when he enrols to serve his country during the WWII. But no matter how protective you are, you could never convince somebody who’s set for realising an idea, that it’ll be much more difficult than they imagine. The boy’s head is full of ideals, and he’s willing to sacrifice his happiness for them: he’s just found his other half, but he doesn’t feel happy to see all his friends setting off for a war, knowing he can’t help. He enlists as a medic – but he has one strong objection: he will never touch a weapon, cause he swore to never take anybody’s life. However, Desmond has no idea how difficult it will be to explain his youthful idealism to the others – but he’s yet to understand what changed his parent into a violent alcoholic and play his very important part in a battle of Okinawa.
The story that Mel Gibson took up is another addition to his celebration of human’s heroism. When we reminisce Apocalypto and The Passion of Christ that have been the highlights on his resume, it’s easy to tell what charmed him and encouraged to pursue this story. And it’s done in the style that you could call his distinctive: there’s the hero, holding onto what he believes in, and putting himself forward for the pain and hardships. In Hacksaw Ridge, the universal story is told without overbearing religious symbolism – and an ordinary hero, whose story you’ll find unlikely to discover between the pages of a history textbook, comes alive. These “everyday” stories are what makes up the big events and changes – and the film holds onto that wholeheartedly.
War often eradicates all the values and beliefs that one holds – and this ecranisation of a true story, brought to life by Mel Gibson, stops us for a while to think holding onto the principles that we find important, and how serving a cause doesn’t always take an obvious direction. It takes a youthful, uncompromising outlook on life and puts it into a test: private Doss needs to endure a lot to go into the battle without a rifle on him, from a court-martial dispute to a game with death during the fight.
We’ve got Andrew Garfield (mostly known for his Spiderman rendition, recently starring in Scorsese’s Silence) as a main character who channels (almost unbelievable) boyish naivety and warmth, only to follow with heroic courage based on dramatic efforts fantastically. We don’t witness a character transformation lead by him so much. Instead, it’s a psychological portrait of a man who persistently proves himself to those who misjudged him. Even if it’s not spoiling the film for us, the humble hero is not always portrayed with his flaws which sometimes makes us wonder if we’re watching a martyrdom story of a sacred man again.
Vince Vaughn as an uncompromising leader throwing hilarious insults at his team is a very welcome addition. He’s tough and categorical, makes soldiers’ lives unbearable, but provides a refreshing contrast that spices up the first half of the film effectively.
The cinematic commotion portrayed in the battlefield scenes puts a few questions forward. Is that painful commitment to a cause, that drives young boys to sacrifice their lives, necessary? Can’t the change be made in any other way? Thanks to the accurate depiction of the war, what we see is staggeringly heartbreaking. It’s not all victories and cute boys in uniforms at all – but rather smoke, tumult of artillery, smashed limbs and decomposing bodies that provide a feast for rats in the trenches. The camerawork is utilised to the full and devoted to showing the dreadful side of the war, and it’s incredibly powerful. Moreover, in contrast to the idyllic small town in Virginia, where Desmond gets a kiss from his sweetheart on a top of the mountains, it plays on audience’s emotions even stronger.