Directed by: Mel Gibson
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Vince Vaughn
Runtime: 139 min
Hacksaw Ridge is the second movie based on a true story in a row for me, after my last review of Deepwater Horizon. This time, it's the story about Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a conscientious objector who saved 75 men in the middle of one of the bloodiest battles of the World War II, in Okinawa.
He strongly believed that killing is always a sin and, even if he agreed with the purpose of the war, he didn't feel like killing some Japanese, but more like to save his men and serve his country, as an army medic, without ever touching a gun.
Wow. That's what I have to say about Hacksaw Ridge, one of the best war movies that I've seen in a long, long time ... Not only a great war film, but also a very profound, compelling and captivating story that turns into something even greater when I realize that it actually happened and that Doss actually is a national hero.
I want to start with Mel Gibson as a director: stick to it, sir! I know that his name isn't properly associated with good things nowadays, but this masterpiece of filmmaking has to change the way people in Hollywood currently look to this underrated director. I actually think he's one of the best directors regarding the near-perfect use of the camera on war-type action scenes and the way he depicts every aspect of the horror, fright and bloodiness that a war has (just check Braveheart). Oscar-worthy directing!
Andrew Garfield ... I'll just assume that the Amazing Spider-Man spoof was a misleading error and I'll absolve you from all that crap. Just stick to more serious and deep movies like this. Another Oscar nomination for Hacksaw Ridge, for sure! What felt a little cheesy at the beginning turned into such an inspiration later in the film, his inhuman belief carried not only himself, but the whole army through Okinawa and Garfield portrays that in such an emotional way ... What a performance!
The supporting cast is also really great: Hugo Weaving (Tom Doss) is a good surprise, I didn't expect him to be as good as he was, Vince Vaughn (Sgt. Howell) and Sam Worthington (Captain Glover) have performances even more surprising! Everyone is at their top, portraying characters based on real heroes seems to inspire them in a way that makes the actors motivate themselves to inspire us, the audience. They're all just great and believable!
It's a great movie, but I do have two minor issues with it, one with the first act and the other one with the last few minutes of the film. The first act's pacing is really slow and I totally understand that there are characters needing depth and personality, but I still think it's too long and that its not-so-smooth flow could've been far better. From the moment Doss goes to the training camp, that's when the film picks up and takes us to an awesome journey.
Finally, at the end (without spoiling anything of course) the film shows some interviews with the real Desmond Doss and some other real movie characters, as any true story film usually has. My problem is not with that, but with what the director actually decides to end the movie with (aka, before the interviews). Mel Gibson decides that a "reading path" is the best ending, but it felt like it ended the movie in a slightly abrupt way and without the characters that we just spent two hours with.
But that's nothing!
Hacksaw Ridge is one of the best war films that I've seen probably since Saving Private Ryan (better than Black Hawk Down, in my opinion). Mel Gibson's directing skills are to praise infinitely and Andrew Garfield's emotional performance puts him as a front-runner for an Oscar together with his director. Inspiring story, frightening awesome war scenes, beautifully shot (excellent use of the camera) and a great supporting cast as well. A slow-paced first act and a slightly abrupt "reading ending" are nothing when we are discussing a 2h-long movie with such incredible characters.