Purity, absolute goodness, an unbreakable will; characteristics like these are common within Hollywood films. The difference with Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson, is the truth about this story. There is no denying that what happened back in World War II was devastating; a complete abandonment of morals. But among the debris and smoke of Okinawa, one man makes the effort to be compassionate and loving to others around him. Something we should all be looking to learn from.
The film begins in Lynchburg, Virginia, the birth town of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield). During the time in this town we get insight into his early life, specifically the problems with his war induced alcoholic and temperamental father Tom Doss (Hugo Weaving). I was horrified to find out that Tom Doss regularly abused Desmond’s mother (Rachel Griffiths) as a result of his alcoholism. We find out that it was one of those abuse sessions that causes Desmond to become the man he was on that battlefield.
It is clear from those early scenes that we are able to become close to the characters within the film. I would like to associate this with the quality acting from the main cast, specifically that of the protagonist Desmond Doss. Andrew Garfield had become known to me as the Peter Parker, aka Amazing Spider Man; so for him to be able to switch to a much more serious role was incredibly remarkable and definitely shows his apt and depth in acting. His most heartfelt scene was the rescue scene, when he was lying on his back after saving several of his comrades and asking God to help him save “one more” person “just one more”. And each time he saved another, he would ask again and again and again. The empathetic emotion I felt for him in that moment was real. Maybe it helped that this was based on a true story, but I wholeheartedly think the acting sold it to me. But this being the 21st century, I also love special effects and how they help to tell this story.
Dan Oliver, special effects supervisor and Chris Godfrey, visual effects supervisor, have done some hard work. For them, they have had to make this war seem real to the audience. Every bullet, every explosion, every grenade, needs to be precisely accounted for. In saying this, I would also like to commend the arts department for their ability to realistically recreate the impact wounds seen on the soldiers that had been caused by the varying World War II weapons. There were several scenes when I felt a loss for humanity over the sheer realness of the injuries. Describing these scenes to you is arduous; simply imagine your innards on the ground in front of you. Yuck! For many of these anti war scenes I really felt as if I were right there, staring into the remains of soldiers, wondering why this has to happen. It was only after those scenes concluded that I was able to pull myself back to reality enough in order to realise I was only watching the film, I wasn’t actually in it.
I wish I didn’t have to give a rating to this film as I feel that it limits it. It should be beyond ratings. The purpose of this film was to share the extraordinary accomplishment of the remarkable individual known as Desmond Doss who saved 75 of his comrades and some other individuals on his own, under constant enemy fire, and without a weapon (as he believed against them). Like many of Desmond’s comrades, I believe this incident to be a miracle. The shear capacity of one man has limits, but as Desmond shows, anything is possible for those who want to make a difference. Anything is possible for those who believe.
I highly recommend this film to anyone.
Review by Kyle Macadam