Oscars 2017 Review: HACKSAW RIDGE | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 6 February 2017

Oscars 2017 Review: HACKSAW RIDGE

Oscars 2017 Review: HACKSAW RIDGE

Based on a true story, HACKSAW RIDGE follows a Seventh Day Adventist and conscientious objector Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), who joins the US army to serve as a WWII medic. But unlike his fellow army recruits, Doss refuses to touch or carry a gun as a result of his strong religious faith. Still, he subsequently emerges as a pacifist hero when he manages to rescue 75 wounded soldiers during the Battle of Okinawa without firing a single shot.

REVIEW: Ten years have passed since Mel Gibson last directed his violent Mayan epic called APOCALYPTO in 2006. But that same year happened to ruin his career as well, beginning with his controversial anti-Semitic rants during his DUI arrest in Malibu, California. Then came the tape scandal involving his racial outburst against ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva.

Fast-forward to present day, it's nice to see Gibson back in the director's chair for the first time ever in a decade. Whereas his acting career saw little recovery (with the exception of last year's BLOOD FATHER), Gibson's latest directorial effort in HACKSAW RIDGE proves the once-acclaimed director of BRAVEHEART (1995) and THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST (2003) still has what it takes to make a movie that commands an attention.

The first hour of the movie starts off in a leisure manner, as Gibson left no clich├ęs unturned with all the standard melodrama and a sappy love story normally expected from an old-school war genre.

Fortunately, the movie manages to improve by leaps and bounds once it shifts focus to Doss' arrival on the boot camp for basic training. From there, Gibson introduces Vince Vaughn's character as a no-nonsense drill sergeant that reminds me of FULL METAL JACKET (only R. Lee Ermey did it better, of course). In fact, his engaging appearance alone helps enlivened the otherwise typical basic training scene altogether. Not bad for an actor who is largely known for his comedy background.

Oscars 2017 Review: HACKSAW RIDGE

The biggest highlight, of course, is the extended combat scene during the Battle of Okinawa where Doss' unit is tasked to climb the cliff and take down the Japanese soldiers on the titular ridge. This is where Gibson excels the most, as he alongside cinematographer Simon Duggan and editor John Gilbert staged the scene with such visceral impact. Here, Gibson doesn't shy away from the horrors of a war as everything is as gruesome as they get. Best of all, the local censorship board here is kind enough to remain all the gore and graphic violence perfectly intact.

As for the cast, Andrew Garfield displays a likeable, yet emotionally captivating performance as Desmond Doss. Teresa Palmer is adequate enough as Doss' lovely nurse-wife, Dorothy Schutte. The rest of the supporting cast including Hugo Weaving as Doss' drunken father, Luke Bracey as tough soldier Smitty Riker and Sam Worthington as sympathetic officer Captain Glover, are all solid.

HACKSAW RIDGE concludes with an emotional epilogue that showcased a brief 2006 interview of the late real-life Doss alongside other relevant interviewees. Nominated for 6 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor for Andrew Garfield, HACKSAW RIDGE deserves a place as one of the best WWII movies ever made in a long while.

Mel Gibson's HACKSAW RIDGE may have been plagued with a melodramatic first act but this WWII epic largely succeeds, thanks to a roster of fine performances and a well-choreographed combat scene.

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