After a hiatus of ten years, Mel Gibson directs another film and boy! What a terrific outing Hacksaw Ridge proves to be. Everything about the film falls right in place. Be it the casting, the drama, the action or for that matter the spirit of the film. Hacksaw Ridge envelops you from the moment the picture starts. The film begins with a montage of some ruthless battle footage which soon makes way for us to be introduced to our protagonist, Desmond Doss fifteen years earlier to the timeline that the actual story takes place. We learn that Doss was an unpredictably violent kid and that he had a tough family life with a father who was a war veteran and an obsessive alcoholic.
The story soon changes track to an extremely cute but brief love story that develops between Doss and his future wife to be Dorothy, a nurse at the local hospital. Even before we have had enough of their cute antics, Doss enlists to serve in the army with the only exception that he will never touch a rifle. This doesn’t go down well with the Army Brass who try their best to torture him out of the army and even try to prove him psychotic but Doss holds his ground, faces a court martial and still comes out trumps on legal grounds. He is now attached to a platoon that is going up the Hacksaw Ridge in Japan and must keep himself alive to be able to perform his task as a medic. What happens next not only makes Doss a legend but also etches his name in the list containing the bravest of the Americans ever.
Hacksaw Ridge is a brilliant film. Every little detail is taken care off in this film making it not only a satisfying watch but also greatly affecting. To start with, it has a heartwarming story to tell. The fact that many key characters die may make you feel a little down here and there but the fact that the protagonist steals victory in terms of life from the jaws of death and the sheer number of casualties that he saves is more than enough to bring a wicked grin on your face. The third act of the film is tense. The protagonist is almost constantly within the grasp of death and the fact that we know that he will never end a life only makes our heart pound even more. The sequence where he is in the thick of the battle or the ones wherein he is all alone on the ridge saving the lives of his compatriots without any help is breathtaking to watch.
The war violence is exquisite and explicit. The manners in which the sequences are choreographed and edited have a haunting and lasting impression on you. There is a sequence where a hand to hand combat is shown wherein the soldiers from the two parties converge on each other. That was a definitive moment in the action poetry that this film is. However, I really wished there was more of it. There are a few wide shots of the ridge that are occasionally marred some weak CGI. I was really surprised by the weak CGI at many places, especially the blasts on the ridge. Sans that, the rest of the on-camera action and the practical effects are exceptionally good even though they are at many junctures very comic-book like. I felt that they suited the mood and style of the film. The climactic battle sequence is ravishing to look at. Slow Motion is used more as an element than a prop and it works great to elevate the mood of the action.
Hacksaw Ridge is not battle alone. The first half of the film is dedicated to a wonderfully developed romance and an ordeal that Doss faces in the military academy. The romance, as I mentioned earlier, is extremely cute. There is little said and most of it is felt and conveyed in the mere glances that the two characters share. The development, though abrupt, never feels forced. Andrew Garfield’s boyish charm and charisma has a lot to do with the likeability of this track. The Ordeal at the Military Academy is heart-wrenching and frustrating, to say the least. The amount of torture and insult he has to face for his beliefs is really tough to watch. It is at many junctures more difficult than the battle sequences to face. These sequences are extremely well directed so as not to get overtly preachy or for that matter too melodramatic. A sound balance is maintained which really helps to make these sequences appeal and be more effective.
Coming to the performances, it’s an Andrew Garfield show from start to finish. There are many important cameos that add to the narrative but the film is about Garfield’s character and the director never loses focus on him. He proves himself worth of every shot that he figures in. He sensational in the dramatic moments at the Military Academy, that highlights his acting prowess and is adorable in the romance that he shares with the character of Dorothy played by Teresa Palmer. Palmer is ravishingly beautiful in a simple avatar that is captured flawlessly. Her act is believable and rousing. Hugo Weaving plays Doss’ father and he is wonderful. Even though I felt he took the drunken act a tad bit too far, but he still shines in the role. Sam Worthington has an important role and he does complete justice to it. The scene where he asks apology of Doss towards the end is heartwarming. Luke Bracey is great as Smitty, a soldier who at first despises Doss but later understands his true capabilities and starts respecting him.
Overall, I don’t have enough words to praise this film. Hacksaw ridge is a film that has to be experienced to be understood. The religious undertones of the film are easily overshadowed by the act of kindness and humanity that its protagonist displays. It shows religion in the brightest light that I have seen religion being portrayed in years. It’s a film about miracles. Miracles of human nature and ability. Gibson does well to ensure that he leaves no stone unturned to have the maximum effect. Hacksaw Ridge is not only entertaining but extremely enlightening. I would like to see this film nominated for the best picture Oscar this year. Even if it isn’t, it will still remain one of the best of the year for me.
Rating : 4.5/5 (4.5 out of 5 Stars)