February 17, 2017

Hacksaw Ridge

Mel Gibson, 2016
Mel Gibson probably doesn't get the credit that he really deserves from his work directing films. Most people probably praise him for his work directing Braveheart, which was really the closest thing that we had to Game of Thrones in the mid-1990's. Then there was the controversial Passion of the Christ, Gibson's violently honest offering to his Christian faith. But I will come out and say it was his next film Apocalypto that had me convinced that he is a solid filmmaker. Apocalypto still didn't get nearly the same amount of eyes on it as the previous two films did. Probably never will. It's not necesarilly a film intended to please the masses, being a quite brutal depiction of the Mayan civilization.

Hacksaw is another tribute to Gibson's Christian faith. It tells the true story of Desmond Doss (played by Andrew Garfield), a Seventh Day Adventist Army Medic who saved the lives of 75 soldiers in one night and was awarded the Medal of Honor without ever firing a shot. Doss, because of his devout faith, intended on going to war but never had any interest in even holding a rifle - considering it to be a killing machine and going against his principles. This didn't go over well early on, with much of the first act focusing on the adversity that Doss was up against. He refused to engage in basic rifle drills in basic training - causing tension amongst his peers and ultimately causing him to become court martialed. I personally had my doubts about Garfield in a leading role going into this film. That's not to say he isn't a good actor - he certainly is. For me his standout performance was as Eduardo in David Finscher's The Social Network. But after seeing what kind of actor the Doss character would require, I could see why Garfield was cast here. There is a softness for the Desmond character thats required for it to be authentic, Garfield is able to deliver that. I still have no intention of seeing the Spiderman reboots but Garfield was totally capable here.

There is a defining moment in his film, and it's in the second act when they enter the battlefield. Uncomfortable silence erupts into complete pandemonium in a way that I've never seen. Gibson is able to create a World War II battle sequence that not only looks original, but will probably go down as one of the best ever. Right up there with the D-Day sequence in Saving Private Ryan. It's done in a way that feels authentic and doesn't glamorize war. You get a sense of the desperation and shock on both sides. It's the first battle sequence that really punches the gas pedal. From that point on the film doesn't really change. It becomes more intense, more magnetic, more gripping. This movie should only continue to reinforce Gibson's ability to really direct a film. He's told very different stories at this point, it seems like there's no topic that he really can't manage.

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