Review: There’s a sense of accomplishment embarks after watching Mel Gibson’s comeback, Hacksaw Ridge; a contention knowing that ‘faith’ eventually found a path to a Hollywood spectacle in its most honest manifestation. As much as it is a celebration of technical achievement, this off-beat war film is also a real-world answer to Gibson’s first two faith-laden adversaries, The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto.
Hacksaw Ridge isn’t a preach about faith whatsoever, yet, it is honest in admitting that faith is the epicenter of this biopic of a Seventh-day Adventist who received Medal of Honor in aftermath of World War II. Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield, in his quirkiest role by far) is the unsung hero; he’s enlisting in World War II like many other youths at that time, but not as a soldier, but rather a paramedic. Despite objection from his war-traumatized father (Hugo Weaving), Desmond keeps going on and ‘fights’ to finally receive the highest honor for his courage in saving 75 lives without ever touching a gun.
Opened with one of the most visceral war depiction in modern times, it is hard to imagine that Hacksaw Ridge is beyond that; it’s an antiwar message delivered in the quirkiest way it can be. Yet, once we met the man who send the message, Desmond, it suddenly goes crystal clear.
Born in a kinda dysfunctional family, in which his father is a quick-tempered, violent man; Desmond’s vow not to touch gun is originated. His encounter with his eventual paramour, Dorothy (Teresa Palmer), a nurse in a local hospital, forges his determination to be a medic in the war. Desmond is a man of God; and this is a story about determination, faith and compassion in the most diabolical side of war.
While the battle scenes come at its most visceral way—from burnt flesh, scattered bowels, headshots, or misplaced limbs—it’s all composed into a beautiful grotesque art, making an entry for the faith. Not in an explicit way, but comes in determination and compassion led by principle that Desmond brings into the battle. Desmond is persistent on thinking that the fifth (out of Ten) Commandments, “do not murder,” needs no asterisk; no terms and condition required. Some might say his motivation is silly, ridiculous and out of place; yet, it’s the nature of ‘faith.’ It is strict, conservative and sometimes unflexible; but it is meant for the greater good. Desmond is as stubborn as his belief, but he listens and saves people. That’s what Hacksaw Ridge tries to highlight, as an answer to Mel Gibson’s darker depiction of faith in his previous filmography.
Presented as a friendly spectacle, Hacksaw Ridge takes its time to get into the saintly deeds. This biopic is mainly divided into three major parts. First, pre-war exposes Desmond’s family background and sweet romance. Second, the training camp period, where he stands against all the bully and trial he receives for defending his belief. It culminates in the third part: the war, where Desmond courageously struggles in saving lives, instead of taking lives. Each part benefits from Gibson’s heartfelt direction, making each part a solid fragment of a greater framework, which culminates in the Medal-of-Honor-esque deeds.
With one of the most important war scenes in recent history and Andrew Garfield’s goofy but sympathetic performance, Mel Gibson’s comeback feels like a sweet victory. Though it also feels a bit popcorn-ish, Hacksaw Ridge is a solid piece of based-on-true-events story of determination, compassion, and faith in the heart of visceral war with a sympathetic subject matter. When it comes to the saintly deeds the subject does in the war, this essential biopic is touching and uplifting as much as it is memorable.
Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
Drama, Biography, War Directed by: Mel Gibson Written by: Robert Schenkkan, Andrew Knight Starred by: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving, Teresa Palmer, Vince Vaughn Runtime: 131 mins Rated R
This review is sponsored by Book My Show Indonesia.