Based on a true story, Hacksaw Ridge follows Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a conscientious objector who becomes the first American Solider to receive the Medal of Honour without ever firing a shot. The film shows us Doss’ upbringing and what brought him his desire to be a medic in the war, but his religious views and anti-killing stance doesn’t go down well with his fellow soldiers and Doss must fight for his right to remain alongside them in battle. Ultimately though Doss’ actions during the battle on Hacksaw Ridge saw him single-handedly save 75 lives. His courage and bravery in the face of extreme danger – and all without a weapon – is incredibly moving and inspiring. Writers Robert Schenkkan, Andrew Knight and Director Mel Gibson have taken this incredible true story and told it beautifully.
Andrew Garfield is by far the key to this film’s success, his portrayal of Desmond Doss is incredibly moving. He shows us his boyhood charm and naivety when it comes to pursuing his love Dorothy (Teresa Palmer), but ultimately it’s all about his determination to do his bit for his country all while keeping to his beliefs in the face of adversity. Doss is punished by the other soldiers for being a coward, and they do everything they can to make him quit but he refuses to give up. Even when he is brought to a court martial for disobeying orders and not carrying a rifle, Doss stands his ground and gives a very moving speech as to why he should be allowed to go into battle without a weapon. Andrew Garfield really is brilliant in this role, you will immediately love his character and by the end you have everything crossed in the hope that he survives. Andrew portrays each scene perfectly, giving out a range of emotions that let you into his character completely, it’s no wonder he has been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar.
The rest of the cast is filled with familiar faces, Desmond’s parents are played by Hugo Weaving and Rachel Griffiths who give heartbreaking turns as a couple struggling to cope with the aftereffects of the First World War. Hugo in particular perfectly portrays a man deeply affected by the deaths of his friends – spending his days drinking beside their graves – his relationship with his wife and children deteriorate as the drinking takes over. The first part of the film concentrates on Desmond’s upbringing, giving us a real understanding as to why he won’t touch a weapon. Hugo and Rachel’s characters play a big part in this and they’re acting in every scene is incredibly moving.
The soldiers that Doss is teamed up with are all played brilliantly by new and old faces, each character brings something different to the dynamic but ultimately show that in war all different walks of life are brought together. The group is headed up by Captain Glover (Sam Worthington) and Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn), both very strong characters who at first see Doss as an inconvenience in their training of the men. Vince Vaughn’s character brings a few genuine laughs when he makes fun of the newcomers appearances, coming up with suitable nicknames for them all. This is something which you wouldn’t imagine from such a serious film, but actually the dialogue is very much what you’d expect from a Sergeant to his new recruits, it makes everything very real and personal and you feel like you connect to each of the men.
Rated 15, Hacksaw Ridge is incredibly graphic when it comes to the war scenes – definitely not one for the squeamish! – but this only enhances the realities of war and makes the film all the more realistic and emotional. Every scene is beautifully shot, creating a very powerful film, one which will stay in your mind. It’s very easy to make war films, but what makes Hacksaw Ridge stand out is the vulnerability that Doss faced as a man going into battle without a weapon. The fact that the story is all true only adds to the overall affect. Nominated for 6 Oscars, including Best Director and Best Actor, this is a film that will be remembered for a very long time.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Hacksaw Ridge. It’s a film that I will be recommending to everyone, and is one that will take you through a range of emotions in a short space of time. Beautifully acted, the whole film is simply stunning and I hope that it is recognised accordingly during this awards season. Most touchingly the end gives us real footage of Desmond Doss and highlights just how many lives this incredibly brave man saved. He is truly a war hero and one who’s story I am glad has been told.