By Ian Morton
Hacksaw Ridge is a decent combination of drama and action but some out of place heroics hold it back from becoming one of the greats.
From youth through to the Ridge assault in Okinawa, the story follows Desmond Dos, a World War 2 medic and recipient of the medal of honour, as he fights to serve his country without firing a single bullet.
Although many have tried, very few actors have had the success both in front of and behind the camera as Mel Gibson. While on screen most of his success has come from buddy cop and action flicks, it would appear behind the camera, drama is his genre of choice. Hacksaw Ridge follows that trend, blending elements of his previous successes together to tell the humbling story of war hero, Desmond Dos.
Structured well, the story and direction are well suited to one another, not only telling an incredible story but seemingly doing justice to our main character at the same time. Split into two main sections; the first half uses the drama of pre-war living to set the scene, develop character depth and motivation, while the second ramps up the intensity to show how our hero earnt his medal of honour. This method of storytelling is impressive as it not only helps the audience keep engaged but it also provides a good platform to keep the narrative moving along at a steady, consistent pace. The result is that the audience are never made to wait around for something to happen and are instead thrown right into the action just when they need to be.
Going hand and hand with a strong narrative is the equally impressive visuals. Whether you are following Dos either in the training camps of the US military or thick in the battle fields of Okinawa, the scene is always set with an impressive visual display. The war is particularly brutal in its depiction, unafraid to show off how fierce the terrifying that world was. With both aesthetics and substance, it truly stands on its own two feet given the myriad of war dramas in existence.
If there is one thing that does let the film down however, it’s the occasional moments of overinflated heroism. While I mentioned previously that the main character is portrayed respectfully, it seems strange to have his comrades run around Captain America style while he himself fights to save the lives of those less fortunate. It would be wrong to compare this to something like Saving Private Ryan, but tonally, the latter’s take on the struggle of war would seem far more appropriate given the central theme this film tries to adopt. The good news however, is that although these moments only happen very occasionally.
While the pace of the film never truly requires much acting from the lead roles, the cast is quite strong. Andrew Garfield is a good lead but has more than enough support from those surrounding him. Hugo Weaving is great as the alcoholic dad while a surprising turn from Vince Vaughan adds some essential humour to a film that mostly layered with morality.
Overall, Hacksaw Ridge is gives us more than enough to get off our couches and head to the cinema. A nice, well rounded story benefits from some solid pacing and impressive visuals while the appeal of a well-rounded cast ties everything together comfortably. While there are moments when its feels like your watching Rambo, the finished product is a heart-warming tale of a brave war hero. 4 out of 5 stars.
Still catching up on that 2016 bucket list of movies? Check out what we thought of the years movies with out top 10’s: