Skip to main content

Danny McBride stars as Dundee’s Son In Dundee: The Son of a Legend Returns Home

Movie Review: Hacksaw Ridge

Gibson's latest has a brave heart, but little more.

Review by Brandon Wolfe

Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge is a film as bifurcated as they come. A war epic centering on the true-life story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a combat medic for the U.S. Army in WWII, Ridge gives audiences the precise sort of gruesome carnage-fest one would expect from Gibson as a filmmaker, but only in its second hour. Its first hour is infinitely more serene in its depiction of Doss’ travails in basic training, where his stance as a conscientious objector puts him at odds with his superiors and fellow soldiers. The struggle Doss faces, with taunting from his vicious commanding officer (a very miscast Vince Vaughn), physical abuse from his peers, forced psychiatric evaluations, and even an attempted court martial, paints the film initially as a low-key tale of conflict, making the shift to war-is-hell chaos and bloodshed a tad jarring.

Clearly made with Full Metal Jacket on the brain, Hacksaw Ridge essentially casts Doss as an amalgamation of Vincent D’Onofrio’s tormented Private Pyle and Matthew Modine’s violence-shy Private Joker. Doss, raised in a religious household, has sworn off violence of any sort since a childhood incident where he nearly killed his brother Hal by braining him with a rock. When the grown Hal (Nathaniel Buzolic) enlists to fight in the war against the wishes of their harsh, battle-weary father (Hugo Weaving, occasionally flirting with abusive-dad parody ala Walk Hard), it inspires Doss to do the same, despite his do-no-harm nature and his burgeoning romance with Dorothy (Teresa Palmer), the kindly nurse whose acquaintance he’s recently made. After showing skills with fashioning a makeshift tourniquet, Doss decides the way to serve his country without taking life is to enlist as a medic. That way he can save lives while others do the dirty work.

Because Doss was both an actual person and a genuine hero, it’s difficult to criticize him for his principles, but he is frequently a frustrating character in the film’s first half. His objection to killing is certainly noble, but as it extends to even the act of simply holding a weapon during basic training, it’s hard not to share the exasperation of the other characters, who keep pointing out to him that he doesn’t actually need to fire his gun at another human being, just to hold it. His refusal to do so, acting as though firearms are cursed objects, marks him as stubborn and obstinate rather than gallant and upright.

In this first half, Gibson paints with broad brushstrokes. Doss is all gee-whiz innocence, Dorothy is an earth angel, Vaughn’s Sergeant Howell is a monster, etc. There isn’t a lot of shading in anyone, certainly not nearly as much as was on display in Full Metal Jacket. But it’s clear that Gibson is merely biding his time until he gets to unleash Hell in the second half. When Doss’ squadron is dispatched into the Battle of Okinawa, taking on Japanese forces stationed near the titular cliff, that’s where Hacksaw Ridge rolls up its sleeves and gets messy. Gibson, a man whose directorial filmography is distinguished by grueling violence and bloody martyrdom (he is, of course, the man who piñata’d our Lord and Savior for two straight hours), is clearly out to make Saving Private Ryan look like Hogan’s Heroes. Brains, blood and entrails spatter all over the screen as soldiers are obliterated by artillery fire. It’s fine, visceral filmmaking, even if Gibson occasionally betrays his action-movie background in some of the stunts.

It’s in the aftermath of this slaughterhouse that Hacksaw Ridge finally manages to honestly come by some emotions, at least those beyond mere revulsion. When his unit retreats, leaving many of his men wounded and dying high up on that cliff, Doss stays behind, clandestinely dressing the wounded and lowering them down the mountainside to safety. All told, he saved 75 soldiers that day, never concerning himself with his own well-being and never firing a single shot at the enemy. Doss’ heroism is touching enough to buy back a lot of the tedium that marred the early proceedings of the film, back when Gibson seemed to be trying to force himself into Ron Howard’s skin. It’s not enough to elevate Hacksaw Ridge to classic status, even among the war subgenre, but there still exists nobility in winning a battle if not the war.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Brandon Wolfe at @BrandonTheWolfe.


Popular posts from this blog

NEW Clip From SABOTAGE And Images From Surprise Screening

Things get heated between Arnold and his team in this tense new clip from SABOTAGE. This brand new clip shows how pressure begins to rise between this elite DEA squad, as everything starts unraveling after a big drug bust. From the writer of Training Day and the director of End of Watch, this thriller will have you guessing until the end. Get to the bottom of this mystery on MARCH 28th- but until then, be sure to watch the new clip below.

This past weekend Arnold Schwarzenegger gave fans a BIG surprise at the annual ARNOLD SPORTS FESTIVAL, where he and Joe Manganiello met with fans at a special screening of SABOTAGE! Just after that, the dynamic duo headed over to Chicago for another surprise appearance.

SABOTAGE hits theaters everywhere MARCH 28th, 2014!

In "SABOTAGE", Arnold Schwarzenegger leads an elite DEA task force that takes on the world's deadliest drug cartels. When the team successfully executes a high-stakes raid on a cartel safe house, they think their work i…

Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To See DEN OF THIEVES In OHIO

Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To See DEN OF THIEVES on January 16th at 7:00 PM in OHIO.

Every day, $120mm in cash is taken out of circulation and destroyed by the Los Angeles Branch of the Federal Reserve - unless a notorious, elite crew of bank robbers can pull off the ultimate heist and get to the money first... right under the noses of LA's most feared division in law enforcement.

The film stars Gerard Butler, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, O’Shea Jackson Jr and Pablo Schreiber.


In Theaters January 19, 2018





This screening will be monitored for unauthorized recording. By attending, you agree not to bring any audio and/or visual recording device including laptop computers into th…


From visionary director Ava DuVernay comes Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic which takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light and, ultimately, the triumph of love. Through one girl’s transformative journey led by three celestial guides, we discover that strength comes from embracing one’s individuality and that the best way to triumph over fear is to travel by one’s own light.

Directed by Ava DuVernay from a screenplay by Jennifer Lee based upon the beloved novel by Madeleine L’Engle, “A Wrinkle in Time” stars: Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peňa, Storm Reid, Levi Miller and Deric McCabe with Zach Galifianakis and Chris Pine.

Discuss this with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms

Please Leave A Comment-