Cinemaster Score: 9/10
Overall, Hacksaw Ridge is near the peak of war flicks. Every aspect that entertains an audience who watches it (as either fan or critic) is amazing. Andrew Garfield does a fantastic job in the main role of Doss, defining his best abilities in acting. The script is written well and helps to form the characters’ dynamics. Gibson puts in some of his best efforts yet behind directing Hacksaw Ridge, too. The story is incredible and an important piece of history that many would look over otherwise. Not only is it accurate to the real events but it also has a touch of romance and some extraordinary effects in inflicted on-screen injuries, pleasing just about any audience. It is quite an amazing film and falls victim primarily in a lack of tone consistencies throughout the story. Hacksaw Ridge may have released just in 2016 but it feels like a classic and will be a great watch (and rewatch) for years to come.
Acting; Just two years after playing one of the most renowned superheroes ever in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Andrew Garfield returns to the big screen as a more important type of hero. In 2016’s Hacksaw Ridge Garfield plays Desmond T. Doss, a medic during World War II. Andrew Garfield’s on-screen presence nearly steals the show with his performance being quite a surprise. He is amazing as Doss both in physical demeanor and emotional representation. With Garfield are some real standout actors playing side characters – e.g. Vince Vaughn as Sergeant Howell or Sam Worthington as Captain Glover. The cast in whole pull together to form balance and emotion for some truly outstanding performances. .
Script; Without a doubt, Hacksaw Ridge is written well. Though it does contain moments where the dialogue is a little too straightforward, the script does a good job of rounding out the characters. Desmond Doss in particular is easy to sympathize with and is easily the best part of the movie. His character is given many memorable lines and moments that do the real-life hero justice. The supporting cast are quite interesting on their own, even with their lack of compelling dialogue. Each of them plays the role they are supposed to, but nothing more than that. There are moments where the writing shines in Hacksaw Ridge but they are sparse and don’t happen enough to warrant praise. All-in-all the script work is top-notch in its purpose but it does little to expand the film’s secondary characters.
Characters; When it comes to the characters of Hacksaw Ridge, they are some of the best in any war movie out there. Desmond Doss is one of the most likeable protagonists we’ve seen in a while – thanks in part to a great performance from Andrew Garfield. His struggle to preserve his beliefs of non-violence in the midst of a war is compelling and the unflinching courage he displays while doing so makes it easy to root for him. His parents, Tom Doss and Bertha Doss (played wonderfully by Hugo Weaving and Rachel Griffiths), are equally as interesting in their roles. Weaving’s character especially has a dynamic relationship with Desmond that drives the first and second acts of the film. Their conflicting personalities make for some stirring moments between the two. As for the remainder of the cast, such as Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington among others – they are well-played but don’t offer nearly as much to the table as our central characters. The character work as a whole is excellent and should not be overlooked.
Direction; For Mel Gibson (Director), Hacksaw Ridge was publicly viewed as his comeback to directing. Prior to Hacksaw Ridge in 2016 Gibson had only really been known as a director for the infamously graphic The Passion of the Christ and Braveheart which he starred in. Those two films plus a few relatively unknown films under his belt meant Hacksaw Ridge could go either way. So, when Hacksaw Ridge came out it was a pleasant experience to see what Gibson put forth. In this unique historical drama, Gibson is able to take different pieces of what he’s done well in the past and bring them to a balance. Gibson puts in the appropriate amount of brutal, graphic detail to show how traumatic war can be. He also adds in the heart that had shone throughout the story of Braveheart in the protagonist of Desmond Doss. The story of a real-life war hero is done justice by Gibson’s capabilities in direction and the movie simply wouldn’t be the same without him.
Story; This is perhaps the most graphic war film ever made and yet its story saves these moments for the back half of the movie. From its opening to its second act, Hacksaw Ridge is an emotionally charged journey for Desmond Doss. As he grows into manhood, Desmond shows an interest in joining the Army to save lives. But his conviction over non-violence leads him down a path of self-doubt and extreme opposition. As this situation reaches its climax, you wonder when the war will actually begin. It is at this junction where Hacksaw Ridge becomes a completely different beast. The on-screen depiction of the battle for Hacksaw Ridge is bloody, brutal, and relentless. Nothing in its beginning will prepare you for what is to come, as it is tonally different in every way. Hacksaw Ridge is practically two very different films merged into one and you should be weary of this extreme tonal shift. This makes for a unique story that separates Hacksaw Ridge from others in the crowded genre.
Enjoyment; When it comes to war films, the enjoyment for audiences usually relies on historical accuracy, gritty violence, and heart. Those pieces are all balanced in an essentially perfect manor for Hacksaw Ridge. Without being overtly nitpicky, the accuracy in film to the actual events and Desmond Doss’ life is pretty solid. The violence is graphically realistic in representing WWII very well. Despite the blood and gore showing up no more than necessary, it would definitely make someone with a weak stomach queasy. However, most people wanting to watch a war movie are prepared for such brutality. The heart is what really pulls it all together, though. The heart at the center of Hacksaw Ridge’s story makes you care for the film when the credits finally roll and leaves you talking about it well after.
David: ” Before watching Hacksaw Ridge, none of what I’d heard could even remotely do it justice. I was ready for violence and when the film caught me with the rich emotional substance I was impressed. Few war movies have been so appealing to feelings and story over action and entertainment. It’s an amazing movie that I highly recommend.”
JP: “Hacksaw Ridge is such an underrated film and I think so many more people need to see it. The way it tells such an emotional story while also serving as a heroic war tale is amazing to watch. You should watch it just for Andrew Garfield’s performance – he is at his absolute best. Give this movie a chance and I swear you won’t regret it.”