Mel Gibson has built a bad reputation over the last decade. And rightfully so. The stuff he has said about Jews is a combination of hatefully insensitive and downright wacky at times. However, I have always believed that your personal reputation should have no affect on an artists work. Which is why I have no problem praising Mr. Gibson for his latest directorial effort, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’.
Now, most anyone who has read my work knows that I am an atheist. Yet, that does not mean that I can’t be suede by the power of a religious tale that is told exceptionally well. ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is one of those tales. It’s a movie that holds at its core a story about a man who fought the system on behalf of his faith and used his faith to save 75 lives in one amazing evening. Which could easily have felt like a sermon to the audience. But Gibson is a talented filmmaker, and he uses traditional Hollywood filmmaking to deliver a universal story.
It helps a lot that the script for ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is pretty well put together. It’s not great writing, but it does make the story of religious faith feel like one a part of its characters and not a preacher trying to tell you that you must believe. What the story does believe in is the power of old school Hollywood to deliver entertainment. I’m sure there is a much more realistic version of this true story that could have been told, but the ‘Gone with the Wind’ style grandeur fits this tale perfectly. And I guarantee that most will go see this movie before they see any of the more realistic Oscar bait coming this season.
The story takes place in three very distinct acts. This first is a traditional Hollywood romance. I’m talking as old school as you get. It’s filled to the brim with a string score to manipulate, cute dialogue, and lots of smiling. I can also guarantee you that you will be laughing as well. Andrew Garfield plays a man named Desmond Doss and he falls for a beautiful young woman named Dorothy (Teresa Palmer). Desmond is against violence, but decides he wants to serve his country in World War ll. This leads to the predicament of act two.
The second act involves Desmond in training and his fight to be a soldier that doesn’t hold a gun. The movie does a wonderful job of showing us how capable Desmond is, developing his platoon of soldiers, and creating a dramatic battle for his rights as a conscientious objector. I particularly enjoyed Vince Vaughn as the drill sergeant in this movie. Ironically, Vaughn gets some of his funniest lines ever in this serious war movie.
The final act is the part that takes this movie from good entertainment to one of the better films of 2016! Gibson is no stranger to epic battle sequences, but he out does himself here. The score is epic! The cinematography is epic! The violence is intense! And the sequence where Doss actually saves the soldiers on the battle field is one of the most memorable war sequences since the D-Day sequence in ‘Saving Private Ryan’. It’s also the most beautiful salute to the combat medic (my job during my time in the U. S. Army) that I have ever seen!
So, from act to act, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is one of the most memorable movies I’ve experienced this year. It is an epic, romantic, funny, and harrowing film that brings back an old school feeling that has been missing in the movies lately. And last, but not least, this movie is the most well made depiction of the importance of faith that I’ve ever seen. I may not agree with it. Who cares. I felt it in my bones. That’s what movie making is all about.
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