Saturday, January 21, 2017

'Hacksaw Ridge' Is the Best War Drama Since 'Saving Private Ryan'

Hacksaw Ridge is a war drama biopic about Desmond Doss (played in the movie by Andrew Garfield), the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor.  Due to his Seventh-day Adventist faith and a traumatic childhood experience, Doss has seriously taken into heart the Fifth Commandment, “Thou shall not kill”, interpreting it to mean that he must never kill regardless of the circumstance.  On the other hand, he is also patriotic, and wishes to serve his country during World War II.  Thus, he enlists in the Army, intending to be a combat medic – so he can save lives instead of take them.  His convictions, however, put him at odds with his fellow soldiers and superiors during training, as he refuses to carry a rifle and work on Saturdays.  After overcoming persecutions, even a court martial, he’s finally permitted to carry no weapon as a combat medic and is sent to the frontlines.  At the Battle of Okinawa, braving enemy fire, Doss singlehandedly evacuates many of his wounded comrades near enemy lines – an unbelievable, heroic feat that would earn him the Medal of Honor.
After a long hiatus in the directorial chair, Mel Gibson finally helmed his first film since 2006’s Apocalypto.  And the result is the best war drama since Saving Private Ryan.  I remember also saying that about 2014’s Fury.  But Hacksaw Ridge is definitely the better film overall (though I liked the action scenes in Fury more).

Though I essentially don’t agree with Doss’ beliefs, there’s something admirable in how he remained steadfast in his faith, never retaliating, despite being relentlessly ridiculed and even harmed for it.  It was wonderful how the soldiers who used to look down on him eventually esteemed him highly after seeing his courage and selflessness in the battlefield.  His story is truly remarkable.
Andrew Garfield, as Desmond Doss, is amazing.  I’m a fan of the man, as I really liked him as Spidey – I loved how he’s such a big Spider-Man fan himself, and showed apparent joy in playing the character he loves.  Thus, I’m glad that he’s earning himself Oscar buzz in his post-Spidey career (though I would love to see him to return to the role and do a Spider-Verse movie with Tom Holland and Tobey Maguire).

Aside from Garfield, the rest of the cast was pretty great as well.  Hugo Weaving and Vince Vaughn delivered their greatest performances in a while.  But the real surprises here are Sam Worthington and Luke Bracey, showcasing that they can actually act well and be likable on screen.
To sum it up, Hacksaw Ridge is a stirring and riveting movie that effectively shows the grittiness and horrors of war, while commending the merits of courage and standing firm in one’s convictions in such a scenario.  It’s a really great, worthwhile film to watch; one of the best of last year.  So in a revision of my “top 20 movies of 2016” list (if Arrival is number two), its spot would be between Kubo and the Two Strings and Rogue One.

No comments: