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Can Hack It

Apologies for my very late review of Hacksaw Ridge which opened last Friday, as well as my absence from writing reviews the past month. As always, I'm gonna claim "better late than never" and try to make up for my lack by giving you my thoughts on Mel Gibson's attempted comeback Hacksaw Ridge. On the surface Ridge might not seem super original as its easiest to describe it by bringing up other movies. Hacksaw Ridge has the brutality of Saving Private Ryan and Atonement, the steadfast integrity of standing for one's principles as seen in Chariots of Fire, showing the value of saving one life at a time like in Schindler's List, and the reliance of God in a time of war as seen in Unbroken. Heck it even has a romance straight out of Pearl Harbor or a Nicholas Sparks movie. So the question is, does Hacksaw Ridge have what it takes to stand out and be remembered on its own? And is it the redemption Mel Gibson has so desperately been looking for? The answer to both is a lukewarm "possibly."

Hacksaw Ridge follows the story of Desmond Doss (played by Andrew Garfield), a religious fellow with a marked distaste for guns and the destruction they can cause because of his relationship with his alcoholic father (Hugo Weaving) growing up. Desmond is caught up in the events of World War II, but before he leaves for duty he happens to find two sources of love. The first is that he has a knack for helping out during medical situations. The second is from a lovely nurse he can't help but to cheesily woo (Theresa Palmer). But despite her love, he feels a pull to the war and feels that it's his duty to God to save as many men as he can in the role of a medic. A medic who refuses to touch a gun. However, convincing the army of his intentions is a lot harder than he bargained for.

After a really poignant scene to begin the film, Hacksaw Ridge suffers from spending too much time (or perhaps not enough) on a sweet but generic love story. Andrew Garfield and Theresa Palmer are both good in their roles, but don't have the spark in their chemistry to elevate their story. As such, the story doesn't really get good until it breaks free of their story and moves on to the bigger picture of the war. War films are not typically among my favorite genres, but the particular story of this one I found to be pretty inspiring and captivating once it began to truly unfold. As I mentioned before, the violence during the battle scenes is so devastatingly vicious that it truly frightens you as a human being. These scenes are one of the the biggest highlights of the film and are expertly crafted by Gibson to truly portray the horrific nature of war. There isn't glory in these scenes, but utter brutality in the loss of human life. This imagery juxtaposed with the decision that Doss makes is incredible makes the film carry more weight.

Hacksaw Ridge definitely takes its time to be more than average, but it helps to have the solid Andrew Garfield giving a heartfelt performance the whole way through. He might not be perfect at portraying a West Virginia boy, but in the second half of the film it's easy to see him lost in the performance in a wonderful way. The final third of the film is how the movie should be remembered and was a very good effort for Gibson (even if some people might think he was heavy handed in trying to get his Christian message across.) As a whole, it to me was what Unbroken failed to be. A powerfully true war story in which I cared about the character and his intense journey, and felt his reliance of his God. RATING 8/10

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