HACKSAW RIDGE [2016]

Directed by Mel Gibson

Written by Andrew Knight (screenplay), Robert Schenkkan (screenplay)

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey


The movie sets the tone by beginning with a fiery scene, in which we see destruction and mayhem on the battlefield. Our main character Desmond Doss begins to narrate, quoting scripture, which gives us an idea where the film is heading. We are then taken back to his childhood, where we learn why he refuses to wield a firearm later in his life. Hugo Weaving is great here in a small role as Desmond’s alcoholic father, who is a veteran himself of the First World War.

This serves a nice introduction into why Desmond is the way he is. What doesn’t work though is that barely fifteen minutes into the movie, he meets a girl. Ten minutes later they want to get married.

Given this is a two hour movie, this entire sequence could have been snipped, making for a snappier movie, while also allowing us to not suffer through the awful, sentimental melancholic bullshit that we are forced to watch. I was close to walking out, as this section of the movie honestly feels like a bog-standard romantic comedy, not to mention it is very out of touch with the tone of the rest of the movie. It feels like it was shoehorned in, by someone lacking any ounce of film-making skill.

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After this trite, we move to the army barracks for training. Desmond’s refusal to carry a gun is seen by most of his comrades (and superiors) as cowardly, and his religious beliefs are mocked. “This is war” he is told, implying that God’s commandments don’t apply on the battlefield.

As if we are watching a remake of Full Metal Jacket, the next thirty or so minutes is dedicated to obstacle courses, a drill officer screaming insults at the privates (with little humour, unlike Kubrick’s classic) while Desmond is alienated from the group. A religious, southern Private Pyle. Only Desmond’s fate is far different, as we know. If we didn’t know this, there could have been some tension, but the biggest problem with these ‘based on true events’ type films is just that – we know the story, so there is no tension. We know roughly what is coming.

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Soon we find ourselves in the battlefield, as the film borrows another scene, this one from Band of Brothers, as the fresh soldiers arrive only to see the battered and broken men retreating from their goal – to capture and hold Hacksaw Ridge. Much like the entire film, this scene has no semblance of subtlety at all, as the camera focuses on the trucks carrying dead soldiers, all conveniently placed so that their heads are at the end of the truck, where we can see them. Oh, and their faces are all covered in a ton of blood – and not dried blood either.

I’m not sure how dead men can bleed fresh blood either, but this film doesn’t seem to have a great relationship with the concept of logic.

The final part of the film is where the action takes place, and it seems clear from the start that this is made for the Call of Duty crowd. The action is frantic, fast, awkwardly shot and hard to follow; soldiers are killed all over, but since we never get to know any of them, their deaths have no dramatic impact at all. Who are they? The same applies to the men Desmond saves; the lack of character depth here is quite astonishing. There are also a few set-pieces during the action are not only extremely well trodden, but also very predictable.

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Mel Gibson takes some cues from Passion of the Christ, as the battle scenes are needlessly bloody and gory. Multiple shots of legless men, intestines lying on thetwo beer ground, rats eating maggots out of a corpse… it is far too much. War is hell, no shit, but dwelling on the physical impact so much affects the rest of the movie. There should have been a lot to say, given that this is an incredible story of bravery and dedication. This is a man obeying the ten commandments on a freaking battlefield! Hell, the movie barely comments on the fact that the man did all this without a gun!

What we are left with then is a movie that says nothing much more than “GO AMERICA!”, complete with slow-motion scenes of US soldiers incinerating their enemies with flame throwers, throwing explosives down tunnels, all to swelling orchestral music in the background. If that isn’t glorification of war, I don’t know what is.

Two beers out of a sixer.

2/6

41 Comments on “HACKSAW RIDGE [2016]

  1. Hmm, interesting. I did have high hopes for this one. I like Mel Gibson as a director, but you’re right about the graphic nature of his movies – it’s a lot. Very cool review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, the graphic nature here makes Passion of the Christ seem light in comparison. I mean, I get wanting to make war look as horrific as it is, but yo u don’t need gore to do that. Just look at Saving Private Ryan. Nothing like this mess yet still an extremely powerful movie

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mel loves the bloody mess, doesn’t he? I was hoping this would be good. I’m pretty tired of the glorification of war and their battle scenes. I’m looking forward to Ang Lee’s military drama, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll have to keep a look out for that one. And yeah, some of the slow motion scenes of extreme violence with swelling orchestral music was just…. wrong. It felt so wrong in so many ways, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. And for a movie about a medic, the deaths of soldiers are everywhere and no one seems to blink. Its for the videogame generation I think

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  3. Yeeeaahhhhh your review has kind of convinced me that I really don’t feel the need to see this one. Something about it was just off-putting…lol maybe Andrew Garfield’s annoying southern accent for one.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hmmm, interesting review Jordan, as I’ve been hearing mostly good things about this one. I actually admire Mel Gibson’s directing skills and Desmond Doss certainly has a compelling story to tell, but given I can’t handle gruesome depictions, war or otherwise, I sent my friend Ted to the press screening instead. Like Cindy, I’m more looking forward to Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. I don’t mind films that tackle the psychological aspects of war instead of the horror of battles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t say I’ve seen a film directed by Mel, but if he had skill behind the camera before, he has lost it completely.

      I mean, the horrors of war can be captured without needless gore. Saving Private Ryan is a perfect example. This though goes so far over the top it really is absurd. I honestly can’t believe people are rating this movie, as it is horrible in almost every way.

      And good god, the glorification of war was also extremely…. horrible in every sense. When I described it to my Mum – slow-motion, swelling orchestral victory music in the background, with American soldiers incinerating countless Japanese – she was speechless!

      It is mind-bendingly inappropriate. Heh, and the funny thing is, I really liked Mel in Blood Father

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      • You’ve seen Braveheart right? Heh the needless gore just won’t sit well with me at all. Even more gory than Saving Private Ryan? Wow! Yeah I suppose war films are often one-sided when in actual fact there’s loss on both sides. But shouldn’t this film be focused more on Desmond character?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nope, never seen Braveheart, don’t particularly care to.

        And seriously – Saving Private Ryan isn’t gory at all compared to this movie. It is so over the top its like a ‘gore’ horror film. Sooo dumb. SPR made war horrifying, but it didn’t do that by showing graphically how several men have died. I mean, rats eating maggots out of a dead man’s skull? Did we really need that?

        The film focuses on Doss’ love story in the first 20 minutes, which was so cheesy I groaned audibly. After that he just blends in with the rest of the group. His religious stance seems to be more important in the film than what he actually did on the battlefield.

        And I find it funny that in a film about a medic, the amount of on-screen deaths are so rapid they must have set some sort of record.

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  5. I think I liked it a bit more than you..but yes, the opening was one big cheeseball fest. I did like the story it told and though the war scenes are bloody violent.. so is real war. But I turned away a few times.. Also, I just thought we got the jist that after showing us the 10th guy he saved they could have left it.. we literally saw almost everyone of them..and rope towing..ha! Also, stop with the Brits & Aussies trying to do deep south accents.. STOP!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha!! I’m with you on the accents!! Worthington wasn’t toooo bad but still, yeah. And yes wasn’t that opening cheesy! God!

      And yeah, I get that war is hell… but Saving Private Ryan had nothing gory at all, yet it is one of the best war movies ever made. Its horrific. This one seems to aimed at the crowd of young males who play first person shooter games

      Liked by 1 person

      • hahahahhaa 🙂 I’ve never played a shooter game so I couldn’t tell I know what that is..but I’m guessing you’re right. The reviews are very mixed on it right now.. I will tell you the past 2 weeks is the first of 2016 that I’ve seen 4 good films in a row.. I consider this one of them along with Loving, Arrival and Bleed for This.. I can only hope this streak continues.. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • I am really looking forward to Arrival. The other two probably didn’t make much money so they aren’t coming to our screens. =/

        When I say shooter games, I mean how the war scenes were so frantic. People dying left right and centre… the pacing felt odd, almost forced. And that is exactly what these shooter games are, constant, frantic shooting, dying over and over, and an almost total lack of tactics.

        All of this could just be me talking bollocks though haha, you don’t know those games but seemed to like this a lot more than me!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. hahahaha I know what you meant by “shooter games” I’ve just never played one..but I get what you are saying completely.. You will probably get the other 2 films.. I just see Loving will come out to you Feb of next year..which is so silly because it’s probably going to garner some type of awards buzz. For me, Bleed for This, is the best film I’ve seen all year and you will get it in Dec. It’s not just a boxing movie..so don’t let that fool you.. Arrival..by far the best Sci-Fi film I’ve seen in many many moons. 🙂 I hope you see them and enjoy them!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haven’t seen listings for Loving, but the more movies we actually get to watch on the big screen, the better! Same with Bleed For This, I love boxing, and a movie that is much more than just boxing? Count me in!! I just don’t know if we’ll get it. And an Australian release doesn’t necessarily mean it will play in my state, as it is a shithole and has a third of the population of Sydney or Melbourne. They get so much more that us, like Green Room and Miles Ahead, among countless others

      And as for Oscar buzz type films, the ones that come out in December for you guys… they always are released the year after down under. Room, Revenant, Hateful Eight, Anomalisa, Spotlight… all from Jan or Feb this year. And those are just the ones off the top of my head. Some didn’t come here till March.

      Goooo Australia!!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Well you know Mel, he loves things to be bloody. But this man… this makes Passion of the Christ seem light in comparison. And the glorification of war…. it honestly disgusted me, which is rare. Funny thing is, I was hoping this would be good too, as it is based on such an interesting story

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The reviews have been pretty divisive on this one. Disappointed to hear you didn’t quite like this, but I’m still somewhat interested in seeing this primarily because I’m a fan of Garfield and Mel Gibson, the director. But your criticisms are definitely in line with what I’ve been hearing about this film.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just couldn’t get over the cheesiness of the love-story and the unnecessary gore. I do need to re-watch SPR, but from what I remember that was more brutal in a psychological sense. There was a bit of graphic violence, but nothing like rats eating maggots out of a corpse. I mean, did we really need to see that?

      Like

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