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Hacksaw Ridge (2017)

January 29, 2017 Leave a comment

Hacksaw Ridge PosterHacksaw Ridge does not shy away from the violence. You’re treated to an explicit display of gore in the opening minutes of the movie. It seemed to go on longer than was necessary, becoming either boring or macabre, depending on your mindset.

Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) plays a conscientious objector who signs up post Pearl Harbour to be a medic as long as he does not have to handle a gun. This being set in 1940’s America after they’ve been attacked, well that isn’t a really popular idea with the Army. Eventually Doss is permitted to go up Hacksaw Ridge with his squad and the viewer is again treated to some over extended beautifully shot, traditional, war action. The American’s take the ridge but are expelled the next morning. Doss remains atop the ridge and starts to recover and lower injuries soldiers down. His brave actions are recognised by the men who formerly shunned him, he’s viewed as a lucky charm, and his bravery is noted by him willing to go up again.

The stand out actors in the film are Andrew Garfield, who plays a character whom is more relatable than in Scorsese’s Silence. Hugo Weaving whom shines in the role of conflicted father (Tom Dross). And Vince Vaughn (Sgt Howell) who as the Sargent and Drill Instructor got a few laughs from the audience. 

The film is shot beautifully, the colours in America pop and it’s all quite twill and Americana, the palette becomes more muted and earthy during the action which helps the blood seem much more vibrant. The orchestral pieces really do help build tension and fit in well as a juxtaposition to the unorganised chaotic display of war.

While it was based on true events the backstory of Desmond Doss did not need to be as drawn out. We are treated to an extended childhood where he was more of a hell raiser and nearly kills his own brother (who disappears halfway through the film), his father is a drunk who beats his children and his wife. Skipping ahead to adulthood Desmond falls in love with one girl, Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer) whom is highly likeable as her character, a whirlwind romance followed by a proposal once Desmond has signed up to the Army (Dorothy essentially asking, “Well, are you going to propose then?”)

The barracks scenes where Vince Vaughn berates the new members was amusing but felt shoehorned in. He did not have the magic of R Lee Ermey from Full Metal Jacket. Of course Desmond gets beaten for not wanting to handle a gun and the army is trying to force him out, It’s not explained to my liking why he refuses to handle a gun at all, there’s some attempt at explaining it later and while logic isn’t going to be bandied around that much, surely cars can kill? Morphine which he dispenses frequently can kill? Why not just handle the gun and get through the rifle tasks? My pondering on the rational behind the refusal to even touch a gun did not really remove me from the movie, this was more a thought on my walk back.

Were the extended and highly graphic war sequences meant to show the horrible nature of war? They felt gratuitous and over long, as if they were seeking to top films such as Saving Private Ryan or the as yet unseen Dunkirk. The extended nature of these gory elects also resulted in the viewer starting to become desensitised to the horrors that were being played out before their eyes. Perhaps that was the plan?

The films has some good moments and the shooting of the action conveys the unorganised nature of war but even with some strong actors the film failed to leave a great impression on me. I’d watch it at the cinema only so that it could be enjoyed on a big screen with great sound reproduction.

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