Oscars 2017 Retrospective: Hacksaw Ridge

To continue our new series about each of the well-deserved 2016 films that were nominated for ‘Best Picture’ at the Oscars, we will be looking at my personal favorite film of the last few years, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’. The movie stars Andrew Garfield and features Mel Gibson’s first directorial outing since ‘Apocalypto’, and arguably his best to date.

Horrifyingly brutal and utterly inspiring, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ follows the true story of American war hero Desmond Doss. Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) was a devout Christian who served as an Army Medic during the battle of Okinawa in World War II. As a child, he almost accidentally killed his brother. While looking at their framed poster in their house that says, “Thou shalt not kill,” he is horrified of what he almost had done. Years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Doss was motivated to enlist himself in the army, but he refused the kill anyone, or even pick up a rifle, in the name of his Lord. He ended up saving the lives of 75 men without firing a single shot.

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While rewatching this spectacular film, the thing I love the most about it is that it does NOT hesitate to show you just how brutal war can truly be. The very first shot of the film is of a handful of dead bodies just lying on the dirt, surrounded by ammunition and blood. The rest of the opening sequence, which mirrors the final scene, shows men carrying injured soldiers on stretchers amongst all of the chaos and bloodshed being spilled. During this scene and throughout the other war sequences, we see so much inspirational and outstanding moments that make the movie so great. From Doss saving everyone he could, including those who thought he was a coward to leaving one of the wounded to help another injured person who was in worse condition. The ongoing themes and lessons of self-sacrifice, faith, forgiveness, and bravery make the events that take place in the film feel so real – as if you were seeing it all happen from your own eyes.

Andrew Garfield’s characterization of Desmond Doss’ was perfect. His charismatic charm and incredible self-belief was one of the reasons everyone I’ve talked to about this film loved it so much. He always chose to take care of others before himself and showed that everyone is far from perfect, yet every person can still reach their highest potential. To add on, each time he saved one person during battle, he would always say something along the lines of, “Just one more, Father. Just one more!”. That line is repeated throughout, each time becoming more and more powerful as it showed that “almost” is never really enough and to never stop what you have started. Furthermore, even when Desmond was told he would be shipped of to a military prison, he didn’t stop doing what he unwaveringly believed was right and true. He stood by his Lord’s word and did exactly what he believed in – no matter the consequences or circumstances. We, as the audience, truly admire characters like that and I absolutely adored Andrew in this role.

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However, even with all of the things I love about ‘Hacksaw Ridge’, it is not completely perfect – though it sure is extremely close. One of my complaints about the film is that we were introduced to a handful of characters over the course of five minutes (via name dropping) but they are never fully established or developed. I totally get why they weren’t more developed, but why throw so many names at us just for us just to forget them so quickly? Moreover, there is a line in which Vince Vaughn’s character at the military base camp asks Nico Cortez’s character what Indian tribe he’s from. Cortez tries to explain that he’s Polish and not Indian, but Vaughn retorts “Let me see your Indian war cry, son!”. It felt sort of out of place in my opinion, and although potentially realistic to the views of the time, it didn’t exactly sit right with me. Last but not least we have more of a nitpick, which was that some character arcs I would have liked to see on-screen with these actors were instead shown with text and archive footage. The movie was already about 2 hours and 20 minutes long, so I understand that they couldn’t add in too much more scenes, however it could potentially have been nice to see the end of these characters’ arcs. That being said, I was fine with the way it was ended, as it’s just a small gripe.

It would be extremely hard to write this article without mentioning the beautiful score for even one more sentence. From the first track to the last, this soundtrack was so flawless and worked within each scene perfectly. As with the music, every actor and actress in ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ worked exceptionally well for their roles. I was shocked by the brilliant performances of Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington, especially considering that the majority of critics and fans alike believe that they tend to play the same character in all their respective movies, so it was nice to see a bit of a variation from the two. Further, the cinematography was absolutely astonishing. Each shot looked wonderful and was visually stunning – with the possible exception of one of the last shots in the film using a green screen which wasn’t exactly perfect.

To close out, I unquestionably adored ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ to bits and pieces. It will forever be one of my favorite movies that have ever been released. I cannot wait to see what each star and staff worker does next in their career.

Written by Danny – @SuperHeroExpert on Twitter


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