Saturday, February 25, 2017

Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

IMDb plot summary: WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people, and becomes the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot.
Directed by Mel Gibson. Starring Andrew Garfield, Hugo Weaving, Sam Worthington, and Luke Bracey.

(Spoilers ahead.)

Two years ago, American Sniper was up for Best Picture, and I was greatly disappointed because it kept positioning itself as if it was trying to ask questions about the morality of war, only to retcon all of that with no justification in the last 10 minutes of the movie. It was a frustrating choice. Hacksaw Ridge, fortunately, does not make the same mistake. Its themes are consistent throughout -- not so much about the morality or immorality of war itself, but about how one man reconciled his pact of nonviolence and his desire to serve his country. As someone drifting more and more toward a worldview of total nonviolence, it was refreshing to see a story like this, with someone stepping into this kind of brutal violence to heal without passing judgment on those around him who have different convictions on how to stand up to evil.

It would be easy to turn this review solely into a discussion of its political meanings, but it's also excellent in cinematic terms. Andrew Garfield as Doss imbues the character with personality (often a challenge for characters based on existing people) and carries the film easily on his shoulders. The climactic scene of him transporting as many wounded as he could down to safety successfully conveys the bravery and "epicness" of that undertaking just as much, if not more, than the dramatic battle scenes surrounding it. It's a gripping watch that does everything I hoped it would do.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Hacksaw Ridge > Born Yesterday
Hacksaw Ridge > Atonement
Hacksaw Ridge < Benny & Joon
Hacksaw Ridge > Bernie
Hacksaw Ridge < Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Hacksaw Ridge > The Impostors
Hacksaw Ridge > Cats and Dogs
Hacksaw Ridge > The Joy Luck Club
Hacksaw Ridge > The Grey
Hacksaw Ridge < Les Miserables in Concert: The 25th Anniversary

Final spot: #408 out of 2584.

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