If you are going to make a film with religious undertones as heavy as this, keep this film in your mind as the bar you need to reach.
OVERALL SCORE –4/5
Hacksaw Ridge is a 2016 war drama directed by Mel Gibson, written by Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan and starts Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Rachel Griffiths and Luke Bracey. The film puts to screen the story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector (a man who would not carry arms or kill) who fought during World War II.
Having Andrew Garfield star in this film is maybe the best thing it has going for it. A lesser actor may have swayed the way the film comes off to the audience. His charm and delicate presence ground the film even if he spouts off about religion one too many times. He steals every scene he is in but does not overshadow all the other actors who do their jobs quite well too. Provided he is lit and shot to look like a certain Mr. Christ a few times, he does not push the agenda with his performance. His boy-from-the-country ways make him very likable and relatable from the first shot.
It was refreshing to see Vince Vaughn on screen after quite the list of duds he has been a part of. Vaughn channels his inner R. Lee Ermey but still manages to stay likable. Sam Worthington does his role justice even though he cannot give his American accent its full due. Almost all the other actors on screen play their roles well even though most of them are the usual cast of characters from most war films.
This is Mel Gibson film from head to toe. The ultra-disgusting violence is a part of it. The overt religious tones are there to be seen. The general Mel Gibson fare so to speak. But this is a Mel Gibson most audiences would like to see. He is sorely missed as a director and he does have a specific set of skills which can be put to good use when he is not being his self-destructive self. The film is shot and edited quite well even though a few shots have the lingering effect of a poorly rendered background. In contrast the film does have a few smart shots and its depiction of war might make a few members of audience squirm in their seats. The war scenes get quite violent and comparisons to Saving Private Ryan can be made once the first bullets hit their intended targets.
There has been a lot said about how prominent religion is in the film and also about how a film advocating nonviolence revels in its gore so much. I would say even though that is a point of contention, it is only a minor flaw in a film which is solid overall. There is not much that can be done when a film is about a man who injured soldiers on the battlefield. I could notice a few members of the audience visibly weep by the time the end credits rolled. Which could be a sign of one of two things, either the film is manipulative or the film connected to its audience. Like the main character of the film, keeping faith with the inherent goodness of man might be the right way to see things.
There is something that can be said about religion in film here. If a film is advocating religion, it must show it as something that causes a positive influence in one’s life. Because that feels like the primary reason for its existence. The story must be used to show the good, believing in something can cause more than manipulating the audience into accepting an agenda (I’m looking at you God’s Not Dead).
OVERALL SCORE – 4/5