By Alec Calvillo and Giancarlo Domicolo
Imagine having the choice of going to prison for a very long time for being devoted to your beliefs, or picking up a gun to kill.
“Hacksaw Ridge” is a true story about Desmond Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist who saved 75 men during World War II also battled others when it came down to practicing his faith.
With a great cast, beautiful cinematography and superb directing, this film has been stirring up a lot of awards season buzz among critics and it by far deserves it.
Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Medal of Honor recipient, Desmond Doss, is highly inspiring and definitely one of the best performances of the year.
The story follows World War II veteran Doss, from his early years in Virginia to the war overseas in Japan.
Doss was the first conscientious objector to win the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery.
Due to his personal religious beliefs as a Seventh Day Adventist, he was unable to even touch a rifle, which led to his ridicule by other members of the United States Army.
He wanted to serve in the military because he liked helping people, but Doss wasn’t like others. He didn’t believe in killing. He strongly believed in the Sixth Commandment “thou shall not kill.”
When it came time for him to train for combat, his faith made him stand out a great deal. He would choose not to work on Saturdays because of the Sabbath, and choose not to pick up a rifle.
Military officials were constantly attempting to get him discharged from the armed forces or even arrested, feeling that his stance on violence and weapons would put everyone else in his unit in danger.
However, Doss did not step down and fought for his beliefs, going on to secure a position in a unit and saving over seventy members of the Army when nobody else could or would, proving all of his naysayers wrong.
When it came down to the battlefield, things were different. The men that hated him and wanted to see him give up soon became his friends as they saw his perseverance to save lives.
As Doss lowered each man down the ridge as the only medic still up on the battlefield he said, “please Lord, help me get one more.”
Doss ended up saving 75 men, which earned himself many medals including a Purple Heart and The Medal of Honor which is the highest award military personnel can receive.
The film does an excellent job of providing the viewer with Doss’ backstory, showing his trials and tribulations which eventually led to his anti-gun and violence stance.
Some people may consider these parts of the film to be long and bland but they were extremely crucial in showing the extent of Doss’s beliefs.
Conversations with his fiancé, games with his brother and other small events that may seem to be trivial, all give the viewer a bit of insight into Doss’ mind, making the slow parts of the film as entertaining as the battlefield sequences.
These parts of the film were all aided and made even more brilliant by Garfield’s standout performance.
Garfield did a great job of replicating the way Doss spoke in video interviews. He didn’t look like Doss, but his youthfulness and humble appearance helped him look the part.
The secondary characters of the film, such as Vince Vaughn’s Sergeant Howell or Luke Bracey’s Smitty, shouldn’t be ignored as they add depth to the story as well.
Vaughn did an exceptional job moving from his usual typecast as the funny guy to a serious role, all while still being comically pleasing.
His performance was great, leaving nothing to the imagination as his facial expressions and body language always told the audience what he was thinking, helping to facilitate the storytelling process of the film.
Luke Bracey’s Smitty was a very unlikeable character who at first just seemed like the common one-dimensional army jerk. However, once Doss proved himself to Smitty, the character did a complete 360, helping Doss to the fullest of his ability despite their very obvious differences.
These characters, among many others, prove how great the writing and the direction of the film was.
Mel Gibson, whose previous work includes “Apocalypto,” “The Passion of the Christ” and “Braveheart,” took the helm as director.
While it can be difficult to direct such a large cast of different characters’ archetypes Gibson pulled it off fantastically.
When it comes down to the camerawork of the film, it would be an understatement to say that Director of Photography, Simon Duggan, whose previous credits include 2013’s The Great Gatsby, did an amazing job.
The camerawork and editing of the film come together perfectly to create intensity or suspense and even moments of caring between family when needed, as well as just generally stunning visuals.
The way the battle sequences were shot and edited did a great job of creating a sense of the chaos on the battlefield while also keeping somewhat of a storyline throughout the battles as opposed to how other war films of the past have just aimed to completely disorient the viewer.
The war scenes spared little detail as they were intense filled with shots of bodies exploding, soldiers getting shot in the head and soldiers burning.
This film has to be one of the goriest war movies since “Saving Private Ryan” and “Hamburger Hill.” The scenes weren’t over the top either as they mirrored other movies about World War II.
The suspense was over the top as Doss was shown rescuing troops all while hiding from Japanese soldiers in the process.
By closely following the actions of characters throughout these sequences the audience was able to keep up with the characters that they created an emotional bond with during the early scenes of the film.
By doing this, the filmmakers were able to keep audience members emotionally invested in the film during scenes in which many viewers may feel like they need to look away, due to intense action or gore.
This movie is solid. It does a great job of adding romance, faith, action, suspense and spirituality. All these elements were executed well and didn’t feel like they were exaggerated or cliché at all.
“Hacksaw Ridge” leaves you feeling inspired and amazed. The movie isn’t just about Doss saving 75 men or being anti-war, but the ability Doss had to have faith to trust in his God, and his belief that all life is important to save.
Overall the film was phenomenal in many different ways. Aside from the truly exhilarating plot, the film had other exceptional aspects such as the acting, camerawork, editing and writing.
Even if you do not enjoy war films, this movie is bound to have something for you. Whether it be themes of constitutional rights, religion or even standing up for what you believe in, this film has it all and executed it excellently. It is definitely worth a view by everyone.