Andrew Garfield and Sam Worthington in a scene from the movie Hacksaw Ridge.
Andrew Garfield and Sam Worthington in a scene from the movie Hacksaw Ridge. Mark Rogers

MOVIE REVIEW: True tale of herculean effort on battlefield

THERE'S a central message at the heart of Hacksaw Ridge that's as important now as it was during the film's setting in the Second World War.

Bravery on the battlefield doesn't require a gun, a grenade or any other weapon.

It's a message I believe the world, and America in particular, needs now more than ever.

Hacksaw Ridge tells the extraordinary true story of Desmond Doss who, in the bloody battle of Okinawa, saved 75 men without carrying a gun.

It's a story told in three main pieces. Firstly, we are introduced to Doss in his sleepy hometown. He seems a bit different, or odd, and we learn of the harsh life lessons of his childhood which helped to inform his non-violent stance.

His parents are played excellently by Hugo Weaving and Rachel Griffiths.

He falls in love with Dorothy and proposes to her just before he volunteers for the army, hoping to become a medic.

The story then moves to his training at the barracks, where he excels in many areas but soon becomes a target for refusing to touch a rifle during training.

He remains steadfast, even stubbornly so, and is forced to plead his case in a military court.

The film then moves into the theatre of war, which director Mel Gibson brings to the screen quickly and brutally.

The dry, barren battlefield, which almost looks monochromatic, stands in stark contrast to the colours of the previous scenes. Loose dirt helps to accentuate the explosions and interesting camera angles bring something new to such a well-trodden cinematic subject.

At first Doss's company finds success, driving the Japanese forces back. But their victory is short-lived as new enemy forces come surging back out of a network of underground tunnels.

As the soldiers retreat, Doss stays to rescue injured men from the battlefield in a herculean solo effort.

As gruesome as the battle scenes are, they are also pieces of cinematic artwork skilfully constructed and pieced together by Gibson, who makes a triumphant return to the director's chair for the first time in a decade.

Walking out of the cinema, I felt like this is the movie Unbroken could have been. Sure, the two stories of wartime heroism are different but in Hacksaw Ridge, you feel like you get to the heart of the man and what motivated him to keep going against all odds.

Garfield and Gibson have already been tipped for Oscar nominations and I have little doubt they'll get them.

This is the best drama I've seen so far this year. As long as you can stomach the violence, Hacksaw Ridge is a must-see.

HACKSAW RIDGE

STARS: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Vince Vaughn, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths.

DIRECTOR: Mel Gibson

RATING: MA 15+

VERDICT: 4/5 stars



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