‘Hacksaw Ridge’ inspires audiences for Veteran’s Day

Faithful: Private Desmond T. Doss rushes unarmed into the hellfire of battle in “Hacksaw Ridge.” Shortly after Okinawa, Doss was discharged following a tuberculosis diagnosis, which cost him a lung.

Josh Setchel

Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge” is an absolutely harrowing depiction of war and a triumphant story of the power of the human spirit.

The film chronicles the life of Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), a Virginia native who, despite his pacifism, enlisted to serve during World War II. Refusing to carry a weapon due to his strict religious beliefs, Doss performed as a medic, ultimately saving the lives of over 75 men during the Battle of Okinawa and earning himself the congressional Medal of Honor.

It’s Andrew Garfield’s performance that truly brings the film to life. With a credible southern accent and a pitch perfect ‘ah shucks’ attitude, the British actor absolutely commits himself to each and every aspect of Doss’ character, flawlessly conveying his conflicted, but unshakable faith. In addition, Gibson has surrounded him with a phenomenal supporting cast including Vince Vaughn finally not playing Vince Vaughn as his drill sergeant. Vaughn is clearly having a blast in the film’s first half, screaming into the fresh recruits’ faces with all the intensity of a real Drill Sergeant.

Sam Worthington (“Avatar”) also impresses, finally stretching his chops a bit with his role as Doss’ skeptical Captain and even contributes to one of the film’s most emotional scenes. Luke Bracey (2015’s “Point Break”) surprises even more, playing a fellow soldier with more to him than meets the eye. Initially flat out hostile to Doss, Bracey’s “Smitty” gradually grows into a fully three-dimensional character worth rooting for, as Doss so clearly sees. Teresa Palmer fills the love interest role suitably while displaying impeccable, chemistry with Garfield. Hugo Weaving outdoes himself as Doss’ veteran alcoholic father, stealing every scene he’s in.

The script by Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan can almost be described as two movies in one, with the first about Doss the man and the second about his actions. Gibson seamlessly blends the two. The first half of “Hacksaw Ridge” plays to conventions, but does so with earnestness and integrity, making it just as effective as the film’s second half. No punches are pulled on screen and every piece moves at Gibson’s command. When the first bullets fly across the screen, the Battle of Okinawa hits like a freight train and never leaves any breathing room. It’s here that “Hacksaw Ridge” turns into something closer to a horror movie. It’s not for the faint of heart and those with squeamish stomachs may find themselves looking away, but it’s all in service of the unbelievable story being told.

Boldly constructed and impeccably mounted, “Hacksaw Ridge” is one of the best films of the year. More than just another war film, Gibson has crafted an absolutely compelling story of faith and the drive it can spark in all of us. Hopefully it’s not another 10 years before his next effort, as the wait would be simply unbearable.

Rating: 5/5 stars