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Review: Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge
11.03.2016
10 10
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PLOT: The true story of Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), a Seventh-day Adventist who, due to his beliefs, refused to carry a weapon during his time fighting in WW2. Despite this, his heroism and courage as a field medic became legendary, with him being one of only three conscientious objectors to ever win the Medal of Honor.

REVIEW: As a critic who watches, and reviews, hundreds of movies a year, it’s easy to become jaded, and while I like a lot of movies, I can probably count on one hand the number that have really moved me this year. Only one of those almost provoked tears, and that movie is HACKSAW RIDGE. Mel Gibson’s first film as a director since APOCALYPTO, and his first in English since BRAVEHEART, this is a triumphant return to the mainstream for him and a movie that’s so good even his harshest critics won’t be able to ignore it or write it off.

hacksaw ridge andrew garfield

Functioning as both an inspirational tale of heroism and pacifism while also functioning as one of the most vicious and gruesome war movies ever made, HACKSAW RIDGE is the rare film that could have only been made by its director. In anyone else’s hands, the spirituality would have been toned-down (or eliminated entirely) or, had it been made by a devoutly Christian studio, the violence would have been eliminated and the religion would have been amped up so much it would have been dogmatic. This is not that kind of thing, and religious or not, there’s very little chance any audience member will fail to be moved by Doss’s story.

Played by Andrew Garfield in what’s another in a long-line of fine performances (including too-little seen turns in movies like BOY A and 99 HOMES), Doss may rank as one of the most humble and unassuming heroes in Hollywood history. Kind-hearted and sporting a quick smile, Doss never flaunts his spirituality or asks others to make special concessions for him. He simply refuses to kill, even though he knows that by not carrying a rifle, he goes into what one character calls “the hellfire of battle” without any means to protect himself – making it unlikely he’ll ever return home to his beloved wife (Teresa Palmer in the most appealing performance of her career).

Made entirely in Australia with a largely Aussie cast, it’s amazing at how authentic the period Americana aspects of the film come off. Even a famous Aussie actor like Hugo Weaving is utterly convincing as Doss’s veteran father, who’s become a violent drunk following his wartime service, prone to bouts of extreme guilt having survived while his friends died.

hacksaw ridge vince vaughn

Cleanly split into two halves, Gibson opts for a simple approach in the romantic, sweet, first half, only to ramp-up the carnage to virtual horror movie levels in the second half. One cannot exist without the other, with the first half bittersweet in hindsight, while the second is all the more horrifying as we watch characters we’ve grown to love be killed or horribly maimed in battle.

If the movie’s controversial, it’ll likely be due to Gibson’s unflinching approach to the violence, which, like THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST and APOCALYPTO before it, stretches the limits of what’s ever been seen in a mainstream movie. Again, this is distinctly Gibson, with him having always shown a fascination, or perhaps even an obsession over the physical effects of carnage. While he occasionally goes too far, such as when Luke Bracey’s alpha-male soldier uses the torso of a fallen soldier as a shield, you have to admire the way Gibson goes all-in each and every time. This is a movie about a gentle man, but it’s not a gentle film.

For me, everything about HACKSAW RIDGE is exceptional, with Gibson getting amazing work out of actors who’ve I’ve often criticized in my reviews, including Vince Vaughn as Doss’s sarge, Bracey (showcased to much better effect than he was in POINT BREAK) and Sam Worthington as the company captain. At 130 minutes, there’s no flab whatsoever on the film, with it moving along at such a quick pace it felt much briefer than it actually is, to the point I actually found myself wishing it would go on longer – the sign of a great film. I simply didn’t want it to end.

At the risk of this review sounding more like a love-letter to Gibson than a well-rounded criticism, I can’t help but give HACKSAW RIDGE a perfect score. Does that mean I think it’s a perfect film? No – it’s not. Yet, I can’t deny that I found it to be a profoundly moving experience and there’s no other film that’s come out this year that’s affected me or made me feel quite the way this has. For me, HACKSAW RIDGE is about on-par with BRAVEHEART, and there’s no doubt in my mind this will rank as my favorite film of 2016 by the time the year is done. Please go see this in theaters. Real movies like this deserve our support.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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10:54AM on 11/04/2016

Great review

I saw it last night and I think it definitely lives up to your review. I loved it and can't stop thinking about it.
I saw it last night and I think it definitely lives up to your review. I loved it and can't stop thinking about it.
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12:20AM on 11/04/2016

Great review

I have been wanting to see this movie, for a while. the man it's based on lives about 15 minutes from me. never knew this story.
I have been wanting to see this movie, for a while. the man it's based on lives about 15 minutes from me. never knew this story.
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7:49PM on 11/03/2016
I hope this starts a comeback for Gibson. He said some very stupid things but has always had tremendous talent as a director. It's 2016, you can run for President and be a racist, misogynist tool bag. Give this guy a break.
I hope this starts a comeback for Gibson. He said some very stupid things but has always had tremendous talent as a director. It's 2016, you can run for President and be a racist, misogynist tool bag. Give this guy a break.
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8:51PM on 11/03/2016
Exactly...he "said" stupid things. Woody Allen and Roman Polanski are still Hollywood darlings and everyone wants to work with them, but Mel is the devil incarnate. Got my tickets for this, can't wait.
Exactly...he "said" stupid things. Woody Allen and Roman Polanski are still Hollywood darlings and everyone wants to work with them, but Mel is the devil incarnate. Got my tickets for this, can't wait.
6:15PM on 11/03/2016
I'm sure Doctor Strange will win the weekend, but I'm more excited for this film. Gibson's films have all been fantastic and I consider him one of my favorite directors, so I'm so glad to finally see him back in the director's chair.
I'm sure Doctor Strange will win the weekend, but I'm more excited for this film. Gibson's films have all been fantastic and I consider him one of my favorite directors, so I'm so glad to finally see him back in the director's chair.
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3:43PM on 11/03/2016

Here's My Spoiler-Free Review



Saw a screening of this a while back. Effects and wire work still needed to be finished but it was still good enough to get the point across.

First off, I feel the trailer gives away too much. So if you haven't seen it, or haven't seen it in a while, try to avoid. But here's my take and I'll do what I can to be spoiler free.

The first act, which sets up Doss' world, I've read in some reviews as being cheesey which it didn't strike me as being. Maybe shmaltzy but I felt that was done


Saw a screening of this a while back. Effects and wire work still needed to be finished but it was still good enough to get the point across.

First off, I feel the trailer gives away too much. So if you haven't seen it, or haven't seen it in a while, try to avoid. But here's my take and I'll do what I can to be spoiler free.

The first act, which sets up Doss' world, I've read in some reviews as being cheesey which it didn't strike me as being. Maybe shmaltzy but I felt that was done by design. You will notice that there isn't any swearing. Mel did his best to paint a Norman Rockwell scene of Doss's smalltown, USA in which he grows up and falls in love. I can't say I was sold on Garfield's approach to being "cute and twitterpated" with Palmer's character - but it was a small gripe.

Hugo Weaving... I will *always* giggle when he first steps on screne and begins talking. It always comes across as "Mr. Andersonnnnnnnnn...." from the Matrix. While that *did* happen in this film, it quickly went away. His portrayal of the alcoholic father was spot on. He wasn't a drunk because he was some hick from the south - he was a drunk because of things he saw and did during WWI. While I'm sure this conceit has been done before in other films/stories, I never doubted him for a minute (after the initial "Mr. Anderson" snicker). His grief and pain were expressed and felt by the audience I was with.

Moving onto basic, I groaned when I saw Vince Vaughn because... well... it's Vince Vaughn. He's warn out his welcome with one forgettable role after another. That goes away quickly and you're reminded why he was quickly snatched up by Spielberg for Jurassic II all those years ago. Sam Worthington... again, he was spot on. I won't say anyone was Academy Award worthy, but they were all solid. It was a bit "by the numbers" with Doss getting knocked around and him constantly "turning the other cheek." Typically, I would roll my eyes at such gestures from characters because, well, it's a common conceit in (war) movies. Having the lead get picked on but, to use the quote, "When they go low, we go high." For example, squad members hit soldier in the face. Soldier doesn't turn them in. Squad is freaking out but when they're not turned in, there's the "bro-mance" nod exchange and after that - all is good. I think Mel could've gone this route - and maybe he did - but it blended and worked so well that you don't even think about it.

Then, you move onto war. Yes, the violence is cranked up in typical Gibson fare - but it's nothing that hasn't already been seen in The Pacific. I don't mind violence in film. Braveheart worked for me. The Passion didn't. I felt with The Passion, Mel was too heavy handed with the "See what (y)our Savior did for you sinners?!?!?" Even as subscriber of faith, I quickly checked out of that one. HERE I found the violence being used to juxtapose the Norman Rockwell images that were crafted in the first act.

How would I rate the film? I'd say a solid 7 or 8/10. It was better than We Were Soldiers and might be on par with Braveheart - though admittedly, my love for that film has faded over the years. I can't give a fair judgement on The Passion as I flat out didn't like it and Apocalypto for me was a 6/10. Will it win any awards? Maybe... They'll certainly run campaigns for it but I'm not sure this is Gibson's year. The film wasn't as balanced as it needed to be - hence keeping it from a 9 or 10/10.

Should you check it out? If you're into war films or even inspirational films - absolutely. This is an amazing story of one man's convictions against an impossible situation and how he was able to overcome despite the odds. I don't think (I could be wrong) that the Christian aspects will turn anyone off as they're not thrust upon the audience as deeper message as much as they're just a part of who this character was as a person. I would find it to be just as engaging if he was Islamic, Jewish or part of any other faith.

Not sure how this "review" has flowed as I'm at work and need to get back at it. So apologies for any "Ain't It Cool" typos or grammar mistakes. My only wish for this film was that it wasn't opening against Dr. Strange... Maybe it'll have the legs to live on through the holiday season...
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7:44PM on 11/03/2016
Solid review man, I feel like this one helped me more than the one in the actual article did. I read a loooooot of reviews, both on sites like this and in newspaper/ industry publications and it always makes me nervous when a reviewer lists a bunch of flaws in a movie and then still gives it a 9 or 10, or they list a bunch of killer strengths and rate it super low. The face that this article states that it's not perfect but then gives it a perfect score, makes me feel like I have to take the
Solid review man, I feel like this one helped me more than the one in the actual article did. I read a loooooot of reviews, both on sites like this and in newspaper/ industry publications and it always makes me nervous when a reviewer lists a bunch of flaws in a movie and then still gives it a 9 or 10, or they list a bunch of killer strengths and rate it super low. The face that this article states that it's not perfect but then gives it a perfect score, makes me feel like I have to take the whole thing with a major grain of salt (an even larger one than I usually take reviews with). I feel like your review sounds like one that fits the score you give it, plus I appreciate that you provide your feelings on Gibson's other films for context.
3:14PM on 11/04/2016
@Luke319 - Thanks man, I appreciate that. When reading reviews that are over the top one way or the other, I generally want to know what that person feels about said filmmakers body of work. Gives me a better idea of where I will land as a viewer. Like I said, this is a very solid piece - not a 10/10, but that's fairly subjective now isn't it. I think Christian viewers will eat it up, viewers of other faith should appreciate it and I could see agnostics/atheists going either way - depending
@Luke319 - Thanks man, I appreciate that. When reading reviews that are over the top one way or the other, I generally want to know what that person feels about said filmmakers body of work. Gives me a better idea of where I will land as a viewer. Like I said, this is a very solid piece - not a 10/10, but that's fairly subjective now isn't it. I think Christian viewers will eat it up, viewers of other faith should appreciate it and I could see agnostics/atheists going either way - depending on whether they see this as a good/bad character tribute or if they feel the faith/based character is too heavy handed. Either way, there's plenty of "The Pacific" or "Rambo IV" level of violence to keep most entertained. I really want to go check this out again and see how the final cut plays out. Admittedly, I'll be seeing Doctor Strange first...
4:00PM on 11/04/2016
I enjoyed your review as well movie_mike, but want to point out that per Chris Bumbray's review, he agrees it's not a flawless movie, but he gave it a 10/10 because it moved him personally, more so than any other movie to come out this year has. So, that's what bumped his score up. I've seen it now myself and agree with that.

As you point out Mike, it's subjective, which is why it's important to read an entire review and not just the score, so you can get an idea where the reviewer is
I enjoyed your review as well movie_mike, but want to point out that per Chris Bumbray's review, he agrees it's not a flawless movie, but he gave it a 10/10 because it moved him personally, more so than any other movie to come out this year has. So, that's what bumped his score up. I've seen it now myself and agree with that.

As you point out Mike, it's subjective, which is why it's important to read an entire review and not just the score, so you can get an idea where the reviewer is coming from and why the score was given. Like I said earlier, I much enjoyed your review too, as I love to read the various perspectives of movies before I see them and afterwards as well.
5:58PM on 11/04/2016
@Glinda - I actually wrote up this review for a different site a while back. So I didn't post it out of any sort of disparity. Chris' review was well written and thought out, and to be honest, I've been where he is. You see a movie, you know it's not perfect, but for you it just resonates and rather than giving it the 6.4 it deserves, you rate it a 12. Movies just do that sometimes. The fact that he was moved *that much* by this film gives me envy. I love it when I leave a film grinning
@Glinda - I actually wrote up this review for a different site a while back. So I didn't post it out of any sort of disparity. Chris' review was well written and thought out, and to be honest, I've been where he is. You see a movie, you know it's not perfect, but for you it just resonates and rather than giving it the 6.4 it deserves, you rate it a 12. Movies just do that sometimes. The fact that he was moved *that much* by this film gives me envy. I love it when I leave a film grinning and enamored by what I've seen and felt.

With that said, I've also read reviews where some people simply put a 2/10 or a 10/10 and it's easy to dismiss them right out of the gate. I'm able to read where Chris was coming from and read between the lines - but I also have the comfortable position of having seen the film and largely agree with what he said.

Had I *not* seen this movie and read this review? I'd be a cautiously optimistic. I love Mel's films, I love WWII films and I would want this movie to live up to the 10/10 review. I try to lower my expectations because when films like CA: Civil War get 9/10 scores, I'm a bit bummed when I walk out feeling like it was closer to a 7/10. Not bummed out at the reviewer, just bummed that I wasn't swept up in the story as much as said reviewer was.

I'll get off my soap box now and highly recommend that people see this movie. It was a solid piece of film making that will move many film goers. I think it will be closer to a 9/10 or 10/10 on the first viewing, but on repeat viewings, the cracks in the paint may start to appear. But until then, enjoy... :-)
3:22PM on 11/03/2016
Perfect score? Gibson is brilliant (acting and directing) and the man severely needs a comeback. I'm just glad to see him doing his own thing very successfully while Hollywood still works on that.
Perfect score? Gibson is brilliant (acting and directing) and the man severely needs a comeback. I'm just glad to see him doing his own thing very successfully while Hollywood still works on that.
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2:54PM on 11/03/2016

Thank u

Admittedly I only go to maybe two or three movies a year. This movie has been on my radar for a while and your article just made a decision for me. I'm gonna go to this movie within the next week or two. I'm usually not influenced By an article or someone's random opinion, but from everything I've seen, read, and know about Mel Gibson plus this article I'm going to make this movie a movie theater trip. Braveheart and Apocalypto are masterpieces in my Opinion. Hopefully Hacksaw ridge equals
Admittedly I only go to maybe two or three movies a year. This movie has been on my radar for a while and your article just made a decision for me. I'm gonna go to this movie within the next week or two. I'm usually not influenced By an article or someone's random opinion, but from everything I've seen, read, and know about Mel Gibson plus this article I'm going to make this movie a movie theater trip. Braveheart and Apocalypto are masterpieces in my Opinion. Hopefully Hacksaw ridge equals those films
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2:51PM on 11/03/2016

Fuck it

People make mistakes its only human. I can't avoid the fact that he's a wonderful director nor good actor. To be honest I think he is better at directing.
People make mistakes its only human. I can't avoid the fact that he's a wonderful director nor good actor. To be honest I think he is better at directing.
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2:32PM on 11/03/2016
"Say what you want about Mel Gibson, but the son-of-a-bitch knows story structure!"
"Say what you want about Mel Gibson, but the son-of-a-bitch knows story structure!"
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1:43PM on 11/03/2016

Mel's Back

Only hope for the movies he will make from now on.
Only hope for the movies he will make from now on.
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1:27PM on 11/03/2016

This sounds like exactly the film I wanted it to be!

I was always going to go see this. If for no other reason than an obligation to support one of my favorite filmmakers on a financial level. Mel deserves a comeback and thankfully it seems like this is indeedg oing to put him back to where he's always belonged. I just hope the academy manages to not be dicks and give him some Oscar recognition for this one. Another Best Picture or Best Director Oscar would really be the cherry on top of this amazing year for him.
I was always going to go see this. If for no other reason than an obligation to support one of my favorite filmmakers on a financial level. Mel deserves a comeback and thankfully it seems like this is indeedg oing to put him back to where he's always belonged. I just hope the academy manages to not be dicks and give him some Oscar recognition for this one. Another Best Picture or Best Director Oscar would really be the cherry on top of this amazing year for him.
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12:33PM on 11/03/2016
It's too bad for what Mel has done with his public imagine, because he's truly an exceptional film maker.
It's too bad for what Mel has done with his public imagine, because he's truly an exceptional film maker.
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12:30PM on 11/03/2016
Wow, 10/10 - I'm speechless.
Wow, 10/10 - I'm speechless.
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12:07PM on 11/03/2016
No such thing as a "Congressional" Medal of Honor. It's just Medal of Honor.
No such thing as a "Congressional" Medal of Honor. It's just Medal of Honor.
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11:32AM on 11/03/2016

Wow

Can't wait to see this.
Can't wait to see this.
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