“Hacksaw Ridge” is a powerful and inspiring film

hacksawridge2A powerful and inspiring film, Hacksaw Ridge is an incredible portrait of humanity painted on the canvas of war.

Directed by Mel Gibson (Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ), Hacksaw Ridge stars Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spiderman), Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths and Vince Vaughn.

Film synopsis

Hacksaw Ridge is the true story of Medal of Honor winner, Private First Class Desmond Doss, who miraculously saved 75 men in a matter of hours without firing or carrying a weapon.

For reasons of faith and personal convictions, Doss believed that killing under any circumstance was wrong. He did, however, believe that WWII was a just war and volunteered for the Army—calling himself a “conscientious cooperator”—to become a medic. The men in his unit didn’t understand Doss’ reasons for refusing to handle a weapon, considered him a coward, and did all they could to force him out, while Doss did all he could to stay in the Army and serve his country.

He had that opportunity when his unit was deployed to Okinawa to fight in one of the bloodiest battles of WWII. His unit faced overwhelming odds, was devastated in battle, and retreated. Doss refused to leave anyone behind. With a simple prayer, “One more, Lord; help me find one more,” he single-handedly evacuated the wounded—the very men who had persecuted him—from behind enemy lines, while under constant enemy gunfire and artillery bombardment.

Hacksaw Ridge received a 10-minute standing ovation at the 73rd Venice Film Festival and is already garnering multiple nominations world-wide; and for good reason.

The filmmaking is stellar. After a ten-year absence, Mel Gibson is back in the director’s chair, proving once again that he can meld savage humanity with passionate humanity and come out with a film that is both heartbreaking and tenderly beautiful. The war scenes are brutal and grisly, but not for gratuitous reasons. At the screening I attended, those representing the filmmakers explained they felt compelled to show the horrors of war in order to show the magnitude of the sacrifice. Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight’s script is raw and believable, not diminishing the effects of war. But this film is also about the power of one man’s faith and, to honor the real Desmond Doss, the filmmakers eliminated any instance of taking the Lord’s name in vain.

The acting was powerful. Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Doss was his best to date. Hugo Weaving was superb as Doss’ father, Tom—a WWI vet who suffered PTSD—and Rachel Griffiths was heartbreaking as Doss’ mother Bertha who struggled to keep her family together, even as her husband fell apart. Teresa Palmer plays Dorothy, the nurse that Doss proposes to shortly before enlisting, as a strong woman of faith. Vince Vaughn proves his versatility as an actor by portraying Doss’s tough-as-nails Sgt. Howell. Look for multiple nominations, all richly deserved, when the Academy Award season comes around.

Produced and released by Lionsgate, Icon Films, Cross Creek Pictures, IM Global and Summit Entertainment, Hacksaw Ridge runs 2 hours, 11 minutes. It is rated R for intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence including grisly bloody images. There is also male nudity and coarse language.

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