War is hell, but when it comes to making a war movie, it can sometimes be the same. The scope is big, you have lots of extras involved and you have to always live in “Saving Private Ryan’s” shadow. I mean that beach scene is still the greatest portrayal of a war ever put on film. It’s not all about the dog and pony show though; the story has to be right. The wars America and the rest of the world have fought are a gold mine when it comes to personal stories, with new ones being discovered every year. This story is something that you would think was made just for a movie; it’s the story of Desmond Doss.
Desmond (Andrew Garfield) grew up in Virginia with a father who was an alcoholic. Desmond turned to God to help him get through tough times and after an incident with his father, vowed to never touch a gun again. That became a problem after Japan drew America into World War II and like so many other American men; Desmond wanted to join the army. When he does arrive at basic training, needless to say his not wanting to use a gun doesn’t sit well with his fellow soldiers. When they can’t bully him into using a gun, the Army tries taking everything away from him, all to no avail, as he won’t cave in. When things get as bad as they can get, Desmond is given permission to go into battle with no weapon at all. Where once he is labeled a coward, Desmond does something at the battle of Hacksaw Ridge that will change people’s opinion about him forever.
Going back to the idea of the wars of the past being a gold mine for stories, they found a pretty large nugget with this one. The story of Desmond Doss is just simply incredible; there is no other way to put it. Doss did one of the bravest things I have ever heard of and I was surprised I never heard it before. Director Mel Gibson (Braveheart) does a stand up job and shows why he is an Oscar winning director. With all the praise I have thrown at “Hacksaw Ridge”, you would think it would be one of my favorites of the year. Well it could of, it wasn’t for some of its faults. Gibson more than a few times uses an image to covey a message that seems a bit unnecessary. Besides missing the mark there the film feels like a car in the winter, and takes a while to get going. Once it does though, just hums along. “Hacksaw Ridge” is a good movie, which gets past the few flaws it has. It benefits from strong direction by Gibson, and a good cast lead by Garfield, that meshes well together. In the echelon of films that deal with war, “Hacksaw Ridge” feels like it belongs a notch below those films we all love. It ends up being a decent film, but an even more amazing story.