Fri | Nov 17, 2017

'Hacksaw Ridge' vividly, brutally brilliant

Published:Tuesday | January 17, 2017 | 12:00 AMDamian Levy
Conscientious war objector Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield) in Hacksaw Ridge, an extraordinary true story.

The world has no shortage of war films. Additionally, there is no shortage of World War II films.

Yet Hacksaw Ridge is just that. A World War II film that, in fact, has a story worth telling. I suppose one more couldn't hurt. The story is of US army medic Desmond Doss, a trained soldier, who believes in the fight against Nazi Germany, but he only has one condition: no guns.

Immediately, that sounds a little more than problematic on the battlefield. It's what makes Hacksaw Ridge such a compelling story. Doss believes that no man should take the life of another as intended by God. A gun is built for just that. It is a killing machine.

The movie spends a great part of its run-time showing Doss defend his beliefs to his superiors, suffering the contempt of his fellow soldiers in the process.

The brilliance of Hacksaw Ridge is its brutality. In the very first scene, there are shots of men with flaming sleeves running in terror, screaming. When a soldier is shot, the camera picks up every gory detail. The movie immerses you in the horror, prompting a few in the audience to turn away. I can't think of a better way to convince you of the main character's conviction. You feel the same way about violence as he does by the end of the movie.

Unfortunately, the film isn't always that subtextual. There are several points that feel inauthentic. The type of dramatisation peppered in to make a true story more like a movie. These moments weren't bad; they just didn't feel earned. They made the characters feel fake when they had felt so real. More often than not, though, it hits the mark, with those points disrupting the illusion only momentarily.

Hacksaw Ridge is a movie for anyone who has felt like an outcast. It captures the feeling of having to defend one's values and stand by one's convictions, looking left when everyone is telling you to look right. It's brutal. Tense. Even frightening at points.

Its best moments are its realism as it sells you a story that seems impossible. Though it dips into moments of dramatic fantasy, that doesn't take away from the whole, satisfying picture. This is one you should see on the big screen.

Rating: Big-Screen Watch