This is another film that I’m sure we in the UK have been anxiously awaiting; I’ve certainly read my fair share of positive reviews around this here blogosphere and can now finally chip in with my plain, simple viewpoint.

As I’m sure you already know, Mel Gibson’s Academy Award nominated film is about Marvel superhero army medic Desmond Doss who saved over 75 soldiers in the battle for Hacksaw Ridge, a key strategic position in the WWII Battle of Okinawa, despite his refusal to handle a weapon or take another man’s life.

Andrew Garfield steps into the role of Desmond Doss brilliantly, at first a loveable, lovestruck, slightly goofy young man and then an infinitely determined aspiring medic, unwavering in his need to save lives, despite the overwhelming danger. Garfield is a great leading man and the early scenes between him and Theresa Palmer are wonderful; they both have great chemistry and their genuinely sweet exchanges had me smiling so much, caring a great deal for both of the characters. Doss is such an intriguing character who we constantly support and admire; effective flashback scenes allow us to see just how he came to the belief that handling weapons was wrong and seeing his determination to help his fellow man, despite being victimized by those around him, is always compelling. Doss fights the odds, never gives up and is an inspirational, courageous, sympathetic real life figure.

The supporting cast of Hacksaw Ridge is also particularly strong; Teresa Palmer is particularly charming as Dorothy, Hugo Weaving is great as Desmond’s father and Luke Bracey is both suitably nasty and eventually rather likeable as Desmond’s “frenemy” Smitty. Vince Vaughn also earns plenty of kudos points in a rare, impressive dramatic role, thankfully taking a break from his questionable comedy schtick; he doesn’t exactly do the whole drill sergeant bit nearly as well as Full Metal Jacket‘s R. Lee Ermey (who does?) but he is a welcome addition to the cast, getting to prove his mettle as a worthy supporting character, much like Sam Worthington who is also excellent and charismatic.

Mel Gibson’s direction is essentially flawless as he brings us a solid, powerful, constantly engaging film that hits all the right notes and balances drama, humour and tragedy quite adeptly. He doesn’t hold back with the battle scenes; they are bold, unrelenting and effectively keeps audience interest at maximum. The accompanying sound design is also pitch perfect. Clearly, Gibson is an accomplished director and has complete mastery over his projects – a born filmmaker.

This is a unique story, one certainly worthy of the big screen treatment, and the script hits all the right notes, though it’s a tad saccharine at the beginning. It has a good narrative structure (from hometown to boot camp to battlefield) and overall, the writing is remarkably taut and has plenty of humour as well as drama. It was also interesting to see documentary footage at the end, demonstrating just how accurate the film is, with Desmond’s praying to “get one one more” to the soldier who was convinced that he was blinded in battle. Through this, the film certainly retains an air of truth and makes it all the more inspiring.

Simon Duggan’s cinematography is particularly laudable as the film constantly looks amazing. From the awe-inspiring Virginia hills to the actual ridge itself, the film is immaculately designed and is a bona fide treat to look at. Plus, Rupert Gregson-Williams’ score is appropriately rousing and compliments the film very well.

And yes, there is a soldier called “Tex”. They just couldn’t resist.

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An excellent cast, masterful direction, stunning cinematography and a fascinating story. An entertaining piece of cinema from an accomplished filmmaker.

★ ★ ★ ★

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