Bloody Redemption: Our Review of ‘Hacksaw Ridge’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - November 04, 2016
Bloody Redemption: Our Review of ‘Hacksaw Ridge’

Desmond Dawes doesn’t want to take up arms to fight in war, however as a medic tending to the wounds war causes, he bears witness to gore and suffering that may keep lots of people from engaging as well.

Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson’s excessively bloody, gory, viscerally challenging war movie about Dawes and his metaphoric crusade, as it were, is a beautiful, blunt instrument. Dawes, played by boyish and earnest Andrew Garfield, is enlisted to particpate in the Second World War as part of thre 77th Infantry Division, but refuses to fight due to religious beliefs. He shalt not kill, he says, but his skills as a medic may come in handy.

That’s not before he becomes a pariah. Dawes is ridiculed by his peers and ostracized by his superiors, including a very vocal Sergeant, played oddly by Vince Vaughn – he’s good at shouting, at least. Dawes is a Conscientious Objector, the first of his kind, and he’s thrown into the chaos and carnage of war with his medical skills and unwavering beliefs. When he makes it there, of course. Subject to physical, mental, and emotional aggression, Dawes, lanky and dewy-eyed, remains steadfast in the face of mass rebukes from his American compatriots.

His actions here are in part motivated by past mistakes. Dawes is first shown as a child, playing with his brother and accidentally injuring him, his alcoholic father not helping the situation. His is a quest of redemption and purity, and he will endure the pain, the embarrassment, and the accusations that come with it. What’s more, save for his love interest back home, Dawes is the lone, pure fighting, motivated by fighting against sin, not embracing the convention of man.

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Subtlety not being one of Gibson’s interests, the audience is soon immersed into a warscape that is unyielding violent and brutal. The setting is the Battle of Okinawa, where the titular hillside got its name. For all the war movies in our film canon, for what we watch unfold on screen, Hacksaw Ridge instantly asserts itself as among the bloodiest, hellish portrayals. Blood and guts mix with dirt and mud as bodies litter a battlefield as bullets soar and explosions abound.

There are clouds of smoke as the literal fog of war, with heroes emerging from the mess determined and loyal, returning back into the abyss to do their duty. The Biblical parallels are endless and not without merit, but Hacksaw Ridge is both an intimidating, forceful movie, whether characters are touting their beliefs, or dying on the battlefield.

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