Despite his talents, looks and star quality, Mel Gibson was somehow considered a persona non grata in the cinematic industry in recent years, due to his behaviours and what he said. He is apologetic and in his contrition, he tried many times to break into the circle that he was once belonged to. He might have done just that with his latest offering, Hacksaw Ridge. The topic of the movie is still very close to his heart – faith and the battle against evil.
Hacksaw Ridge is a story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a Seventh-Day Adventist who enlisted himself into the Army so he could be a paramedic in the second world war against Japan. Desmond is highly religious and takes the statement of “Thou shalt not kill” very seriously. This posed a problem since every Army personnel is required to know how to handle rifles and how to use them. His refusal to handle his rifle – and to potentially kill enemies in the line of battle – brought Doss into conflicts against his captain, Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) and the leader of his division, Captain Glover (Sam Worthington). Doss managed to dodge any kind of attempts to expel him from the Army, and was allowed to fight in Okinawa, Japan – to capture the notorious bunker at the top of Hacksaw Ridge in the island. Without killing anybody, Doss managed to save 75 soldiers and was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman, despite him having been branded a conscientious objector.
To lighten the story, Doss’ relationship with his then fiancée, Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer) is also included in the movie. This, as well as other scenes of his childhood, feels like the same sweet olive branch extended by Mel Gibson towards his critiques. The opening scenes and the first quarter of the movie feel sweet and innocent – before the scenes from the war dominate the movie. Boy, do they dominate! Gibson still has the tendency to show violence explicitly – just to show how ugly wars and battles are. If you’re squeamish, there’s a big chunk of the movie that you will probably watch squinting. The movie also feels a bit dragged out at times – especially when you take the battle scenes out of the equation, it’s as if the short story needs to be stretched so it can fill the 139 minutes.
However, I did enjoy this movie – Andrew Garfield is perfectly cast as a sweet, wide-eyed Doss who put all of himself into the task of saving lives. I can also see many Australian actors in the movie, such as Rachel Griffiths, Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh and Firass Dirani. This movie is also a personal inspiration for me, that despite the challenges, it is still very much possible to remain true to your faith, and contribute to the best of your ability in whatever field that you are placed in.