Hacksaw Ridge is spectacular and stirring but flawed Oscar bait directed by disgraced director Mel Gibson. Based on a true story, the film follows Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), whose Seventh Day Adventism made him into a conscientious objector during World War II, even while he insisted on going into the front lines as a medic. Thanks to a $40 million budget, the movie is most impressive in its final section, during the Battle of Okinawa. There, the violence is brutal and graphic, and Mel Gibson’s artistry, his ability to coherently present the action, is on full display. Whereas the training camp section of the movie is fun and humorous, reminiscent of The Dirty Dozen, the first section of the movie, as well as the family and romantic subplots, take on melodramatic tones. The problem with the melodrama stems less from the clichéd script and archetypical characters than from the blandness of the score, which, if it were more moving, could have made the movie more emotionally resonant. Ultimately, in addition to the amazing action, some of the performances—whether by the luminous Teresa Palmer, or by the captivating Hugo Weaving, or by the commanding Luke Bracey, or by the serviceable Sam Worthington, or by the more than serviceable Vince Vaughn—make Hacksaw Ridge into a film of distinction. A salute to that, Mr. Gibson.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White