Director: Mel Gibson
During the Second World War American troops tried in vain to overcome Japanese forces in Okinawa as they battled to take control of a cliff top area known as Hacksaw Ridge. Part of that troop was young soldier, Desmond Doss. A solider that many believed should not be there as he refused to handle a weapon. His purpose instead was to help his colleagues in his role as medic and his sheer determination to fight in the war makes for a truly unbelievable story. For Desmond Dross was awarded with the Medal of Honour, the military’s highest honour, after the war was over for saving the lives of 75 wounded infantrymen, despite the fact that he didn’t fire a single shot.
American troops moved in on Hacksaw Ridge, scaling the rope netting that led up the cliff face to the top where many Japanese soldiers were waiting for them. It was a battle that the Americans struggled to overcome and were forced to retreat when casualties became too high. Desmond Doss, however, stayed. Even though he had to spend the majority of his time keeping undercover, Doss completed a miraculous mission by himself as his refusal to leave any soldier behind drove him on. He single handily lowered injured soldiers down the face of the cliff using his rope and a homemade pulley system. His hands ravaged, his life at risk, nothing deterred him from his mission.
It was a mission that may never have taken place. Doss’ refusal to partake in any weaponry combat very nearly led to him being imprisoned and kicked out of the army. His fellow soldiers turned on him and even his captains as he continued to refuse instruction. They barred him any leave in which he was due to get married and made life difficult for him, but Desmond Doss was a man of his word and with God by his side, he would go to war.
Director Mel Gibson has already carved out a very impressive name for himself in Hollywood for not only his acting, but also his direction. Not an easy piece by any stretch of the imagination, Gibson really thrusts us into the world of Desmond Doss and the rigours of war. There are scenes that have been compared to Saving Private Ryan and sequences of violence that he has not held back on, nor should he. There is no way that you can sugar coat war and Gibson hasn’t done that at all. Instead, he has produced a piece of cinematic brilliance.
Andrew Garfield portrays the role of Desmond Doss and earnt himself an Oscar nomination in the process. It is not surprising why when you see his performance as it is magnificent. Garfield nailed every key aspect of Doss’ personality and character and the highest accolade he received was from Desmond Doss’ own son who praised Garfield on the performance.
Strong support came from Vince Vaughn as Sergeant Howell in an unusually serious role for the comedy actor, but one that was believable and showed the versatility of his talent. Sam Worthington played the often warming character of Captain Glover. Desmond Doss’ future wife, Dorothy, was played with such conviction and sincerity by Teresa Palmer, but it was another standout role of Desmond’s father, Tom Doss, played by the charismatic Hugo Weaving that played a key part of the story and also Desmond’s life decisions. Weaving is an actor of great ability and this is certainly one of his best performances.
Praise must be given to Mel Gibson and his team for not only telling this story, but in doing so, producing one of Hollywood’s great war stories that deserves to sit alongside the classics. It is hardly surprising that the movie has been nominated for Best Film and Best Director and, although competition will be tough, this has every chance of winning.