Over the years, Hollywood has produced countless forgettable war movies. Movies that in the moment intrigue the audience with intense violence, but beyond the action lack any real depth. To my delight, Hacksaw Ridge is not one of those movies. Following the epic story of Desmond T. Doss, we observe how he stays true to his values even as it seems — quite literally — the entire world is against him.
Casting Andrew Garfield as Doss was potentially problematic, as an actor who’s easily recognizable (thanks to The Social Network and The Amazing Spider-Man) usually takes away from the performance; it’s more difficult to get lost in the illusion that the individual on the screen is Desmond T. Doss. Fortunately, Garfield’s performance went above and beyond to erase any concerns I had. His portrayal appeared authentic and provoked genuine feelings of connection to the character.
An unsung hero in terms of acting was the performance of Hugo Weaving, as Desmond’s father Tom Doss. He gave a very powerful performance, without stealing the spotlight away from Garfield, resulting in the perfect supporting role for the storyline.
All the great performances culminated in an ability to transition from hysterical scenes to heartbreaking ones only a few minutes later. The love story was truly cute and will make you envious of their relationship.
Where this film shines most is undoubtedly the battle scenes. Reminiscent of the gold standard that is the Omaha Scene from Saving Private Ryan, this movie must be applauded for just how intense they managed to make these battles. Many in the audience couldn’t help but flinch during several particularly gruesome moments. You have a sense that no character is safe, and your heart breaks as they start to fall one by one. Beyond that there are also some well-done surprises amid all the action scenes that speak to the fact that those caught in this hell are human beings like you and I.
A good measure of the effectiveness of this movie was that as the screen faded to black and the lights in the theatre came on, there was a moment or two of collective awe; a few seconds to take in everything we had just witnessed, followed by applause.
All in all, Hacksaw Ridge excels in many different areas. The performances, the plot, and the script all come together to brilliantly tell the genuinely touching story of Desmond T. Doss. For those history buffs out there, you will love the authenticity of the battle scenes. For those who aren’t typical fans of war movies, you will love the emotional side of the story, and the heart that lies behind the love story, Desmond’s family, and the brotherhood of the soldiers.