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Rose Brown reviews the Oscar-nominated war epic detailing the life and incredible acts of Desmond Doss.

Some might think that this awards season is all about the revival of the musical – but there are a few other comeback kids who are impressing audiences with their cinematic achievements.

One such figure is Mel Gibson, whose acclaimed directorial achievements such as Braveheart demonstrated his abilities behind the camera. After a hiatus of almost a decade, he’s now stunning audiences with Hacksaw Ridge.

The drama tells the amazing true story of Desmond Doss, an American whose religious beliefs and compassionate spirit compelled him to go to war as a medic – despite the fact he refused to ever touch a weapon.

The Battle of Okinawa in WWII provides the setting for the war scenes, specifically the Maeda Escarpment – which was so brutal and deadly it was nicknamed ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ by American troops.

It was here that Doss single-handedly saved the lives of approximately 75 men, often running into the darkness to rescue his fellow soldiers despite huge personal risk.

Andrew Garfield is absolutely stunning in his depiction of Doss – both on the battlefield and off, as the film’s first half shows his life growing up and his personal relationships.

With a smattering of Oscar nominations, this incredible drama is not one to miss.

Garfield and Teresa Palmer, who plays Doss’ wife Dorothy, have incredible chemistry and their heart-warming romance provides an emotional background that we remember in the tense scenes on the battlefield, making them even more effective.

The cast also boasts Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington as army commanders and both give surprisingly effective performances. Vaughn’s sergeant in particular also provides some comic one-liners, which are welcomed in a film with such dramatic weight.

Gibson’s portrayal of the hardships Doss faced in military training as well as his favouring of tight shots to frame actor’s faces also adds emotion and character depth which becomes important later when the setting shifts to the war, causing us to care about the characters and making the horrific acts of violence more effective.

The story uses good foreshadowing in the first half of the film to create character arcs that really pay off in the later scenes. While some of the facts are exaggerated, many are true. Plus, there were actually other incidents of heroism from Doss in the battle that Gibson decided to leave out, as he thought they were too unbelievable. Hard to imagine in a tale that is already nothing short of miraculous.

The special effects used for the battle scenes are amazing, but this film is probably not one to watch with a bowl of popcorn. Gibson holds nothing back with a harrowing and almost unbearably realistic portrayal of war and its grisly effects on the men who fight.

Furthermore, the sequences when Doss is rescuing his fellow soldiers are incredibly tense and play out more like a horror film than a drama, which is fitting in the theatre of war.

With a smattering of Oscar nominations, this incredible drama is not one to miss. Although its depiction of war is brutal and miserable, the fact remains that it was a reality – it’s great to see the story of a man who tried to do some good in the midst of it.


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