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HACKSAW RIDGE

SYNOPSIS: WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people and becomes the first Conscientious Objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Review by Louise Keller:
Throwing up an intriguing paradox, Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge is a hard-hitting drama about faith, conviction and conflict. These are themes that Gibson knows well and he stitches this unique story together with a broad range of emotions that emanate from the delicacy of a new relationship to those punctured by brutality. It has been 10 years since Gibson directed Apocalypto (2009) and this Australian co-production (shot in Australia) is a sharp reminder of his strong vision and directing skills.

While a considerable part of the exposition takes place during the bloody battlefield at Hacksaw Ridge amid intense and graphic violence, the heart of the film is about the morality at its core. This is its point of difference.

It is the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a WWII Army Medic who refuses to carry a gun because killing is against his beliefs; he wants to save lives, not take them. Strongly influenced by his traumatic childhood in Virginia with his drunk, self-loathing, physically abusive father (Hugo Weaving) and devout Seventh Day Adventist mother (Rachel Griffith, excellent), it is impressed upon him as a youngster, that killing is the most 'grievous sin in the world'. These strong flashback sequences are key in providing the film's foundations; Weaving is especially good in what are some of the most emotionally satisfying scenes.

Garfield is well cast as Doss, delivering a mix of vulnerability and inner strength. There's an appealing gentle determination about him when he meets and falls in love with the pretty nurse Dorothy (Teresa Palmer, lovely), who 'will love him no matter what'. These early scenes are charming. When he enlists in the army, his armory is Dorothy's bible. Not even the harsh physical treatment and beating he receives at the hands of his superiors and fellow soldiers causes Doss to reconsider his declared stance to touch a gun. Vince Vaughn is formidable as the bullying drill sergeant ('don't let the wind blow him away') and Sam Worthington is fine as the battalion leader. The film veers into courtroom drama territory briefly before we are thrown mercilessly onto the battlefield.

The battle scenes are harrowing: bodies and body parts are strewn everywhere. It is a fiery hell and the symbolic madness of war, complete with brutality, fear, despair and futility is hugely confronting. There is a key moment when Doss screams to his God in the darkness: 'What is it you want of me?' His heroic feat of rescuing 75 wounded soldiers (including some Japanese) in extreme circumstances is nothing short of extraordinary, making him the first 'conscientious objector' to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Hacksaw Ridge is a potent, thought provoking and satisfying film and a perfect fit for Gibson, who shakes the subject matter for all its worth. Production elements are all excellent and Rupert Gregson-Williams's score enhances but never overpowers. Look out for footage of the real Desmond Doss at the end of the film.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

HACKSAW RIDGE (MA5+)
(US/Australia, 2016)

CAST: Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Teresa Palmer, Luke Bracey, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Richard Roxburgh, Matt Nable, Nathaniel Buzolic, Ryan Corr

PRODUCER: Terry Benedict, Paul Currie, Bruce Davey, Bill Mechanic, Brian Oliver, David Permut, Tyler Thompson

DIRECTOR: Mel Gibson

SCRIPT: Andrew Knight, Robert Schenkkan, Randall Wallace

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Simon Duggan

EDITOR: John Gilbert

MUSIC: John Debney, Rupert Gregson-Williams

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Barry Robison

RUNNING TIME: 131 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 3, 2016







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