Movie Review: "Hacksaw Ridge"
Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) is a man who is confident in his beliefs. He is a man with strong morals, and he is a man who lives by some of the most basic, commonly practiced values such as: “thou shall not kill”. The difference between Desmond Doss and most others—who claim to hold the same set of values—is Desmond’s conviction. He has also fallen in love with a girl. Her name is Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer) and she seems to love him for that conviction.
When he sees people in his town going to fight in World War II and risking their lives, Desmond does not believe that he can just sit by and let others fight for his freedom. Thus, Desmond chooses to enlist to serve as medic. He will not take a life, even at war, but saving the lives of his fellow soldiers is something that he can do. He soon comes to realize that this is not a path that will be easily traveled, as many within the military see his morality as a liability and his own father (Hugo Weaving) sees it as a weakness.
The Pros & Cons
War Action (+8pts)
Respect & Morals (+10pts)
Desmond's Motivation (-2pts)
The Testimonials (+4pts)
Flash Forwards & Closure (-2pts)
Pro: War Action (+8pts)
Once the action got going, it did not disappoint. Wow, there was some heavy action in here. From blood, guts, bullets, and explosions, there was some truly raw and brutal war-style action in this movie. However, what made the action more brutal was the feeling that it would never end.
The battle just kept going, and going, and going. The movie did not cut back and forth between war and Desmond Doss' family, like I thought it would. It took awhile to get to the action, but once it finally came, the filmmakers delivered in a big way, and they kept the focus on it. I liked watching as Desmond Doss progressively got more and more exhausted, while progressively going deeper into shock and further into danger. The filmmakers of Hacksaw Ridge went for realism. They wanted to show the heavy; brutal, and horrific nature of war, and I absolutely thought that they achieved that.
Con: Slow (-3pts)
The filmmakers of Hacksaw Ridge spent a ton of screen time setting up Desmond Doss’ relationships with his mother, with his father, and with his love interest—Dorothy. They also spent a ton of time setting up Desmond Doss’ strong morals during basic training along with the tension that those morals caused with the men in his unit. This movie will feel very slow to a lot of people, like myself. However, after seeing the rest of the movie, I know why the filmmakers did it this way.
They wanted the show a safe lifestyle and contrast it with the horrors of war. In real-life, that is how it happens. Life before war would be considered “slow” and “boring” to anyone not directly involved in it. Then, when the action came, the filmmakers stayed focused on it, so that the viewer could feel the characters‘ sense of having no escape. I understand the choice that was made, as I think it worked well in the long run. Nonetheless, it made for a slow start.
Pro: Respect & Morals (+10pts)
What made this movie so satisfying was seeing Desmond Doss' strong morals go up against the ideals of his fellow soldiers. More specifically, it was satisfying to see the lack of respect that other soldiers had for him at the beginning of the movie, and seeing that change throughout the course of the movie, as a result of Desmond Doss' actions and his courage. Desmond Doss—during training—revealed that he would not touch a gun. The men in Desmond's unit took this very seriously and this was honestly understandable, as they felt that he was a coward and would not be able to have their back in battle. As the battle began we then got to see the hero that Desmond was, and it was incredibly satisfying to see his fellow soldiers realizing that as well.
The trailers kind of made this whole storyline predictable, but it was inspiring to see a man's morals going up against seemingly insurmountable challenges, only for him to stay true to what he believed in. Despite how difficult it was made for him, and despite how easy it would have been to abandon those morals, Desmond stayed true to who he was. Desmond Doss' story was about war, but it was really all about seeing a man's beliefs challenged, and him refusing to abandon those beliefs no matter what others thought and no matter what the risk was. It was a story about standing up for yourself, despite whatever adversity is in front of you, and I think this was an important, impactful message that worked really well for this movie.
Con: Desmond's Motivation (-2pts)
With all the time spent on setup, I would have liked to have seen Desmond's motivations made more clear. As far as Desmond's morals were concerned, the movie showed us an event from his childhood and used that as the reason why his morals were the way that they were, but that always seemed like only part of the story. The rest of the story came near the end of the movie, long after his morals were no longer in question. Another motivation that was not ideally explained was his motivation to join the war in the first place. He explained it in dialogue later in the movie, but none of the setup was shown supporting this, aside from one very brief glance toward wounded soldiers. The filmmakers did a good job explaining why his morals were the way that they were, but showing his motivations for joining the war earlier in the movie would have gone a long way in getting the audience more invested in his decision.
Pro: The Testimonials (+4pts)
Most movies that are based on true stories show pictures of the actors' real life counterparts, while giving brief descriptions on how their lives turned out after the events of the movie. Hacksaw Ridge took this up a notch. Desmond Doss saved 75 men from Hacksaw Ridge. He did it more or less by himself, did it one by one, and risked his life with every attempt. We got to see testimonial interviews from survivors, and it was really impactful to see the emotion and appreciation that these men had clearly felt—their entire lives—over Desmond's actions, and how he did what he did with no weapon, putting other's lives before his own. Testimonials are usually a good way to to give closure to the audience for a movie that is based on real events. However, these testimonials were satisfying and impactful on a whole other level.
Con: Flash Forwards & Closure (-2pts)
One of my biggest issues with this movie was that it opened with a flash forward. It revealed huge plot points about who would survive until the end of the story and what condition they would be in. The movie then cut to 16 years before this and tells—chronologically—the life of Desmond Doss. There was absolutely no reason to have the movie start in this way and I think the story would have benefited by showing these plot points unfold without already knowing or seen them.
Another issue I had was that I would have liked to have seen closure to the storyline of Desmond Doss' family. The filmmakers spent so much time—in the beginning of the movie—introducing the members of Desmond's family and his relationships with them. It just would have been nice to see some sort of resolution to these relationships, since we spent so much time settling them up. Instead, the movie ended with the end of the battle in which Desmond did his courageous act. It was impactful, but showing a resolution to his relationship with his family members would have brought this story full circle.
Grade: A- (90pts)
Hacksaw Ridge was an inspiring story about a man who did not fire a single shot in World War II. Nonetheless, he ran into the heat of battle without a weapon to save others, and ended up saving 75 men from otherwise certain death. This movie had a slow start, but it was an emotional story and a truly inspiring one. This movie had some minor problems, but it was really impactful, and incredibly satisfying and inspirational. I strongly recommend seeing this movie. It has a slow start, but was a powerful story about an American hero with strong morals, who risked everything to save "just one more".