by Marianne Farrell
Photography Courtesy of Facebook
On a warm Tuesday evening in mid-October, 100 or so people gathered in a large movie theater. Treated to popcorn, drinks and even large comfortable lounge chairs, the atmosphere seemed relaxed and at ease.
A question, however, lingered in the back of everyone’s mind: whether this movie could help salvage its director’s reputation.
Mel Gibson, who rose to fame after roles in movies like The Patriot and Lethal Weapon, turned to directing and even won several Academy Awards for his epic biopic, Braveheart, which he also starred in. After the massive success of Braveheart, movie critics and audiences alike believed that Gibson would become the next great director.
Those dreams came to a crashing halt after Gibson’s degrading, anti-Semitic rants were released. To many people, it seemed like the end for Gibson in Hollywood. However, could Hacksaw Ridge, the inspiring story of decorated war veteran be the comeback Gibson has been waiting for?
The casting in the movie’s main roles had the potential to draw skepticism. Andrew Garfield, best known for his role as Spiderman, and Vince Vaughn, best known for movies like Wedding Crashers, co-star in the World War II epic based on a true story.
In fact, Andrew Garfield’s performance was pleasantly surprising. His powerful interpretation of the story’s main character, Desmond Doss— a U.S. Army corporal and combat medic—focused on emphasizing the man’s important religious beliefs and how he overcame incredible religious persecution.
Even as Doss was beaten and the army tried to throw him out for misconduct, the steadfast 7th Day Adventist (a protestant Christian denomination) refused to touch a gun or engage in any violence.
During the particularly moving climax of the movie, Garfield’s performance reached staggering heights as he cries out to God, asking for help in saving his comrades.
“[Garfield’s] portraits of personal struggle are very impressive,” said Kevin Chen (COM ’20).
Throughout the film, Garfield was able to combine the serious, intense battle sequences with the charming attitude of a Virginian boy.
Other minor characters also do well in catching viewers’ eyes, like Vince Vaughn’s performance as Sergeant Howell and Sam Worthington’s as Captain Glowell—though the amount of minor characters seemed incredibly overwhelming at times. It was important for the film to show put Doss into the context of an outlier—and savior—among friends, but there was not enough set-up in the film as to who the characters were.
The only scene that introduced Doss’ comrades was a misplaced comedic scene that didn’t quite fit in the middle of the movie.
Another disappointing aspect was Teresa Palmer’s role of Dorothy Doss. Her husband constantly carried around a picture of her and she was cited as his main reason for fighting so hard, but Dorothy was portrayed more as a plot device than a real character.
Gibson attempted to bring some aspect of the big Hollywood romance blockbuster into the film, but fell short on keeping that theme going throughout the movie.
This movie has generated significant Oscar buzz. Particularly in regards to the special effects and the makeup, this hype is understandable. The blood, gore and unbelievable war scenes are worthy of recognition.
The film contained massive amounts of blood and gore, to a disturbing, shocking extent. It was unnecessary at times, but at the same time without those aspects of the film, the circumstances and heroism of Desmond Doss would not be as important or prominent.
It’s clear that Gibson has made a bid for career revival. The religious persecution shown did seem somewhat ironic coming from a director who has also been known to voice similar sentiments towards certain religious groups.
It’s also difficult to watch the film without wondering about the circumstances many people and countries find themselves in today; throughout the world, war has been plaguing certain countries and has even threatened to devastate our own at some moments.
“[This movie] “makes people realize the devastation war can cause” said Aki Garg (COM ’20).
“[People should] be reminded of what our grandparents and our great-grandparents did for them” said Chen.