‘Hacksaw Ridge’: A Great True Story That Could have Been A Better Movie

Hacksaw Ridge: 5.5 Stars (5.5 / 10)

Desmond Doss: American Hero

Desmond Doss, a World War II combat medic, is a true war hero. He saved the lives of 75 men on Hacksaw Ridge during the battle of Okinawa. Despite the fact that Doss did not carry a rifle into battle he was able to accomplish more than most of the men serving with him. He received the Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart for his bravery in the war. Doss died on March 26, 2006 at his home in Alabama.

Doss’ actions and life are portrayed in the film Hacksaw Ridge. Andrew Garfield stars as Doss and portrays Desmond’s life before and during World War II. The film is good, but could have been better. Perhaps the best part of the film is the end hearing the men, including Doss, talk about the events. A longer documentary of these interviews would definitely be something worth watching.

There are times when Hacksaw Ridge is a great film. Many of the battle sequences are tense and the scene when he is single-handedly saving the men atop the ridge is quite impactful. However, the first half of the film, prior to him leaving for war is very cliche and does not add much to the film.

What Could Have Been Better

If you haven’t yet seen the movie you may want to stop reading now.

When Doss is a child he is fighting with his brother Hal and hits him across the head with a brick. He realizes that he could have killed his brother and stares at a painting of the “Our Father” prayer. This is supposed to show Desmond becoming very religious and realizing that killing is the worst sin. Now, it makes sense, but the scene is very cliche and corny. I get the feeling of remorse, but I don’t think it was enough to turn him to a life of no violence and intense-religion.

When Doss decides to enlist in the army he refuses to take a rifle. If he would just take a rifle and go through training he could later refuse to use it. Instead he refuses to touch the rifle altogether causing him to be court-martialed and cause a lot of issues for himself. Again I get that this is a true story, but the depiction of it is hard to understand. Why not just go through training and then never actually use the rifle?

What was harder to understand was the scene with Desmond turning a gun on his father. The whole movie I was thinking he wouldn’t touch a weapon since he had almost killed his brother. Instead it is shown that he doesn’t touch guns ever since he took a pistol from his father, who was beating his mother, and almost shot him. This scene makes sense, but it would be more fitting if we hadn’t already had something to base his non-violence decision off of. Instead, it just feels odd and unnecessary because it shows Doss, that we thought became non-violent long ago, turning a gun on his father just months before leaving for war.

Another part of this movie that was hard to take in was the CGI. Most of the effects are fine, but a couple of things just take away from the movie. The shots from the Navy ship are very clearly CGI and the end of the film when Doss kicks a grenade to save his men is almost comical looking.

One thing that is hard for me to admit, because I like to give actors every chance to star in any movie, is the poor casting of Vince Vaughn. I have a hard time taking the guy from Wedding Crashers seriously as a drill sergeant.

I also have to mention Dorothy. Dorothy is Desmond’s big crush, who he eventually marries. She should be the main focus of Desmond, at least you would think. However, after being blown up at the end of the film Doss is crying out for his Bible rather than for Dorothy. I get that Dorothy gave him the Bible, but it just seemed off. Dorothy is also a very rushed character. There isn’t a lot of development for her even though she is clearly a major part of Desmond’s life before, during and after the war.

Finally, I have to say that the acting overall in this film was not great. Garfield, at times, just fails to meet the moment. There are times when he is smiling and laughing. Right in the middle of the battle. It just seems odd and takes away from what is going on. I should say, though, that Sam Worthington was very good and I hope that he can get some more major roles in the future, because I think he could be a great actor.

How To Watch

Hacksaw Ridge, despite the negatives, is well-worth the watch. It is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray and instant video. It is also available from Red Box.

 

 

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