Since his meltdown, Mel Gibson has been pretty quiet. Well he's back and in a big way with "Hacksaw Ridge," a World War II story based on real-life unconventional war hero Desmond Doss. (He's portrayed with amazing realism by Andrew Garfield -- yes, cancelled reboot Spider-Man, who knew?)
Doss is a Seventh-day Adventist who grew up in the home of a WWI veteran battling alcoholism following the loss of his childhood friends to the horrors of war. Bitter and angry, Tom Doss (Hugo Weaving -- also fantastic in a different role for him), is abusive to his wife, Bertha (Rachel Griffiths), Desmond and Desmond's older brother Hal (Nathaniel Buzolic) as the kids grew up. As a child while wrestling with Hal, Desmond uses a brick and injures his brother, bringing on schooling with regard to "Thou shalt not kill." It's a lesson that sticks with him
Now a grown young men, Hal signs up to join the Army. Tom sends him away from the dinner table in anger and disgust, fighting back tears for what he believes will be Hal's fate. Desmond meanwhile rescues a man involved in a car accident and meets a pretty nurse, Dorothy (Teresa Palmer) at the hospital. The two begin dating and, as Desmond decides to do his part by joining his brother in the Army to serve as a medic, he and Dorothy become engaged. His father warns him that with his religious constitution he will not fare well in war, but he goes anyway.
When he arrives at basic, Desmond's eyes are opened when he s introduced to his fellow recruits -- Smitty (Luke Bracey), Hollywood (Luke Pegler), Teach (Richard Pyros), Grease (Ben Mingay) and Ghoul (Goran D. Kleut) among others -- as well as Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn, in a rare dramatic role) and Captain Glover (Sam Worthington). Leaner and smaller than many of his fellow soldiers, Desmond does well until the group begins to drill with rifles. He refuses to arm himself bringing down the ire of his superiors as well as his fellow recruits. They recognize him as a conscientious objector, which in their eyes equates to "coward." Armed with his Bible, his convictions and his determination to serve, Desmond maintains the course through basic training despite beatings and punishment from his superiors. Eventually, as he continues to refuse pressures to qualify with a rifle, he is tossed in the brig facing a court martial hearing.
In the end, Desmond survives it all as he is granted the opportunity to complete his medic training and enter the front unarmed. Upon arrival in Japan, he and his fellow recruits are tossed right into the heat as they join a depleted company to attack the superior-numbered enemy hunkered in atop Hacksaw Ridge. In the heat of battle, he proves his worth and as his company is once again shot up and blown to bits, it falls upon him to rescue soldiers left to die on the battlefield.
Desmond Doss proved to be among the bravest warriors to enter into battle, earning a Medal of Honor and saving 75 soldiers during the battle. And you won't believe what he went through or the efforts and risks he took to make sure none of his barely breathing soldiers were left behind.
Perhaps one of the most realistic war films I've ever seen, this edge-of-your-seat drama proves again that truth is better than fiction any day of the week when it comes to the movies. Garfield, Weaving, Vaughn and the rest of the cast are brilliant and Gibson again proves what a gifted director he is.
On a scale of 5 popcorn buckets, "Hacksaw Ridge" pushes the limit, spilling over with 5 tubs worth of perfectly popped, expertly seasoned golden corn. The acting, the war scenes and the tension are all top shelf and I can't give Mel Gibson enough credit for bringing this true story together on the big screen. A true war hero who never lifted a weapon against the enemy, Desmond Doss is an American story to cherish which we might never have heard of had it not been for this film. MPAA rating: R. Running time: 2 hours, 19 minutes. This film was reviewed at Southpark 7 Theatres in Spencer.