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Hacksaw Ridge (2016) - Movie Review



Hacksaw Ridge is a war-drama based on the true story about Desmond Doss, an American combat medic in WW2, who saved 75 lives in the battle of Okinawa, one of the bloodiest battle of the pacific theater. Directed by Mel Gibson who, after a 10 years gap, returned to the world of cinema, and in full form. 

Andrew Garfield plays as Desmond Doss and in the process gave the best performance of his career. You feel for him, you understand his character, and you root for him all the way. Teresa Palmer plays as the love interest, and she was simply lovely. Their short love story was quite sweet and they both had great chemistry. The performances were great across the board, and there were some surprising ones too like Vince Vaughn. He portrays a sergeant and I loved him in this film. He had a comedic layer to his role but was also dramatic when the movie called for it. The show stealer side-character performance was from Hugo Weaving, though, who plays as Desmond's father, and he was simply amazing. 

Now Hacksaw Ridge can be seen as two halves making a wholesome experience; the first half being character heavy, while the second one being action heavy (war). And it melds perfectly. The stark contrast between the two adds to the shock effect and works really well. The backstory of Desmond Doss, his army training, relationship with the family, love interest, all of it is mostly covered in the first half, and while it has a heavy-handed approach, it adds to the experience instead of distracting from it. The second half is all out war, and the movie holds back no punches. It hits HARD. 

The action scenes in the movie i.e the war sequences were masterfully done. Tons of violence and gore, nothing was held back to sugar coat it. War is hell, and this movie captured it perfectly. The mix of practical effects and CGI was great, especially given the fact that this movie had a budget of just 40 million, which is nothing compared to big budget movies, and yet you never get that smaller budget feel (aside from maybe a shot or two, more on that later).

The accompanying music, composed by Ruper Gregson-Williams, was quite impressive as well. During the quieter moments, it was calm and soothing, while during war scenes, it was engaging and powerful, enhancing the effects. I was particularly moved during the 'Please god, help me get one more' scene. The bravery at display coupled with a powerful track was breathtaking. I live for these moments. 

I have only one real flaw with the film, and that is the last 10-15 mins. It felt rushed. And while it was still quite riveting, they could have expanded it to 15-20 mins more as I would have loved some more buildup+aftermath. Apart from that, I have some nitpicks. A shot or two did have that CGI-ey feel to it, but it only lasted a couple of seconds or so, hence just a nitpick. That and the movie looked too clean, or maybe I'm just used to grainy and washed-out looking WW2 stuff.  

All in all, Hacksaw Ridge was an enthralling experience. The fact that this ACTUALLY happened, that a person managed to save 75 lives in that hell makes it even more fascinating. And it took me a re-watch to properly appreciate it. Favorite movie of 2016 for me (still have some left to watch), and one of my top favorite war or war-related movies of all time. Unless you can't handle violence/gore, I highly recommend it.  

9.5/10

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