Hacksaw Ridge (2016) is Mel Gibson relying on his worst instincts

Hacksaw Ridge is the prototypical war film experience with the one caveat of the main character’s morals overtaking his need to obey. Desmond T. Doss, played by Andrew Garfield, is a principled young man that devotes his life to pacifism in the midst of fighting World War II. His devotion to his religion sends him down a path that ostracized him during basic training, making him earn respect in action.

Directed by Mel Gibson, it’s the same type of bombast that makes his other films feel all over the place, but in Hacksaw Ridge is distilled down to one character. Thankfully, Gibson got the casting right with Garfield, but the direction becomes nonsensical and they make this brave medic into a symbol rather than a person. Even his motivations are handled weirdly in the script, as his motivations are incredibly shallow and it’s hard to buy into his convictions. Take the pacifism and trace from his brother’s death to his first time on the front lines. It’s underutilized as a story device and rarely touched upon as if that small scene is supposed to carry this idea all the way through. The lack of understanding of his decision due to wonky execution makes the entire film feel hollow.

Moving forward, the editing, which earned an Oscar from the Academy, completely muddies the central story for the sake of advancing plot but goes at a snail’s pace. The action sequences were far too cut heavy and none of the action sequences played out in any artful way outside being bombarded by cuts. No scenes have time to breathe or set the setting in any meaningful way. And maybe my expectations for the editing specifically were a bit too high, but there’s a lack of purpose in each cut and that makes the action sequences lackluster.


★★½/ Out of 5★s (68)

(85-84-83-70-72-76-62-78-70-80-60-65-73-75: 73.38)

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