Wars breed heroes. The promise of death and destruction brings about parts of our spirit that we never thought we had. History is littered with stories of heroism and bravery in the face of impossible and in a worth where storytelling reaches new heights of details and embellishment, we as a society get to visualize these stories in a way that allows us to truly appreciate them. Mel Gibson Latest foray into directing Hacksaw Ridge is a great example of this.
The film tells the story of Desmond Doss. A young Virginian man whom through a sense of duty and a calling from good, serves in the US military as a medic who refuses to neither take a life nor even touch a gun. During the Battle of Okinawa, he became the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honour for Bravery under fire. simply reading his Wikipedia page gives u a whole list of reasons why a film has been made about his life and service.
Movies like this one and most military based films that tell the story of a particular group or person are rooted in a narrative of a single gesture or act that sets the person or group apart from the larger backdrop of the war. These gestures are cultivated as either propaganda or as part of a canon of contemporary legends that we use as a society to exhibit the best of us of a species. This is no different with Hacksaw Ridge. The emotional response I had to the film was that of adoration for the gesture and the story of Desmond Doss. From the ver beginning, every single scene established something about his character that will serve the final gesture at the end of the film. As a motion picture, this becomes a little predictable. I knew about what Doss did in the film by the trailer and I knew by its oscar bait tone that it will be an inspirational story by either merit or contrived design. I was very glad, however, to see that the film was executed so well and so gracefully that the predictability was a pleasure to watch. The dialogue was authentic and effective. The production design did exactly what it needed to do to transport me to the 1940’s.
The film was stylistically classic. There were moments during the film where I found that instead of telling a personal story, Gibson had chosen to insert well-known tropes and cliches from other famous war movies in order to flesh out the formulaic run up to the true identity of the movie in the latter half. It’s fair to say that you can’t really stray too far from a certain aesthetic when you’re telling hundreds of stories set within the same five-year period But when you’re making a movie about an extraordinary feat of human kindness and bravery. It would serve the film better if it had an identity of its own.
In conclusion. It’s fair to say that Hacksaw Ridge may be a forgettable war film designed to wins Oscars. But I am very glad that I got to be told the story of Desmond Doss. A brave man who through faith and courage, showed us all that we have it in us to be a hero. And when a film does that. You can easily call it a success.