9 October 2016 | DukeEman
Back on the battlefield with Mel...
I was lucky enough to sneak into a cast & crew screening at the Newtown Dendy cinema. I thought 10.30AM on a Sunday was too early for a Mel Gibson movie, that I might be in for something along the lines of the heavy-handedness of THE PASSION OF THE Christ, and the adrenaline pumped brilliance of APOCALYPTO.
I was proved wrong because after the first thirty minutes I wasn't sure if this was a Mel Gibson film when I was placed into a comfort zone, with its melodrama set in a small Virginia town during the Forties, a schmaltzy romance, and the cliché violent drunken father who survived a brutal war. The performances were maybe a little let down by the clumsy dialogue, but all directed safely with a natural sense of storytelling.
By the 2nd act, I was put on high alert in the military training with our protagonist, Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield who I at first felt was wrongly cast, but he really came through in the end). It was here when the true purpose of the story began to evolve, that of Doss' moral and internal conflict with using a gun! What he had to endure and stand-up for was a courage I greatly admired. It was also in this phase of the film that the dialogue and characters began to shine. Maybe it was the introduction of Vince Vaughn's character. We all know how Vaughn is notorious in ad-libbing, and it seemed to help because the other actors bounced off it well.
Now the story had me in their pocket because by the 3rd act I was with our protagonist and his platoon when they got to the battlefield graveyard of Hacksaw Ridge. You thought the horrific situation in WE WERE SOLDIERS was brutal, well this was captured so vividly that you felt you were there. It was almost on par with the brilliance of GAME OF THRONES; BATTLE OF THE BASTARDS.
Now I felt I was in a Mel Gibson film. As with Braveheart, the battle scenes in Hacksaw Ridge didn't hold back. Maybe a notch better because of today's CGI (and I didn't even notice the effects!). The scenes were unflinching, haunting and in your face. Possibly showing you the true horror of war. Definitely not for the squeamish.
The religious aspect of the film was relevant to the story, so as a non-believer I thought it was an integral part of the protagonist and had to be told, so it didn't bother me as much.
Overall the technical aspect of the film was brilliant, but then again I didn't really notice it because I was too distracted by the story and the characters, and when that occurs, I know the film has succeeded.