When Mel Gibson came back to Hollywood as a prodigal son following his infamous anti-semitic outburst at a Jewish police officer in 2006, no one could have thought he would be welcomed back to Hollywood to direct Hacksaw Ridge: an obvious Oscars contender in the 2016 awards season.
The film tells the extraordinary story of Desmond Doss, a ‘conscientious cooperator’ in the United States’ 77th Infantry Division, whose heroic actions in the Pacific during the later years of World War II are utterly commendable. As a Seventh Day Adventist, Doss’ religious beliefs barred him from ever picking up a gun or hurting another human being. His non-violence was also instilled in him from his experience of almost killing his younger brother when he was growing up. This combination was almost unheard of in the Army at the time considering the brutal fighting against the Japanese at the time, but Doss’ determination to serve his country meant following much bullying and harassment, he was allowed to enlist as a combat medic much to the disappointment of his World War I veteran father. Upon leaving, he becomes engaged to his sweetheart Dorothy but is called up without having the chance to marry. Regardless of the enemy purportedly putting bounties on the American medics, Doss ignores the threat to his own life to save the lives of many dozens of infantrymen.
The film finishes with interviews of Doss and with several men who he saved and who served with him. The popular romanticisation of war is paradoxical when using the highly realistic example of Hacksaw Ridge, and is arguably one of the film’s most important messages. Andrew Garfield delivers a striking and inspirational performance as Doss despite having made his name in the drab Spiderman franchise. Further commendation should go to Vince Vaughn for his surprising performance as Sergeant Howell which refreshed his reputation as one of Hollywood’s favourite rom-com actor. On the whole, Hacksaw Ridge is a refreshing film following a number of failed attempts of reigniting the war genre on the big screen and it is still unknown how it was not awarded the Best Picture at last season’s Oscars.