7:30 PM, 16th March, 2017
The hero of this movie is Virginia-born Desmond Doss (Garfield), the first conscientious objector to be awarded the US Medal of Honor. The medal was for the lives he saved as a medic during the Okinawa battle of spring 1945, one of the most hellish of the entire campaign. Doss had no problem with serving in the military but, as a Seventh Day Adventist, he couldn’t carry a weapon, which meant the military were reluctant to enlist him due to his inability to protect fellow soldiers.
Director Gibson has created another fascinating look at religious ideology. And, as was also the case with Apocalypto and The Passion of the Christ, he isn’t afraid to include the intense violence of the situation as well. (Throw in Braveheart, and there is an entire thesis waiting to be written on Gibson’s obsession with violence as the most direct path to transcendence, but we haven’t room here to explore that.) The basic-training scenes are well-judged, but the movie really takes off in the second half which depicts the bloody battle.
Garfield shines in his best performance since The Social Network, and Hugo Weaving is also emotionally believable as the brutal father Doss doesn’t want to become. Winner of seven AACTA awards – and nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture – Hacksaw Ridge is a large achievement for Gibson that burns with his peculiar intensity.