Hacksaw Ridge

2016 bloody true story

Rating: 13/20

Plot: A pacifist named Desmond Doss enlists in the Army because everybody else is and he wants to do his part. He figures he can just be a medic and not have to worry about carrying a gun around. His commanding officers and fellow soldiers don't appreciate that at all, but he winds up saving a bunch of their lives in the Battle of Mr. Miyagi and winning himself a Medal of Honor without even killing any Japanese guys.

I know this is based on a true story and all, but I just never believed in it. No matter how much director Mel Gibson--known anti-Semite--shoves our faces right in the blood and strewn body parts and more blood and agonized expressions on the filthy countenances of members of the greatest generation. There's nearly as much blood in this movie as Jesus had in his body in The Passion of the Christ, and it's all to illustrate something that everybody knows anyway--that war is horrifying. But Gibson likes his body parts and blood-soaked soldier uniforms, so he just keeps getting his camera right in there, showcasing men with limbs akimbo flying through the air, Japanese scoundrels running sharp things through abdomens, the final gnarled dances of bullet-riddled soldiers, and even a bit of viscera if you look closely enough.

The real-life character, whom I'm positive is portrayed in a completely historically accurate way here and not Hollywoodized a bit, is definitely worthy of having a movie, but the hero-making becomes hyperbolic as Gibson and Andrew Garfield create this character who's a walking brew of good old fashion American balls, inspiring persistence, and some heaping tablespoons of aww-shucks. Garfield's performance is really good, but there's still something really distracting about the whole thing. I don't think it's because he's Spider-Man, but maybe it's because he's Spider-Man. Or maybe it's because he's got a really long neck. Whatever it was, I just had trouble buying the character.

Gibson creates all kinds of ultra-tense sequences where Doss is crouched a few feet away from Japanese soldiers. There are more close calls in this than any movie should be allowed to have. The entire second half of the movie is one relentless action sequence, a ridiculously overcooked battle sequence followed by the aftermath with Garfield stepping over dead guys to try to save other guys from also becoming dead guys. And after a while, I felt like I got it. Then, I got sick of it. Then, I just couldn't stop rolling my eyes. And my living room had filled with smoke, and I had to wave a towel by the smoke alarm to get it to shut off.

Hugo Weaving plays Garfield's dad, and his performance is really uneven. I liked a lot of what he did a lot, but there were some parts of his performance that were just silly. And he was also involved in a second needlessly slow-motioned scene (his "I'm gonna have to beat you now" followed an earlier "You're gonna make it") that made me laugh inappropriately. I did enjoy his character's story about his friend's intestines though. I love a good intestines story.

If you've seen any other movies about great American war heroes, you'll recognize all the beats of this one. You can tap your foot to Hacksaw Ridge's music. However, you're not going to see anything new here, and the Gibson gore indulgences will grow tiresome. Another disappointing Best Picture nominee for 2016.

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