3.5/4

Hacksaw Ridge [2016] ★★★½

 hacksaw0001Mel Gibson’s tribute to Private Desmond T. Doss, the man who single-handedly saved 75 wounded soldiers during the battle of Hacksaw Ridge in 1945 Japan, is nothing short of a triumph. Gibson also stages some of the best action scenes I’ve seen in a war movie, but that’s not the only reason why “Hacksaw Ridge” works so well. Raised in Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains, Desmond swore never to pick up a gun, even if surrounded by enemies. When he enlists in the army, his fellow recruits ridicule him and dismiss him as a coward. But Desmond had other ideas. Gibson, working from a powerful script by Andrew Knight and Robert Shenkkan, needed to dig deeper, meaning he had to find just the right actor for the job. That would be Andrew Garlfield, who is absolutely sensational as our hero (Oscar, take note). On the battlefield with his troops, it his Desmond who shows a glimmer of hope while Japanese soldiers circle as relentlessly as sharks. Garfield never misses a beat, even in the movie’s most brutal moments. In only his 5th feature as a director and first since 2006’s “Apocalypto”, Gibson shows remarkable confidence and sincerity. His film is beautifully shot and impeccably crafted. In the hands of a different director, “Hacksaw Ridge” could have been just another war movie. But it’s Gibson’s vision that gives it more depth. In honoring one of the most courageous men in WWII, Gibson has managed to deliver one of the year’s finest films. Do not miss it.

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