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DVD Review

DVD cover

Hacksaw Ridge


Starring: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer and Hugo Weaving
Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 22 May 2017

During the Battle of Okinawa, the allies first thrust into the Japanese mainland islands. The fighting was bloody and, in the cost of men’s lives lost on land, sea and in the air, the battle proved to be tragically expensive. Amongst the death and destruction, one man, Desmond Doss, fought in the only way he knew, by saving lives...

Hacksaw Ridge (2016. 2 hrs, 13 min, 42 sec) is a wartime biopic, directed by Mel Gibson from a Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight script.

The film opens with the battle in full swing and Gibson does not hide the horrors which the men had to endure, over the top of which Desmond (Andrew Garfield) narrates a passage about the lord. The film then jumps back in time to when Desmond was a child, running wild in the Blue mountains with his brother.

We are introduced to Desmond’s father, Tom (Hugo Weaving), drunk and talking to the graves of his friends who had been killed in the First World War. Desmond is being raised by his mother, a devout Seventh-day Adventist and the genesis of his deep anti-violence stance which would see him coming to loggerheads with the American army. Two further events are introduced, the first is when Desmond hits his brother in the head with a rock during a fight, potentially doing serious harm and later we see Desmond defending his mother from his drunken father and nearly shooting him.

These two events show that far from being either a coward or overly meek, that Desmond is aware of the level of violence he might be capable of. It is only by keeping to his faith that Desmond keeps himself and others from the demons which lurk in all of us.

While a laudable idea, with the outbreak of World War Two the army are not looking for well-intentioned young men, they want men who are willing to kill. Desmond joins up from a deep conviction that he must serve his country so long as he never has to carry a gun.

His fellow soldiers consider him a coward, his officers wonder if he is psychiatrically ill. The deep prejudice means that both his comrades and his officers go to extremely unpleasant lengths to try and get him to resign from the army. All the while they question his fitness to serve, he keeps to his belief that he must. Eventually, the army court marshals him, obviously this fails as Desmond does get his wish to act as a medical officer.

Garfield gives a very strong performance as Desmond, imbuing his character with a vulnerability, seeing the other soldiers picking on him has the audience rooting for Desmond who will not retaliate regardless of the provocation. Garfield’s own awkward physique makes his character an unlikely hero, which add more power to the film's last third.

The first half of the film details Desmond’s background and enlistment, the second consists of the battle. Its dirty, dangerous and the midst of this the 77th Infantry Division are tasked with taking Hacksaw Ridge an attack which ends disastrously culminating in a full retreat for everyone except Desmond and the wounded. What happens next is a vindication of everything Desmond stands for. Alone on the ridge with the Japanese hunting for wounded to kill, Desmond left all alone, personally rescues seventy-five wounded men. A vindication that his was a man of principle and not a coward.

Regardless of what you may think of Mel Gibson the man, there is little doubt that he is a talented film maker. If the first half of the film provided a necessary context for Desmond’s actions, the second directly shows the brutality of war, following the better tradition of showing war in a way that does not glamorise it. Although the film did not do as well as it might of, I would still recommend viewing it.

The DVD disc gets a responsive 5.1 audio track, there are options for an audio description as well as English subtitles. There are only two extras, a couple of deleted scenes and a Veterans Day Greeting from Mel Gibson (59 sec).


Charles Packer

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