Ian Shank, Staff Writer

“Hacksaw Ridge” is a true story about a young man named Desmond Doss, a seventh day adventist, who joins the army during World War Two but refuses to carry a gun due to his beliefs. He is then deemed to be a conscientious offender, thrown in jail, and put on trial. When the judge learns that Doss is not required to touch a gun he lets Doss go and become a combat medic and run into battle without a gun. What ensues is a gripping, emotional, visceral, and gory war film. What many are talking about is the fact that Mel Gibson is directing this film yet he still has some scars from the past that many have not forgotten about. Some are saying this film can make up for his mistakes and help them move on; others, not so much. Let me say though, Mel Gibson did a phenomenal job directing this film and I think through this film he can receive redemption from the public. I’ve never really liked Mel Gibson as an actor, but the man knows how to direct. “Braveheart,” “The Passion of the Christ,” and “Apocalypto” were all well directed but “Hacksaw Ridge” easily claims the title as Mr. Gibson’s best film. He is able to bring it on every single scene. You really see Mel’s directorial talent on display during the second half of the movie when the soldiers fight the Japanese to reclaim Hacksaw Ridge. It is phenomenal how all the action is filmed. There’s no shaky cam, none of the action is made to be more cinematic, and it is so realistic. Remember the D-day scene in “Saving Private Ryan?” That’s how the second half of this movie rolls. The battle is brutal and disturbing to the point where it could even make the most desensitized person cringe.

What really makes this movie though, are the performances.  All of the actors and actresses have performances that are grounded in reality. There’s not a single part that’s overacted; everyone acts like a normal human being would. Andrew Garfield really blew me away. He plays the main character, Desmond Doss, and I would not be shocked if he isn’t at least nominated for best actor for his performance. He has a lot to do in this film and he brings it all the time, whether it is in the middle of the battle, talking to his alcoholic father, or hilariously trying to flirt with a nurse at the local hospital. He is always able to catch the humanity of Doss. You also feel emotionally overwhelmed when he talks to God in the middle of the battle and he utters the words, “What is it you want of me?” I also really liked Vince Vaughn in this movie. I was genuinely surprised to see that he can do other stuff and not just comedy films. He does, however, provide some rather humorous parts, including making a soldier run through the course without any clothes on and making a soldier perform his Native American battle cry even though the man isn’t Native American.  Sam Worthington is also in this and his acting has gotten tremendously better since the miserable excuse of a film that was “Man on a Ledge.” Luke Bracey also gives a solid performance as a private that’s kind of a jerk, but is also the kind of person that could be your best friend forever. What I mean by that is that he taunts Doss about his beliefs and doesn’t stop other soldiers from beating him, yet throughout the movie you see him being a kind and loving guy that always has his friend’s backs.  What I was genuinely happy with was seeing Hugo Weaving, or as I like to call him “King of the nerds,” playing a much more emotional role. He plays Doss’ dad who is a veteran with a severe case of alcoholism. It is so severe that we witness him almost kill his wife before being stopped by Desmond.

Rupert Gregson-Williams’ score is also one of the best I’ve heard in quite some time. It is always able to capture the emotion of the moment.  It can more harmonic in the more relaxed and happy scenes such as Desmond taking a girl out on a date and then become a riveting piece when it comes to the battle or when the soldiers are doing their drills. Some may ask if this movie propagates Christianity since it is about a Christian that refused to even carry a gun into battle. The answer is no, it never becomes preachy or anything like that.  It’s just there to show how deep one man’s convictions were. “Hacksaw Ridge” is the best movie of 2016 and one the best movies I’ve ever seen.