Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson, attempts to tackle the challenging task of giving us a war story that has yet to be told. The biopic explores the heroism of real-life army medic Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), the only conscientious objector to willingly enlist and go on to win the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service in World War II.

The scenes that focus on Doss are moving. His character raises the question can war and religion can co-exist. His struggles start before his unit is even deployed. Doss must battle the military court system for disobeying direct orders to carry a rifle. From flashbacks of his childhood with his drunk father, we see how violence has already shocked the young man, and why he has become adverse to causing harm.

Hacksaw Ridge Blu-ray Review

The story begins to lose some of it power when we move away from Doss’s actions as a medic on the battlefield. We are shown detailed death after death for the better part of an hour as Doss’s unit attempts to take “Hacksaw Ridge,” including various realistic shots of limbs being shot off, jump scares and blood splattering the screen. While it is necessary to show the complete devastation faced by the troops in this mission, its possible that too much is shown. Scenes where he audience see soldiers drop without the overloaded gore can be just as terrifying. Doss’s character becomes lost in this action and the movie looses its unique approach to the war story. It tells us something we already know, war is violent and unforgiving.

The army’s retreat, and the renewed  focus on Doss as he returns under enemy lines is a saving grace to the narrative of the movie. While all able bodies have evacuated down the cliff side of the ridge, Doss attempts to save those stranded by artillery fire. Although also action packed, Doss’s rescue mission is much easier to watch and will keep you invested in his survival. By dawn, he has saved over 75 men, including the sergeant that attempted to remove Doss from his unit during basic training.

The Blu-ray DVD includes extra features. It includes deleted scenes that fill in some of the gaps in the collapsed time in the narrative, such as Doss’s meeting with his lawyer before going to trial and the troops marching in Okinawa. Gibson addresses the veterans in a short message on the heroism of American soldiers, including messages from the actual Doss, his brother Hal, and Sergeant Howell. The extra features also include an hour and a half documentary on the making of the film. Viewers can enjoy comments by the director, actors and other staff like the stunt coordinator, as they discuss various elements of the film such as how they captured the feel of a small historical Virginia town while filming in Australia.

Hacksaw Ridge manages to tell an untold story, although at times it might be distracted with providing the audience with visual eye-candy. The movie is still worth a watch.

 

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