|Walking into conflict.|
*I wrote that paragraph after seeing it on the 12th Jan. As this goes to publication, I now realise I was wrong, and it got quite a few nominations. Seems Hollywood is ready to forgive and forget.
On this the desperate quest to ape 'Saving Private Ryan' (see: every war movie made since 1998), Garfield helms a cast of military stereotypes set to take the titular land in Japan, 1945. However, despite it's insistence on 'the horrors of conflict', 'Full Metal Jacket' structure theft, and cringe-religious allegorical schmutz; it still manages to be an excellent experience.
Garfield stars as Private Desmond Doss, a pacifist who refuses to hold a rifle (partially explained by his Christian heritage, and partially explained via a series of flashbacks) but that still wants to fight for his country.
|Saving the wounded.|
The second third of the movie takes place on the titular patch of land, which must be captured by the troops - and is, essentially, a 20/25 minute battle sequence. So yeah, here's the 'Saving Private Ryan' part. I have to say, however, that this scene is choreographed to perfection. The ridge itself is beautifully filmed - a sheer cliff face with a cargo net hanging down over the side for the soldiers to scale. Of course, there's the brutality of battle on show, but there's also supreme tension. We've met these characters and spent at least an hour with them, and we know some/many of them are going to die. The constant explosions, eviscerating shell fire, and the presence of subterranean tunnels filled with the enemy lend an immediacy to the action. I kid you not, I thought this battle was just going to last until the end of the movie. It didn't, but it wouldn't have been too bad if it did.
Although the story is true, it's a good time to mention that it hardly adds anything new. As I've already told you, the segments separately form reliable stock parts of previous, and perhaps better, war films ('Saving Private Ryan' is not nearly as good as people say it is but 'FMJ' is a goddamn masterclass). Although the tonal shift from the friendly and triumphant first act to the grim and tense second is a masterstroke, the rest of the movie is wholly predictable.
In terms of cinematography, the movie has its high points and its low points. The battle scenes themselves, are filmed with virtuoso gusto that echoes the director's earlier 'Braveheart' in the way that the camera swirls, without becoming disconcerted, around the action which surrounds it. However, in terms of the general palette and the main storyline, it does begin to feel a little bland. Muted greens and greys seem to be the sole preserve of the film - and whilst dwelling on bootcamp, the camera rarely does anything that makes us think twice...
The score of 'Hacksaw Ridge' unfortunately left me wanting for more - a tangible sense of uniqueness. The tracks are common of this type of movie - tense-ish general compositions, likely made whilst sat in front of some music software. It's just stock royalty-free 'action' music, without anything really to take away from that that's extra.
There's also a slight paradoxical problem with the film, in that it's sending out contradictory messages. Whist all the blood and the gore seems to connote that the 'horrors of war' are being extolled, the story and tone tell a different story. the film is supposed to be uplifting and entertaining - these battles are supposed to be terse and exciting. In 'Saving Private Ryan', the soldiers were simply cut to pieces by machine gun fire - with no chance of victory. Here, Gibson is all about the glorious fight the soldiers put up - and is gunning for their eventual win. Also, the battle scenes themselves are rather entertaining - with the horrific violence just serving as a reminder of the stakes. Not sure if it's entirely moral, but I'm pretty certain he can't have it both ways.
|The path to battle.|
|'Hacksaw Ridge' gets 3 stars. For the record,|
it's reasonably close to 4.