“Hacksaw Ridge”

“Hacksaw Ridge”
Directed by Mel Gibson

e9632a42-970d-11e6-a827-005056b70bb8There is absolutely nothing new, or remotely original about Mel Gibson’s gorefest, “Hacksaw Ridge”. The story is old, the dialogue is hackneyed and the violence is SUPER SUPER SUPER ultra-violent. And yet, there are tiny little pieces that are effective and even moving.

The problems are pretty much what you would expect from a Gibson war film, mostly resulting from his fetishistic attitude about war’s hellish reality. Most people are still reeling from the imagery of Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan”, and as such, we have a shorthand for suspension of our disbelief. All one must do is allude to the violence in war scenes and we’ll simply fill in the rest with our imaginations. But not Mel. Here we get THREE 10-20 minutes scenes of unbearable gore, where one, at half the length, would have been much more effective. To make things more eyeroll-ish, he utilizes the ultra-tired slow motion action sequences (while dialogue remains in real speed). As a result, we stop caring pretty quickly. If you have trouble seeing body parts fly around, people being lit on fire, and knives and bayonettes going in to flesh, I’d stay away.

Then there’s the dialogue and script. Any war movie which uses the line “you better come home to me!,” is asking to be ridiculed. And, with the notable exception of Vince Vaughn’s note perfect dialogue, it SHOULD be ridiculed. The important speeches are weighty, and, occasionally, thought-provoking, but by the end, especially the end, your eyes may stick to the tops of your sockets from all the accumulated eye-rolling.

Mel Gibson the casting director fares much better, however – assuming you don’t mind a movie about American GI’s in Japan that is almost COMPLETELY made up of Australian actors, that is. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but it is odd that there are about three US-born actors in such a jingo-istic piece. But the acting is, for the most part, pretty good, even if they’re stuck saying the most ridiculous things. There are standouts…Vince Vaughn, in particular, is terrific and perfectly suited for the wise-ass Sarge. Hugo Weaving overcomes early caricature to bring home a well-rounded father, and Teresa Palmer is lovely as Garfield’s wife. Garfield, however, except for one monologue, simply channels his inner-Gump in an utterly meh performance. Special mention to Luke Bracey (Smitty) and Goran D. Kleut (Ghoul) for avoiding stereotype as much as possible as compatriots of Garfield’s Doss.

And the music, well, it’s an over-the-top (literally) war flick, and the score from Rupert Gregson-Williams (whose music for “The Crown” is amongst my favorites of the year) is suitably sweeping, if generally forgettable on its own.

In a sentence, if you like hyper-realism mixed with your stylized metaphoric war films, then you might enjoy “Hacksaw Ridge”. Or perhaps you are required to watch it due to the award voting process and, somehow, Mel is nominated for direction (which is unfathomable to me). Otherwise, don’t bother.

Written on 12/15/2016

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