Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

(Netflix Streaming, September 2017) At some point, someone will need to sit down with Mel Gibson and ask if he’s all right, because most of his movies as a director include unnecessary gore to a level that approaches ridiculousness. Hacksaw Ridge is no exception, but it feels even more ridiculous given how dissonant the film gets once it heads to war. The first half of the film is easily the most interesting, as a young man (Andrew Garfield, effortlessly likable) enlists but refuses to take up arms due to religious beliefs. The army doesn’t take his conscientious objection very well, and the action soon moves to the courtroom as our protagonist defends his right not to bear arms in the service of the nation. There’s a conventional romance, but the angle through which Gibson explores national service is interesting. Then we head over to the front and Hacksaw Ridge becomes an entirely different animal. As combat rages on, soldiers are killed in increasingly gruesome ways only made possible by CGI and our protagonist must continue to operate in this hellish environment. If viewers had been worried they wouldn’t get war sequences after a pacific start, those worries are soon put to rest by a Grand Guignol carnival of exploding heads and severed limbs. Some viewers may want to tune out, not just because of the gore, but mostly because the film pretty much loses any dramatic interest from that point on. There will be bullets. There will be heroic sacrifices. There will be redemption for a protagonist regarded as unreliable by his fellow soldiers. It plays out almost exactly as anticipated, although the visuals are indeed nightmarish enough. Uneven in its approaches, Hacksaw Ridge undeniably has some interest, but it is needlessly graphic in its portrayal of violence. 

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