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Hacksaw Ridge (Blu-ray Review)

17 Feb, 2017 By: John Latchem

Street 2/21/17
Box Office $66.6 million
$29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $42.99 UHD BD
Rated ‘R’ for intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence including grisly bloody images.
Stars Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Vince Vaughn.

For all his demons, Mel Gibson is undeniably a brilliant filmmaker, and Hacksaw Ridge, his first directorial effort since 2006’s Apocalypto, represents a remarkable return to form.

The film is based on the true story of Desmond Doss, whose heroism during the hellish Battle of Okinawa in 1945 made him the first conscientious objector to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Doss, brilliantly portrayed by Andrew Garfield, is a dichotomy: he volunteers for service in World War II but refuses to touch a weapon. He believes in America’s cause in the war, and wants to do his part, but his devout faith (being a Seventh-Day Adventist) informs him not to kill, so he wants to become a medic (while the bureaucracy labels him a conscientious objector, he prefers to call himself a conscientious cooperator).

His fellow soldiers, however, don’t quite understand his position, causing no end of friction with his unit and commanding officer.

The film is divided into two parts, with the first covering Doss’s training, the controversy over his beliefs and his courtship of his future wife, Dorothy (Teresa Palmer). The second half takes him to Okinawa, dropping him into one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Okinawa is the last step before a full Allied invasion of Japan, and key to the island is Hacksaw Ridge, which requires the unit to scale the side of a cliff before confronting a dug-in Japanese regiment. As the casualties mount, Doss never gives up on his men, bringing as many wounded to safety as he can (think Forrest Gump in Vietnam, but on a much wider scale).

The battle scenes are harrowing, evoking the same sense of rawness as the D-Day invasion from Saving Private Ryan. As revealed in the Blu-ray’s 70-minute making-of featurette, the grittiness of the war scenes were precisely the reason Gibson was brought on board.

Originally, the film was attached to faith-based producer Walden Media, where it was thought the story’s themes of faith and courage would be a good fit. Walden, however, insisted on a ‘PG-13’ rating, which the producers thought meant numbing the impact of the story. Gibson understood the realism of the combat would serve as a nice contrast to Doss’s convictions, and his unwavering devotion to them despite the horrors unfolding around him. It also didn’t hurt that Gibson, the man behind The Passion of the Christ, was equally adept at exploring faith-based narratives, which certainly comes through in the final version of Hacksaw Ridge.

For his part, Gibson resisted making the film for more than a decade before signing on, ascribing to the script the three E’s he says make a story worth telling: that it be entertaining, educating and elevating.

The featurette also contains what might be the ultimate compliment to an actor portraying a real person — Desmond Doss Jr. said seeing the film was like watching his mother and father again.

The Blu-ray also contains a minute-long Veterans Day greeting from Gibson, and four-and-a-half minutes of deleted scenes.

About the Author: John Latchem

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