Thursday 2 February 2017

Hacksaw Ridge ... Oh Christ! the violence

DIRECTOR Mel Gibson has his cake and eats it too in Hacksaw Ridge, about real-life US Medal of
Honour recipient Desmond Doss, a devout Christian and medic who single- handedly rescued 75 injured US soldiers, and some Japanese, according to the film, in the ferocious Battle of Okinawa in 1945.
   And conscientious objector Doss did it without carrying a gun, which he says, in the movie, is one of the Ten Commandments: thou shall not kill.

  Gibson, the director of violent films Braveheart, The Passion Of The Christ and Apocalypto, can now add Hacksaw Ridge to this esteemed list.
  He obviously took a cue from Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan in constructing the gruesome battle at Hacksaw Ridge. Limbs are blown apart, bodies are split open and bullets tear into heads.
   The violence, however, takes place in the second part of the film. The first 100 minutes focus on Doss's (Andrew Garfield) sedate civilian life and his decision to persevere in army training despite not wanting to pick up a gun, and the camp commanders wanting him to leave training.
   Gibson shows what Doss went through to serve as medic while holding strong to his Christian
Andrew Garfield and Teresa Palmer
wait until their wedding night in 'Hacksaw Ridge'.
beliefs. Gibson, however, lets loose in depicting the grotesque nature of war.
   Doss is Gibson's Christ-like figure, but he wasn't always like that. He turned over a new leaf after he whacked his brother in a fight when they were kids.
   Their bitter, alcoholic WWI veteran father Tom (Hugo Weaving) encourages them to fight, instead of stopping them, much to the consternation of their mum Bertha (Rachel Griffiths).
   The Dosses household is mired in turmoil. Both boys go to sleep hearing their dad shouting and hitting their mum, and this went on until late in the boys' lives.
  I find it strange that although Desmond is a staunch Christian, Gibson does not show him in a church service. The only time we see him in a church is when he cleans its windows.
  Desmond enlists in the army after the Pearl Harbor attack but declares himself a conscientious cooperator, which means that he won't carry a gun in  battle. This makes him public enemy No. 1 at the camp, especially to Sgt Howell (Vince Vaughn) and Capt Glover (Sam Worthington), who want to get rid of him by hook or by crook.
   The film has a courtroom scene (it didn't happen in real life), and in Hollywood courtroom scenes,
Desmond Doss (Garfield) is the film's pull factor.
justice always prevails.
  Desmond's luminous wife Dorothy (Teresa Palmer) exists only in the film's first part. She's there to prop up his masculinity, ego and his sexuality.
  Asked why he won't pick up a gun, Desmond tells Dorothy in his cell: "But I don't know how I'm going to live with myself if I don't stay true to how I live."
  He adds: "I want to be the man you want to be in your eyes."
  She replies: "Do not think for one moment that you disappoint me."
  True to his Christian virtue, he has sex for the first time with her only on their wedding night.
  The Bible figures prominently too. Desmond keeps a picture of Dorothy in his pocket-sized Bible given to him by her. In Okinawa, he reads it alone, apart from the others, who are exhausted and just want a break.
   The battle scenes are messy and beautifully executed. Gibson thrives in the ballet-like carnage, but I'd like to have seen how the killings affect Desmond. Viewers don't get to see the
Doss carries his own weight in the film. 
fighting from his point of view.
  Desmond is at the end hoisted up into the sky in a scene reminiscent of Christ's ascension into heaven.
   This is one of the many ways Gibson hammers home the idea that Desmond is a saviour to humanity, willing to sacrifice many things to stick to his ideals, and to save good and evil people during war.

3½ out of 5 stars






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