Perhaps the most beautiful thing about Netflix is how it unites projects lost or forgotten by an audience to a new viewer that may not have otherwise discovered it. A similar path could be described for Hacksaw Ridge and myself, if “lost” is subbed out for “ignored with prejudice.” During its theatrical run, a combination of factors led to my deliberately missing the movie; one was that I felt like it was shamelessly ripping off Forrest Gump.
By no means a particular bastion of originality, Gump confused me as I grew up watching it, until I was old enough to realize how masterful Tom Hanks’ performance was, as a man who exceeds all expectations because he has none of his own. In the trailers for Hacksaw, I saw enough similar features to make me more nostalgic for the former film, and bitter towards the latter for so shamelessly robbing material from Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis.
Giving it a second chance now that Hacksaw is on Netflix, I decided to try to clear my mouth of any previous bad taste towards Hacksaw and give it the full opportunity to win me over.
While I continued to notice the same thing as in trailers, that Andrew Garfield’s Desmond Doss was portrayed to be noticeably different from his comrades in terms of mannerisms and speech style, it was not due to natural ability but to more directly translate the inherent difference.
In this, Garfield excels; while he has given me enough reasons to dislike him (like dating my childhood celebrity crush, Emma Stone), his raw talent was never among them. Not once did I see Doss as anything but genuine and a clear window into the life of a man torn between his duty to his country as a Second World War combat medic, and his duty to his God, as a conscientious objector. Believable even in a story that is too absurd to be entirely fictional, Garfield was by far the best part of Hacksaw.
A close second would be the direction of Mel Gibson, as hard as it is for me to say. Among the reasons I initially abandoned hope for the project to succeed was because Gibson, as rightly controversial as he is, had never been my favourite entertainer in Hollywood on either side of the camera. After a long slew of racially-fuelled rants and drunk driving arrests, Gibson returned to the screen seeking redemption.
While it is not my place to speak on any kind of personal level, I believe that Mr. Gibson has returned to professional form. Eliciting career-performances from Garfield and several members of the supporting cast (Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington), and capturing every shot perfectly regardless of how soaked it was in colour or gore, Hacksaw is Gibson’s best film.
Better Than: The Monuments Men
Not As Good As: Saving Private Ryan
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