Hacksaw Ridge
dir Mel Gibson
scr Andrew Knight, Robert Schenkkan
prd Terry Benedict, Paul Currie, Bruce Davey, William D Johnson, Bill Mechanic, Brian Oliver, David Permut, Tyler Thompson
with Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Vince Vaughn, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Luke Bracey, Ryan Corr, Luke Pegler, Goran D Kleut, Nathaniel Buzolic, Richard Roxburgh
release Aus/US 4.Nov.16
16/Australia Icon 2h11
Hacksaw Ridge
Just one more: Garfield

worthington vaughn palmer
venice film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Hacksaw Ridge With this big-hearted war epic, Mel Gibson uses warm, glowing drama and smiley corniness to distract from the harrowingly gruesome battle sequences. This means that most scenes are hard to watch for a variety of different reasons. But at the centre, this is a genuinely rousing story of real-life courage. And the war scenes are unusually riveting.

In rural Virginia, Desmond (Garfield) feels compelled to enlist to help fight the threat from Germany and Japan, even though as an Adventist he refuses to touch a weapon and won't fight on Sunday. Bullied mercilessly by his commanding officers (Vaughn and Worthington) and fellow recruits in basic training, he wins the right to carry on fighting when his alcoholic WWI-veteran dad (Weaving) makes a pointed plea. And in the battle for Hacksaw Ridge in Okinawa, he proves his mettle far beyond what anyone expected.

Gibson shoots the opening scenes recounting Desmond's childhood as an idyllic slice of Americana, from roughhousing with his brother (Buzolic) to marrying his sweetheart (Palmer). Shadows appear clunkily here and there, but always of the character-building kind. Then when Desmond arrives on the battlefield, the film kicks into a whole new gear, with battles that are chaotic and horrific and also remarkably lucid. We are right there with them, and the extended central sequence is literally stunning.

Garfield's performance takes a similar trajectory, from goofy grinning yokel to an unstoppable force of heroism in the face of nightmarish grisliness. He plays it beautifully, drawing out the depth in a man who is outwardly simple. There are several members of the supporting cast who stand out, from Weaving's big-raw emotions to Vaughn and Worthington's gung-ho intensity. And then there's Pegler, bravely going through his first day of basic training without a uniform. By comparison, Palmer and Griffiths (as Desmond's mother) are barely here.

Obviously, the trump card is that it's all true, complete with a documentary epilog featuring interviews with the real people. But Gibson, the screenwriters and the cast have made sure that the entire film looks realistic. Even the picture-perfect opening act has an edge to it, and Desmond's offhanded self-deprecation shows that he never took himself too seriously. He was simply a guy doing what he could to bring healing instead of killing, and his focussed cry, "Just one more," is powerfully inspiring.

cert 18 themes, language, grisly violence 5.Sep.16 vff

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