First Reviews: Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge”

Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge” premiered at the Venice Film Festival last night, the brutal WW2 tale stars Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who enlisted in the US Army during World War II as a medic.

He was part of the force that attacked Hacksaw Ridge around the Japanese stronghold of Okinawa and rescued 75 men in ten hours in a near superhuman feat. He was subsequently awarded the Medal of Honour in recognition of his bravery.

Early reviews have so far been largely positive for what’s considered to be a potential awards contender. This marks Gibson’s first directorial effort since both “Apocalypto” and public scandals over his behavior and marriage, and subsequently almost all of the reviews bring that up and suggest the film is essentially Gibson trying to atone. There’s also talk about the strong faith-based element, check out some excerpts below:

“Ten years have passed along with much uncomfortable tabloid scrutiny since Mel Gibson’s last film as director, Apocalypto. Back in the saddle with Hacksaw Ridge, he once again proves himself a muscular storyteller who knows exactly how to raise a pulse, heighten emotion and build intensity to explosive peaks. Themes of courage, patriotism, faith and unwavering adherence to personal beliefs have been a constant through Gibson’s directing projects, as has a fascination with bloodshed and gore. Those qualities serve this powerful true story of heroism without violence extremely well, overcoming its occasional cliched battle-movie tropes to provide stirring drama…” – THR

“A blood-soaked, bone-crunching hymn to religious devotion and faith, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ doesn’t hum Mel Gibson’s favorite themes; it shouts them. Coming 10 long and eventful years since his last directorial effort, Gibson returns with a film that is on the surface about a real-life World War II hero – Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor – but is really about all the denigrated true believers who held their head high through the carnage and chaos and came out the other side a hero – be they named Wallace, or Jesus, or Mel…” – Indiewire

“A brutally effective, bristlingly idiosyncratic combat saga – the true story of a man of peace caught up in the inferno of World War II. A good chance of becoming a player during awards season, it will likely prove to be the first film in a decade that can mark his re-entry into the heart of the industry. Yet to say that ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ finally leaves the Gibson scandals behind isn’t quite right; it has been made in their shadow. On some not-so-hard-to-read level, the film is conceived and presented as an act of atonement…” – Variety

“‘A True Story’ announces the opening title of Mel Gibson’s viscerally affecting but ethically worrisome ‘Hacksaw Ridge’… He may have credited God, but surely we should credit Desmond Doss, because you do not have to be a Christian or even a believer to understand that his was a miraculous feat of grace and courage. But along with screenwriters Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight, Gibson, whose lack of directorial subtlety but skill with action both reach an apex here, is not content to tell the true story of Desmond Doss and his unshakeable, courage-giving faith. He wants to convince us that his faith was, in fact, the truth…” – The Playlist

“As a machine-tooled vehicle for Mel Gibson’s directorial comeback, Hacksaw Ridge couldn’t be more perfect. A study of a second world war conscientious objector who demonstrated extreme bravery under enemy fire (and won the Medal of Honor), the film allows Gibson to identify himself with a tough guy of considerable moral virtue, someone who has gone through through their own modern Calvary, taken the punishment, and come through the other side relatively unscathed. And the foundation for all this? An unswerving commitment to a little-understood corner of the Christian faith (in this case, Seventh Day Adventism), which triggers – in order – bafflement, ridicule, and finally respect…” – The Guardian

“Hacksaw Ridge is a fantastically moving and bruising war film that hits you like a raw topside of beef in the face – a kind of primary-coloured Guernica that flourishes on a big screen with a crowd… Its story of an outcast finding redemption through superhuman levels of suffering is pure Gibson: you could even call it the third part of an unofficial trilogy that also takes in Apocalypto and The Passion of the Christ (2004), except you sense Gibson will return in future to this story again and again, perhaps because of a deep-seated suspicion it may also be his…” – The Telegraph

“The Christian-victimization narrative, which propelled two “God’s Not Dead” movies to box-office profitability, will certainly draw the faith-based audience to the movie, while the savage brutality will bring in another quadrant entirely. And while ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is undeniably made with great care and skill, for all of its good intentions it can never refute that famous Truffaut observation that making an anti-war film is essentially impossible, since to portray something is to ennoble it. In celebrating this legendary pacifist, Gibson and company ennoble the hell out of violence…” – The Wrap

“Hacksaw Ridge” opens in cinemas in November.