Romance, Talking Animals, Wars, Biopics. Four categories for which I don’t really give much care, ’cause they’re all complete and utter bullshit.
Problem is, more often than not those genres tend to come at least in pairs: Romantic films with talking animals getting together in a reflection of their owners; romance as an unnecessary backdrop for a war movie… that claims to be at least partially true; or just a normal war movie that claims to be true… like y’know, all war movies ’cause otherwise no one’s gonna be lapping up that bullshit.
Hacksaw Ridge happens to fall under the category of “romance as an unnecessary backdrop for a war movie… that claims to be at least partially true,” however, it also happens to be saved by a really good cast.
Following the story of Desmond Doss, a Conscientious Objector (due to his beliefs as a Seventh Day Adventist) during the time of World War 2 who chose to still enlist and serve his country as a medic, the film actually starts pretty damn great.
Special mention goes to Vince Vaughn for being the true MVP of the movie, bringing a hell load of levity to a film that truly required it.
From the depiction of Desmond’s father Tom’s (played to perfection by Hugo Weaving) post-WWI instability, to the ugliness of forcing young men to bear arms for a cause they don’t fully comprehend themselves, Hacksaw Ridge mostly plays itself as the last war movie that we would ever need.
Even when we are finally subject to the war itself, most of the scenes, in true Mel Gibson style, focus on the violence and gore of an event so often celebrated in cinema.
Unfortunately, the movie sees a need to throw in a final scene of sorts that almost entirely feels like a switch in tone, going from “peace good, war bad” to “Return of the King! Fuck yeah!” which honestly really mucks up whatever message or emotional overtone you’re supposed to carry out of the theatre.
Then there’s the biopic bit. Look, I get it, most life stories just don’t make for compelling narratives… so why not just abandon all the efforts to make it look accurate? If you’re gonna spend the money to make a movie about a dude, why not stick to it? Or if not, why not just go the opposite way, acknowledge the inspiration and don’t market it as a true story or whatever?
After all, the whole heroism aspect of the story kinda gets defeated when it’s repeatedly beaten into us that this dude’s only anti-killing because of his interpretation of a line in a book that is otherwise rife with killing.
Not that any of this takes away from the sheer awesomeness of his deeds, but it’s no longer the story of a hero in a war, just about a dude who took his beliefs a little too literally.
Ultimately, if a war movie doesn’t have epic Kings returning to their thrones on their way to destroying rings, or purple Titans collecting gems to battle the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, or teenage wizards battling dark lords of magic, or a generations long throw down between an evil government and an inspiring crew of rebels, then the movie isn’t worth being made.
And it’s definitely not worth being watched.