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Wick's Review

Created Nov 10, 2016 11:24PM PST • Edited Mar 03, 2017 10:30PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Great 4.0

    Okinawa was once a byword for the savagery of war. Hacksaw Ridge plumbs the depths of that savagery and the grace that also attended it in the form of Medal of Honor recipient Desmond Doss. A conscientious objector, Doss was unsurpassed in bravery, personally rescuing 75 wounded men from the “typhoon of steel” that was the Battle of Okinawa. But first the movie explores Doss’s life leading up to his heroism.

    In fact, the Hacksaw Ridge scenes of Hacksaw Ridge don’t occur until halfway into this long movie. Director Mel Gibson dedicates the early reels to Doss’s difficult childhood, then to the charming courtship of his wife and then to his fraught experience in Army training. In short, he gives us the man in full.

    This all makes for a compelling and enlightening war movie, animated by the irony of a pacifist war hero. Yet Hacksaw Ridge feels utterly conventional, what with the melting-pot army unit, insulting drill sergeant and other standard tropes of traditional war movies. And while the battle action is visceral and horrific, it doesn’t rise to the level of Saving Private Ryan or even 2014’s Fury. That’s a high bar, but there you have it.

    Dings aside, Hacksaw Ridge is a fascinating and often sweet movie about an unlikely American hero, and a lens into one of WWII’s most infamous battles. War movie fans, patriots and history buffs must see it.

  3. Very Good 3.5

    Andrew Garfield plays Desmond Doss like he’s Peter Parker before becoming Spider-Man. It may be an accurate portrayal, but it’s not an especially compelling one.

    Hugo Weaving and Teresa Palmer stand out amongst the large but relatively unimpressive supporting cast.

    • Teresa Palmer jumps offscreen as Doss’s wife Dorothy, though her scenes are mostly of their courtship. Palmer was also a standout in last year’s Aussie pulp fiction ripper Kill Me Three Times. So we knew she had star power. Now we know she also has range.
    • Hugo Weaving is by turns sad and ugly as Doss’s troubled father. It’s a great, mostly internal performance. Rachel Griffiths is less impressive as Doss’s poor mother.
    • Vince Vaughn plays it straight as Doss’s Drill Sergeant, albeit his comic putdowns are funnier than they would be from any actor not named Vince Vaughn. That said, it’s kinda hard to take him seriously in the battle scenes.
    • Sam Worthington is straight from central casting as Doss’s Captain.
    • Doss’s Unit
      • Luke Bracey as a hard-ass named Smitty
      • Luke Pegler as Milt ‘Hollywood’ Zane, who likes to do buck-naked pull-ups. Pegler’s an impressive piece of beefcake.
      • Richard Pyros as Randall “Teach” Fuller
      • Ben Mingay as Grease Nolan
      • Firass Dirani as Vito Rinnelli
      • Jacob Warner as James Pinnick
      • Goran D. Kleut as Andy ‘Ghoul’ Walker
    • Ori Pfeffer as Irv Schecter, Doss’s fellow medic during the Battle of Okinawa
  4. Male Stars Very Good 3.5


  5. Female Stars Great 4.0

    Teresa Palmer

  6. Female Costars Very Good 3.5
  7. Male Costars Very Good 3.5
  8. Great 4.0

    Mel Gibson plays it pretty straight with Hacksaw Ridge and therefore delivers a powerful biopic and historical document that needs no excuses, in similar fashion to what he did with his Vietnam War biopic We Were Soldiers. IOW, he doesn’t ruin the movie with phony savagery like he did with The Patriot.

  9. Direction Great 4.0
  10. Play Great 4.0
  11. Music Great 4.0
  12. Visuals Really Great 4.5
    • 50 stuntmen
    • 12 pyro techs
  13. Content
  14. Sordid 2.9

    Mel Gibson loves gore, so he often ups the ante when it comes to violent savagery. He didn’t have to do that in Heartbreak Ride, since the actual events pegged the meter for wartime savagery. Flame throwers immolating several men at the same time, legs blown off, heads exploding, bayonets going through bodies, harakiri for the defeated Japanese General after his forces lost the battle: the movie is a Gibsonian inferno.

    Violence aside, the drill sergeant is spectacularly un-PC.

  15. Sex Titillating 1.6
  16. Violence Savage 4.5
  17. Rudeness Profane 2.6
  18. Glib 1.2

    Heartbreak Ridge appears to play it pretty straight from a reality POV. So we can turn our attention to the gruesome reality of Imperial Japan’s kamikaze defense of their imperial ambitions, seen through the lens of the Battle of Okinawa.

    • Okinawa made the atomic bomb a reasonable alternative to invasion. Why? Because the Americans incurred unfathomable losses taking this outlying island: 12,520 killed in action, 55,162 wounded and 26,000 psychiatric casualties. But the Japanese took it much worse, with over 100,000 killed. Invading the home islands would have been an order of magnitude more bloody, so why do it when there was an alternative.
    • Hand to hand combat against dug-in fanatics was beyond ugly. Flame throwers were liberally used. Imagine the uproar that tactics like that would cause today.
    • The movie shows the commanding general of Japanese forces on Okinawa committing harakiri. It was the least he could do after 100,000 men under his command died in a lost cause.
  19. Circumstantial Glib 1.5
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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