by Chris Feil
Caught between championing pacifism and luxuriating in brutality, Hacksaw Ridge struggles to have it both ways. Telling the story of WWII medic Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), America’s first conscientious objector (a soldier refusing to bear arms) who rescued over seventy soldiers in a single night. What plays out is part old-fashioned star vehicle for Garfield and part survival epic.
The film is as bloodthirsty as Mel Gibson’s other directorial efforts despite Doss’s message at the center. There is more fascination in the multitude of ways military bodies can be destroyed than Doss’s moral stance against that very violence - Gibson’s gaze is never more invigorated than when someone is brutalized. While the third act could simply be presented as the grim reality of war, it is instead an aimless fetishizing of bloodshed. This won’t come as a surprise to the dissenters of Gibson’s filmography, but the habit is perhaps more glaring given it is directly at odds with the material. The taste level is questionable and the subject gets lost.