A well-deserved R. One thing Mel Gibson has always been good at is making cinematic violence. And, boy-oh-boy, is there a lot of that cinematic violence in this movie.
DIRECTOR: Mel Gibson
I have to destroy this movie before building it up. The first act is a hot mess. I mean, wow, there was some very audible eye rolling and gags between my wife and I while watching this. Apparently one thing Mel Gibson can't direct very well is dudes who enjoy nature and hit on pretty ladies. I mean, this was so ham-fisted I had to question whether this nomination was a pity nomination. It's not. Okay, it kinda is and kinda isn't. The movie as a whole is pretty solid. But the beginning? Wowee-zowee. Like, seriously.
But then Vince Vaughan shows up and the inciting incident happens and mostly everything is forgiven. The movie is a powerful one. Yes, it is a war movie and Mel Gibson definitely doesn't want us to forget that. Like I mentioned in the MPAA rating section, the dude loves to shoot violence and shoot violence in droves he does. But this movie is darned powerful. Perhaps it is a thing I'm going through with violence in reality. It was refreshing to see the war movie from the conscientious objector's point of view. Andrew Garfield fills the role of Desmond Doss with a certain respect that I absolutely love. Sure, he's ri-donk goofy in the first act, but believes his message once the gun is given to him. I like Garfield. Hearing stories about how Silence changed him gave such a rich context to his performance. Listen, I'm proudly Catholic and Gibson, for his many public flaws, doesn't seem to shy away from faith. Doss was a man of faith and that is first and foremost driven by a need to respect that faith. This is Old Man Mr. H grumbling about kids these days, but faith is starting to become an unpopular idea. Perhaps because faith has seemed to be diametrically opposed to science, which is it not. Perhaps it is from the quality of faith based movies coming up. The Shack, I'm looking at you. At least you aren't A Dog's Purpose. But this was a nice balance about the power of faith. There was nothing offensive or arguable about Doss's faith and that's awesome.
So can a movie hold its own with such a huge flaw? It has so much going for it. What Gibson pulls off is making us feel for characters who are inherently jerks. (I am now just realizing that I just figured out the theme of Gibson's personal life creeping into his film.) Everyone in this movie treats Garfield's Doss with a sense of disdain. Lauren genuinely hated him, not knowing how the movie ends up. She thought he was being selfish, so I guess the reactions in the movie are authentic. Gibson plays up the reality of such a situation. We should be mad at Doss. I don't think anyone would agree with Vaughn's sergeant actively encouraging his squad to accost Doss, but understanding the fear of the men is first and foremost. I'd love to crawl into my wife's brain while watching this film and watch it from the perspective of someone who is just risking the lives of his platoon. I knew how many people he saved ahead of time. That is a very different movie than the one I saw.
But that moment. Let me put a spoiler warning because there are other people like my wife who don't know the premise of the movie. Here we go. Doss going back. Over and over. Yeah, it's emotional, but it doesn't feel cheap. It did its job of showing the value of life. It didn't matter what life he saved. I actually got mad when I found out that the Japanese soldiers he sent down weren't taken care of. I think about him running across that battlefield and risking his own life time and again and each one of those lives really should matter. War breeds hate and I can't throw those soldiers under the bus, but I also weep for Doss. He only had love in a state where love shouldn't exist. That's something I wish I could do. I'd like to get through this life without taking a life and I'm trying my best to place myself in situations where that would never even be an option. But he went beyond with that love for life by joining the military and turning the war towards survival. That's crazy. Genuinely crazy.
Can we forgive a director? I'm watching the Academy Awards while writing this. I know, a poor decision. But I also feel like I'm serving...the people. (I can also plagiarize Bane.) Gibson is getting reemed and taking it with a smile. I hated what he did. He disgusted me. Maybe Hacksaw Ridge isn't the movie that earns his acceptance. But there needs to be a line in the sand where the art apologizes for the content. Art has such a value to society and an artist tends to be broken. Mel Gibson is a broken man with a broken foundation. But he seems to want speak through his films. I loved The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto. I want to see him make movies again. Maybe he now has a sense of humility that he was never given previously. He was on top of the world and now he makes movies like Hacksaw Ridge. That's a good start. I know people are hurt and that's appropriate. But I want to see him make movies. Maybe one of those movies could be a genuine apology. I'm an idealist and I want to see him understand people through his own art.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.