Mel Gibson is in top directorial form with this film. He certainly likes his war history and his movie battles have played a large part in his repertoire i.e. Braveheart and We Were Soldiers. Gibson has had a couple of well known dramas over the years involving alcohol and post divorce relationships. But even as the creators of South Park (who satirised him in a couple of episodes) have to admit: “Say what you want about Mel Gibson, but the man certainly knows story structure!” And I have to agree. He is a natural storyteller of his craft. Hacksaw Ridge looks set to be nominated for Best Film and accordingly Best Director for next year’s Oscars. I feel Hacksaw Ridge is the best war movie ever made; even knocking Saving Private Ryan off from top spot.
The cast is a reflection of the Allied war effort of the 2nd WW in the Pacific; with many prominent Australian, British & American actors filling the leading roles. Andrew Garfield does a terrific job in the lead role of Desmond Doss; the Conscientious Objector, 7th Day Adventist who refused to touch a gun but joined the army during wartime to ‘save lives rather than take them.’ As you may appreciate, after a rough start, his comrades eventually came to value and respect his beliefs as he translated them into action.
The Pacific theatre of war doesn’t get the same attention from Hollywood as the European Allied effort against the Axis powers of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The movie centres on the ferocious Battle of Okinawa.
This battle was in the final year of WW2 (1945) and has a wide reputation as one of the bloodiest fight-to-the-death conflicts of the war. With an estimated 82k soldiers killed in direct contact on both sides in an 82 day battle. The high casualty rates denote the high stakes operation Okinawa was to both Japan and the Americans. Okinawa is an island to the south of mainland Japan and held significant strategic value in defeating the imperialist Japanese forces. In those days, airplanes could only fly short distances compared to the aircraft of today. Many of the military manoeuvres against the Japanese in the Pacific ocean was called: island hopping (taking islands so as to land aircraft, marines and supplies) to get ever closer to Japan to launch a full scale invasion or conduct regular aerial bombings.
Many historians say: it was because of the ferocity of the battle of Okinawa that American planners were persuaded to use atomic weapons instead of launching a full scale invasion. Figuring the Japanese would fight just as fiercely on their home ground as they did on Okinawa, prompted an historic decision to end the war as quickly as possible.
Doss’ contribution was outstanding. He saved 75 lives during a battle where the American forces were hurled back on a few occasions. Mel Gibson’s superb direction made you feel you were in the thick of the fight and made you appreciate the extra-ordinary courage Doss took in saving his countrymen’s lives; as they lay stricken on the battlefield (he even saved some Japanese lives). The back story of his family, his fiancé and how he came to be devout in his beliefs only complimented his extraordinary efforts in the heat of battle.
This movie doesn’t glorify war it glorifies the human spirit, values and a person’s integrity in the face of fierce opposition from both sides of a violent conflict.
Take Care & Cheers
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