CIMF 2018 Masthead

Review: Hacksaw Ridge

Roslyn Hull

WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people, and becomes the first man in American history to win the Medal of Honor without firing a shot. IMDb

This is a war film but its hero worked to save lives, not end them.

This is a quintessentially American film, chock full of Australian actors and filmed on locations in Australia. This film has inaccuracies, but most are because the truth was so extreme audiences would not have believed the plot.

And not one of these facts detracts from the power of the intense narrative. One whole half of which is used to establish Doss, and eventually, the soldiers around him. I have never admired lengthy exposition so much. We need to know what makes Doss tick before we can believe what he can do.

Andrew Garfield is excellent in the lead role, he is the embodiment of down-home nobility, with a gentle exterior hiding a steely resolve. Almost an Abraham Lincoln for World War II.

Then we get to the second half of the film is quite simply horrifying.

What Doss and his Unit go through is hell. This is no John-Wayne-laconic-stroll onto Okinawa, this is a brutal shock. We are flung into chaos, violence and destruction. The images are graphic, the sound is frightening and the storyline is both typical of so many, many accounts of war … and completely unique at the same time.

There have been countless acts of heroism in countless wars. Men sacrificing themselves for others time and time again. That bravery of an instant is an amazing thing but how a simple medic persevered for as long as Doss did, being brave not once but over and over again is something else entirely.

As the director, Mel Gibson has created an astounding film. The wildly disparate halves throw each other into such sharp relief that is both unsettling and essential. One does not work without the other. Desmond could not have done what he did without his home, his (imperfect) life and his wonderful fiancé.

The film received an extended standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival – deserved – but all the more astounding when you think the director and crew created sets of both bucolic Virginia and ravaged Okinawa right here in Australia.

Huge snaps to all the local actors for their excellent dialogue work too. The support cast reads like a ‘Whos Who’ of Australian actors. Rachel Griffiths is excellent as Desmond’s mum, as is Teresa Palmer as his girl. But it is Hugo Weaving as his sadly destructive dad that almost steals the show. And Sam Worthington’s role has reminded me of why I liked him the minute I saw him in Tap Dogs.

Roslyn saw this film as a guest of Limelight Cinemas Tuggeranong.

All images via


Ros Hull

Roslyn is a writer and storyteller who loves all things Canberra, her family, sci fi and movies – but not in that order. She has worked in museum education since 2001 and has a passion for imparting knowledge to others. Writing is her happy place, particularly if there is a dog at her feet and a coffee in her hand. More about the Author

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