Hacksaw Ridge reviews: Mel Gibson's act of atonement is gruesome and powerful
The World War II film premiered at the Venice Film Festival this weekend and marks Gibson’s return to the cinematic helm since 2006’s Apocalypto. He’s stayed under the radar since then — not because of harsh reviews, but because of an anti-Semitic rant that still mars his career. Now, he’s moving forward with a potential awards contender that Variety critic Owen Gleiberman called “an act of atonement.”
Andrew Garfield stars as Desmond Doss, a pacifist who enlists in the army but refuses to carry a weapon. He even runs defenselessly into the Battle of Okinawa, one of the bloodiest battles of the war, and saves 75 fellow soldiers. Doss later becomes the first conscientious objector to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. Despite the character’s beliefs, Hacksaw Ridge is a bloody affair, which is nothing new for Gibson’s body of work.
Teresa Palmer, Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving, Luke Bracey, and Vince Vaughn rank among the cast of characters working off a screenplay by Andrew Knight (The Water Diviner) and Robert Schenkkan (HBO’s All the Way).
Ahead of Hacksaw Ridge‘s Nov. 4 release, read reviews of the film below.
Owen Gleiberman (Variety)
“It immerses you in the violent madness of war — and, at the same time, it roots its drama in the impeccable valor of a man who, by his own grace, refuses to have anything to do with war. You could argue that Gibson, as a filmmaker, is having his bloody cake and eating it too, but the less cynical (and more accurate) way to put it might be that Hacksaw Ridge is a ritual of renunciation. The film stands on its own (if you’d never heard of Mel Gibson, it would work just fine), yet there’s no point in denying that it also works on the level of Gibsonian optics — that it speaks, on some political-metaphorical level, to the troubles that have defined him and that he’s now making a bid to transcend.”
Alonso Duralde (The Wrap)
“…working with editor John Gilbert (The Bank Job) and cinematographer Simon Duggan (Warcraft), Gibson has created some of the most breathtakingly exciting wartime footage in recent memory. They craft a real architecture to this hellish landscape; no matter how chaotic the proceedings, we always know where everyone is in relation to everyone else, and pauses get inserted into the action lest it all become too much to take. (But remember, folks, this is a movie about pacifism.)”
Andrew Pulver (The Guardian)
“And as repellent a figure as many may still find Gibson, I have to report he’s absolutely hit Hacksaw Ridge out of the park. Mostly it’s due to the film’s extraordinary second half…Gibson’s gift as a director has always been the coruscating portrayal of violent combat, imparting the viscera-knotting energy of a slasher film to the conventional matrix of the sober war film. It’s not possible to say if Hacksaw Ridge contains the most violent or gruesome combat scenes ever filmed, but let’s just say it resembles Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers without any of the satire or audience-winking.”
David Rooney (The Hollywood Reporter)
“Ten years have passed along with much uncomfortable tabloid scrutiny since Mel Gibson’s last film as director, Apocalypto. Back in the saddle with Hacksaw Ridge, he once again proves himself a muscular storyteller who knows exactly how to raise a pulse, heighten emotion and build intensity to explosive peaks. Themes of courage, patriotism, faith and unwavering adherence to personal beliefs have been a constant through Gibson’s directing projects, as has a fascination with bloodshed and gore. Those qualities serve this powerful true story of heroism without violence extremely well, overcoming its occasional cliched battle-movie tropes to provide stirring drama.”
Nancy Tartaglione (Deadline)
“The battle scenes bear Gibson’s signature and are fresh, (very) gory and great spectacle (even at 8:30 in the morning on a Sunday). They’re also tense and moving – particularly as Doss seeks out the men still breathing amid the carnage, while also trying to avoid enemy fire. He later became the first conscientious objector awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Doss’ pacifism contrasted with the violence and heroism of the battle scenes, along with themes of redemption, are shaping up to be a talking point here in Venice.”
Jessica Kiang (The Playlist)
“This tale of real-life heroism seems less a celebration of humanist convictions than a glorification of religious intransigence and a declaration of the moral superiority of the faithful over the faithless. And so, though its broad-based box office prospects are good, and though it certainly announces Gibson’s return to the fray as a director of grand, emotive spectacle, some us might find the only response is to conscientiously object.”
Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 68
Rotten Tomatoes: 83 percent
Length: 131 minutes
Starring Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Luke Bracey, Hugo Weaving
Directed by Mel Gibson