Eppler: 'Hacksaw Ridge' a brutal tribute to an anti-violence her

Eppler: 'Hacksaw Ridge' a brutal tribute to an anti-violence hero

In a time when most of our heroes on the big screen have superpowers or are otherwise armed to the teeth, here's a movie about a real-life hero who had neither of those things.

"Hacksaw Ridge" is the story of Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor - a medic in World War II who saved scores of lives on Okinawa without carrying a weapon. Doss was a Seventh Day Adventist who wanted to serve, but wouldn't so much as tough a weapon - a stance that angered his commanding officers and worried his fellow platoon members.

The movie is directed by Mel Gibson - his first in a decade - and judging from his previous movies, it's clear what drew him to this material: a man of peace and faith thrust into violence. Gibson's bloodthirstiness as a filmmaker shows through most of his work and now he has crafted the most brutal war movie I've ever seen: bodies are torched in slow motion, the camera lingers on exploded meat and shredded flesh - It's too much and for too long. Gibson wants to shock and overwhelm to lionize Doss' bravery to run into this hell unarmed to save lives others may have given up on.

The powerful impact of the latter third of the movie counterbalances early portions which play more like a standard biography coated heavily with nostalgic cheese. Andrew Garfield's "aw golly shucks" performance borders right on the edge of simplistic caricature, but Hugo Weaving as his self-hating alcoholic father haunted by survivor's guilt from World War I deserves Oscar consideration.

The story "Hacksaw Ridge" has to tell is nothing short of stunning and inspiring. So when it pushes too hard sometimes on the faith and flag melodrama, it can mostly be excused. 

It's a riveting war movie - a fitting tribute to its subject and all who served.
 

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