I could have done without the blatant allegorizing, which is dialed 1-800-TOO-MUCH to the point of self-parody at times. And the score is really grandiose. The moment when Desmond ventures into the din and destruction of the ridge instead of going back down to safety is treated like the season finale of a particularly bombastic TV show. In other words: Gibson seriously worships this man’s legacy and wants you to know it. So there’s nothing even-handed about this film, and sometimes this works to its detriment.
At other times? It was actually quite good. The battle scenes are relentless and grueling, but oh so impressively edited together so that their shocking effect is not lost on you for a minute. It’s like the final shot of Gallipoli repeated twice over and at breakneck pace—in fact, part of me wonders if this film isn’t a callback to the film that brought Gibson to the world’s attention, what with both featuring lamblike protagonists having to contend with the cruel realities of conflict. Here, Andrew Garfield acquits himself well. Desmond Doss is not the most multifaceted character he’ll ever play, but he makes you believe in the man’s admirable values, and there’s a charm that Garfield has always had that suits the role (especially in the first half, which is the corny calm before the storm). Teresa Palmer is also lovely as Doss’ wife, though Hugh Weaving could have calmed down a bit in the role of his father.
I guess, in the end, the good news is that Hacksaw Ridge shouldn’t be dismissed because of Gibson’s chequered past, even if it’s not a ticket to his redemption by any means. His talent behind the camera is evident, and it’s hard not to fall for Doss’ selfless heroics in the end. I’ll admit that I was moved by that, excessive Christian symbolism aside.