HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Hacksaw Ridge
HTS Overall Score:94
Back a few months ago I had a hard time deciding which movie of 2016 was my favorite movie of the year. Up until this point I had pretty much had it as a toss-up between “Hell or High Water” and “Kubo and the Two Strings”, but AI had not had the chance to see Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge” yet. I’m a HUGE, and I mean HUGE fan of Mel Gibson, and his fall from grace in the film world has been a sad time for this movie viewer. I grew up watching everything the man ever acted in (even the bad ones), and when he started directing I was drawn to them even more than my precious Clint Eastwood. I completely understand that Gibson had an alcohol problem and made some VERY nasty anti-Semitic remarks that earned him a black spot in Hollywood, but the man’s talent is undeniable. Talent that has been wasted the last 10-15 years while pretty much no one would work with him. About the only work the man could find was playing cameo villain roles like “Machete Kills”, or indie stuff like “Get the ******” (which was a pretty awesome flick that I reviewed on here when I first started reviewing for HTS). Slowly, but surely, Gibson started pushing his way into things, and in recent years he’s made some pretty big strides into general acceptance. His role as the main villain in “The Expendables 3” was a big thing, and somehow, he was able to land the director’s chair for a big blockbuster like “Hacksaw Ridge”. A film that has garnered itself not one, not two, but SIX Oscar nominations (which are actually coming up in about 6 days)!
There have only been a few films about conscientious objectors in wartime. The most famous of them being Gary Cooper’s “Sgt. York” (a movie I would LOVE to come out on Blu-ray) detailed the life of a Quaker man who was an objector to WWI, only this church wasn’t recognized by the state and he was drafted into the 82nd battalion. The second that I can remember was “Friendly Persuasion”, ALSO starring Gary Cooper. There Cooper is playing a Quaker man (once again), whose son goes off to fight in the civil war and his lost in battle. The story of Desmond Doss and Hacksaw ridge is a bit more modern, and something that has been a legend in my family for quite some time. My whole family is a generations old military family, so the story of Private Doss has been handed down to us for years, especially with my grandfather being an Army medic in WWII, same as Doss was. I purposefully see anything I can of Gibson, and when I heard that he was making a movie out about Doss and Hacksaw ridge I was ECSTATIC. Especially when the fantastic word of mouth hit after the theatrical opening. With my busy schedule I really REALLY wanted to see the film, but every time I went to go see it, the movie was playing on the crummy screens (the theaters near me have good screens, and really outdated ones that just need updating) and I was NOT about to see a movie like this on a poor screen. Thus, I very impatiently waited for the home video release to review it on my system with a BIG bowl of popcorn and an entire box of tissues.
For those of you who don’t know, “Hacksaw Ridge” tells the tale of Private Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) , a 7th Day Adventist who very strongly objected to killing. The thing is, it was back during the 2nd World War and his friends were all dying out there while he stayed home. Despite his WWI veteran farther, Tom Doss (Hugo Weaving), objecting to him going out there to war, both he and his brother signed up to fight. While his brother went in and performed like any other soldier, Desmond REFUSED to kill. He even went so far as to refuse to touch a weapon in basic training as he pursued his goal of becoming a field medic. This naturally greatly peeved his fellow soldiers (who saw him as a liability at that point) and officers alike. Despite his good intentions, rules are rules, and the Army brought up charges of disobeying an officer’s orders during a court martial where Doss was looking at going away in a military prison for the rest of the war for his beliefs. The only thing that saved his skinny little butt was a Brigadier General stepping in on his behalf due to his father pulling a few strings (the scene where Tom Doss forces his way into the court room is an amazing scene, with Weaving give a speech that had me reaching for the tissues before any of the real action had begun).
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=91602[/img]With his rights to refuse arms during his deployment in the army, Private Doss and his platoon moved out to take part in one of the most brutal battles in the entire Pacific battleground. Hacksaw Ridge. The ridge was a 60-foot-tall cliff that the Allies had to scale, and once they were on the top were facing the Japanese who had buried themselves underground and fortified their position so well that almost no attack could work. However, this particular assault was the key to taking Okinawa, and bringing the war directly to the Japanese home front. A battle they could NOT lose. Well, the battle went about as expected. The allied forces scaled the cliff and engaged the enemy, only to be slaughtered with each wave that assaulted the bunkers. As morning hit the Japanese mustered their forces and swelled from their underground caves like ants from a hive, scattering the forces and forcing the off the cliff. All of them that is except the wounded and Private Doss.
This is the part where I sound like one of those click bait facebook articles that says something like “he looked back and you won’t believe what he saw”, or, “He stayed on that cliff and what happened next will blow you away”. While that may seem cheesy, that’s EXACTLY what happened. Doss stood on that cliff and skittered around all night single handedly dragging back every single wounded man that he could, and after every one whispering a prayer “Lord, let me get just one more”. According to records Doss claims to have dragged down 50 men and lowered them over the edge of the cliff that night, while his men are claiming 100. So, the official records claim 75 as they average the two numbers. Either way, 50 men or 100 men, what happened that night on Hacksaw ridge is nothing short of a miracle.
Gibson has simply knocked it out of the park here with “Hacksaw Ridge”. I went in with extremely high expectations for the movie and every single one of them were met. The first 50 minutes of the film has very little action in it at all, but still Mel has managed to make a gripping drama about a man refusing to give up his morals and his convictions, culminating with a court room scene that is basically simple, but so incredibly tense (especially with Hugo Weaving’s impassioned speech to the Colonel in charge of the hearing). In true Gibson style the film shifts gears dramatically once Doss gets to the Pacific battleground. The attack on the ridge is just what you’d expect of a big wartime movie, with blood, guts, and every horrific battle detail painted with a violent brush that leaves you sick to your stomach and snuffling like a 5-year-old. However, as emotionally gripping and intense as that section is, it’s the third act that just grabs you by the emotions and doesn’t let up for one instant as Doss makes his heroic recue of the men in his unit.
You can’t make a great movie with JUST a great director. The actors are the face and beating pulse of the movie, and Gibson chose incredibly well. Every single character in there was perfectly fleshed out and even actors like Sam Worthington and Vince Vaughn are nothing short of amazing. I really was expecting the two of them to be throwaway characters, but both of them turn out top north performances in the roles they were given, so much so that I kind of want to see them both in more dramatic roles (if they can get the proper direction). The runner up has to be Hugo Weaving as Tom Doss, though. Weaving does a magnificent job with the WWI veteran who is just shattered and broken after what he did in the war. You almost can’t recognize Weaving here (except in his face). The confidence and power that he always exudes is gone, with a shattered hull in its stead. Every haunted look and self-tortured outburst he makes endears you to his plight, allowing you to pity him while also loathing what he has become. However, It’s Andrew Garfield that steals the show as Private Doss. He’s sweet, innocent, and completely POWERFUL to the core (despite refusing to engage in physical warfare like every other red blooded male of the time). Put them all together and you have a film that just HAS to be watched and left me feeling like I was on an emotional roller coaster for almost 2.5 hours.
Rated R for intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence including grisly bloody images
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=91610[/img]Even though it was done with a 2K master, the 4K UHD 2160p disc is nothing short of amazing. Due to some films looking only mildly better than their 1080p counterparts, I’ve become a bit cautious in my expectations for films not given a 4K master (although with my review of “Bad Santa 2” I have to even be cautious of some of those too). Not so with “Hacksaw Ridge”. The increase in clarity and use of HDR on colors is quite the improvement. Facial details and the individual fibers on clothing show marked improvement, with almost visceral textures that feel like you could reach out and touch them. The biggest improvement (in my opinion) is the use of HDR and the color spectrum. Reds are brighter and more vivid, while the monochromatic battle sequences, with dust billowing up, actually contrast sharper with the blood splatters or flame bursts (and many of the other primary colors also show this juxtaposition as well). Blacks are deep and inky, but I still did notice some of that banding in the night sky that I noticed in the Blu-ray. Nothing wild, but just enough to keep it from being picture perfect.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=91618[/img]If you haven’t heard what Atmos can do, then “Hacksaw Ridge” is one of those demo films that can act as a stunner for those who want to hear the difference. The mix is voraciously hungry, and quite visceral, for most of the movie. Even though the beginning is a bit more subdued with Doss’s building up to leaving for war, there are still quite a few moments where you can hear the whistle of the wind overhead, or the honk of horn in the background. However, it’s when the battle starts that the track REALLY gets to wake up and flex its muscles. The gunfire and battle sounds are ridiculously savage, but still incredibly accurate. Gunfire whistles overhead and impacts in the rear of the soundstage and the rat a tat tat of machine guns can shift directions at will, giving one the impression that the sounds are LITERALLY moving around them. The LFE is intense, rocking the listener back into their seat with every mortar blast and every volley from the battleships. The score is haunting and mesmerizing, dancing between being emotionally uplifting and this dull downbeat that implies the more horrific moments on screen. Dialog is above reproach, even in the most demanding of circumstances (such as in the middle of battle) with each and every voice perfectly intelligible at all times.
• The Soul of War: Making Hacksaw Ridge Documentary
• Veterans Day Greeting with Mel Gibson
• Deleted Scenes
Being in a military family has given this story a special place in my heart, and I never once in a million years dreamed that Private Doss’s journey would be told in such an epic way. Especially by one of my favorite actors and director’s alive. “Hacksaw Ridge” unabashedly tops my list of 2016 films and for good reason. It is impeccably directed, beautifully shot and every actor made it the masterpiece that it is today. The Blu-ray and the 4K UHD release are both INCREDIBLE on the audio/video front, and while the extras are few in amount, they are certainly not low in quality (“The Soul of War: Making Hacksaw Ridge” is an incredible work that involves some great interviews with Doss’s son and many others). Even better is the fact that "Hacksaw Ridge" is one of the few 4K UHD movies that actually has the extras on the 4K UHD disc instead of just leaving them on the Blu-ray disc. Definitely a must own in my book, 5/5.
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey
Directed by: Mel Gibson
Written by: Robert Schenklan, Andrew Knight
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 HEVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core), Spanish DD 5.1, English 2.0 (for late night listening)
Runtime: 131 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: January 21st, 2017
Buy Hacksaw Ridge On Blu-ray at Amazon
Buy Hacksaw Ridge On 4K Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: MUST OWN!!
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