BY Dora Mezo
„He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20
Who wants to make a movie about faith these days? And what does belief have to do with war, anyway? Soldiery is about killing, not about principles, right? Director Mel Gibson takes us on a journey where we cannot only face the unspeakable horrors of the pitch black rifle-pits, but gauge the worth of human values that can give strength and courage in the darkest of hours.
I settled down in the always welcoming atmosphere of a place I’ve called my second home from an early age: in front of the big screen, ready to set sail to another faraway land, to get under the skin of a stranger. One of the greatest gifts of cinematography is that each and every movie can offer a special perspective: join in and see the world through someone else’s eyes! Most times, you won’t regret it and Hacksaw Ridge is one great example of how to spend two hours on the edge of your seat, reaching the catharsis in the end and leaving the cinema with something monumental and meaningful wrapped in a series of heart-stirring images.
If you want to see a movie that stars not one, but two actors you don’t particularly like and was directed by the man who put Christ on the cross and captured the ferocious world of the Mayan kingdom or made us want to have Scottish ancestors, you might as well buy an extra ticket: one for yourself and one for your scepticism. Fortunately, when a good material meets a disciplined director and impassioned actors, you instantly have a gut feeling that something magical is about to happen.
We’ve all seen it before: through the carefully conducting hands of Steven Spielberg in Saving Private Ryan or the quite recent directional debut of Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner, are just to name a few of the great pictures that had us stare in awe for long moments. The heart of these films is that in any kind of war, there are men behind the guns, souls are being eaten up by the cruelty of death’s crushing hands that leave no time to heal, to mourn. The world has lost countless masses to conquer land in the name of God or for the greater cause of a nation’s survival. In this story, we meet the starry-eyed Desmond (Andrew Garfield), a religious young man from Virginia, joining the forces for medic duties. And what sets Desmond T. Doss apart from his fellow soldiers? Try the fact that he simply refuses to hold a gun. This raises serious questions within his unit, where he has to face the antipathy of his mates, the punishments of his superiors and just as he almost gets kicked out of the army, he has to confront his own convictions as well. But as it is often portrayed, even the impossible becomes attainable if one has what it takes: knowing is one thing and believing is something completely different.
Through the adventure of a single man, we get to see how the long forgotten virtues of our always rushing world can still reflect the deepest of what makes us human. By the time our teary eyed men arrive at the burning hell of the battlefield, I was trying to conceal the dabs of excitement on my sweaty palms. The characters also offer something memorable: I haven’t been much of a fan of Andrew Garfield or Vince Vaughn so far, but I’ve got to say that I fell for both of their performances pretty quickly this time. Way to go with that accent, Mr. Garfield! And I certainly hope we’ll get to see much more of the Vince Vaughn that portrays the loud voiced – and insanely funny - Sgt Howell.
Though it is an epic war movie, the amount of battle scenes in the first half of the picture is relatively small. But when they reach the deadly scene of Okinawa, you know you didn’t have enough time to prepare yourself for that natural, brutal truth of warfare that is about to come. I could see Mr. Gibson silently reaching out and say: “Take a step on the frontline along with Andrew Garfield, crawl in the dirt, feel the deadly air he breathes, the throbbing wounds Doss is so eager to bandage.” Everything is just punctual: the darkness, the lights, the silence, the uplifting music of Rupert Gregson Williams. Every look and tear, the feelings and the uncertainties are where they supposed to be. At one point, you can see flies buzzing on the shoulder of Doss’ soiled uniform jacket. And Mel Gibson delivers it all, simple and heart-breaking as it is. For a few brief moments I started to worry about how the storyline would be able to avoid clichés, when it’s such a delicate matter that should not be jeopardized for the sake of a multibillion dollar industry. It gets risky sometimes, but the level of idealization stays under the alarming rate, at least to my taste.
Monday morning, still sleepy and upset about the quickly passed weekend, I sat down in the familiar cosiness of a burgundy seat. When the lights came back after two hours, I felt simply revived by the core of this film. It’s not strictly about religion, we shall not confuse belief with the different ways one decides to live by certain persuasions. Hacksaw Ridge is about keeping faith when you literally have no obligations to do so. At times, the only thing you’re left with is that inner voice deep down, guiding you to do what’s true and right for not the world, nor your surroundings, but your own conscience.
Dóra Mező 05.12.2016.
ABout The Author
Managing Editor at FUNZINE Magazine (a Budapest based English language magazine covering topics in culture, gastronomy, life & style, design, etc.). Dora also manages her poetry blog www.dorothywritessite.wordpress.com
and is always looking for newer challenges.
Previously worked as a journalist, as well as a production assistant in advertising where she gained a lot of experience behind and in front of the camera, too. She’s been learning English for more than 20 years: her fascination for the language started at the age of 5 and hasn’t faded since then. She majored in Communication and Media Studies at a local university.