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Hacksaw Ridge

An old-school paint-by-numbers war movie. Each kind of scene in it has a bar that’s been set long ago, and it doesn’t surpass any of them. Some are so high above it’s like they don’t exist. It does set some standards of its own, most notably for dehumanizing the enemy, who is never given more than 10 seconds of film at a time and always with a growling face straight out of a propaganda poster.

That is a shame. The story of Desmond Doss as told in 2016 deserves better than a WW2 also-ran and an illiterate journal article, for at least two reasons: he saved everyone he saw on the battlefield, American and Japanese; and no-one could get the number of people he helped straight, even as he was being given the Medal of Honor. Wondering how the other side thinks and feels, and sorting between truths, half-truths, and alt-truths are the themes of this decade, so it must have taken a lot of determination (or ignorance) on Braveheart’s part to ignore them so completely. Sort of like I’m ignoring Mel’s pet theme that wants to be central but can’t quite make it.

PS: Spiderman Jr. does his best doing Jimmy Stuart doing a pious army medic, and almost makes it. Vince Vaughn makes a good drill sergeant. This is not a failure of acting.

Directed by Mel Gibson, 2016

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