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Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge wins rave reviews from Venice

Hacksaw Ridge

Story by Jack Foley

MEL Gibson’s first film as director since Apocalypto has won rave reviews from critics at the Venice Film Festival.

The film tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a man whose unconventional religious beliefs saw him become the first conscientious objector to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor after saving 75 lives during the WWII battle of Okinawa in 1945.

It stars Andrew Garfield as the unlikely hero as well as Teresa Palmer, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving and Rachel Griffiths in key roles. And while typically violent during its battle sequences, the film has won near universal praise for its ability to marry the horror of war with an examination of faith and heroism.

The Telegraph leads the praise by saying: “Hacksaw Ridge is a fantastically moving and bruising war film that hits you like a raw topside of beef in the face – a kind of primary-coloured Guernica that flourishes on a big screen with a crowd.”

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While The Hollywood Reporter opined: “Gibson’s forceful comeback is a violent drama about pacifism that succeeds in combining horror with grace.”

It adds: “Back in the saddle with Hacksaw Ridge, he once again proves himself a muscular storyteller who knows exactly how to raise a pulse, heighten emotion and build intensity to explosive peaks. Themes of courage, patriotism, faith and unwavering adherence to personal beliefs have been a constant through Gibson’s directing projects, as has a fascination with bloodshed and gore.

“Those qualities serve this powerful true story of heroism without violence extremely well, overcoming its occasional cliched battle-movie tropes to provide stirring drama.”

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The Guardian was also impressed, writing: “As a machine-tooled vehicle for Mel Gibson’s directorial comeback, Hacksaw Ridge couldn’t be more perfect. A study of a second world war conscientious objector who demonstrated extreme bravery under enemy fire (and won the Medal of Honor), the film allows Gibson to identify himself with a tough guy of considerable moral virtue, someone who has gone through through their own modern Calvary, taken the punishment, and come through the other side relatively unscathed.”

It adds: “[as] repellent a figure as many may still find Gibson, I have to report he’s absolutely hit Hacksaw Ridge out of the park.”

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Variety, meanwhile, described it as “a brutally effective, bristlingly idiosyncratic combat saga”, adding that it stands “a good chance of becoming a player during awards season”.

It continues: “It immerses you in the violent madness of war — and, at the same time, it roots its drama in the impeccable valour of a man who, by his own grace, refuses to have anything to do with war.”

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And Cinevue stated: “Anyone worrying that the topic of a conscientious objector who won a Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery might stifle Gibson’s baser tendencies can rest easy: Hacksaw Ridge is a gruesome, pounding war film.”

Deadline concludes this round-up with the view: “The battle scenes bear Gibson’s signature and are fresh, (very) gory and great spectacle (even at 8:30 in the morning on a Sunday). They’re also tense and moving – particularly as Doss seeks out the men still breathing amid the carnage, while also trying to avoid enemy fire. He later became the first conscientious objector awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Doss’ pacifism contrasted with the violence and heroism of the battle scenes, along with themes of redemption, are shaping up to be a talking point here in Venice.”

Hacksaw Ridge is released in UK cinemas later this year.

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