HACKSAW RIDGE — Review by Susan Granger

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Featuring the most brutal wartime carnage since Saving Private Ryan, director Mel Gibson depicts a true-life biopic about a pacifist, a man whose unconventional beliefs made him a pariah among his peers. Raised as a Seventh-Day Adventist in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, idealistic Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) enlists in the U.S. Army during W.W.II as a medic – to save lives. A conscientious objector, he refuses to use a weapon, which confuses his tough drill Sergeant (Vince Vaughn) and infuriates other recruits in his barracks. Refusing to quit boot camp, pious Doss is threatened with a court martial because he won’t obey Army regulations. Read on…

Then his platoon is shipped out to the Pacific island of Okinawa, where they’re ordered to take Hacksaw Ridge, a steep, 35-foot cliff upon which the Japanese have been hunkered down in bunkers.

Complete with flamethrowers and flying bodies, savage battles ensue, after which Dawes reveals remarkable courage. Instead of retreating, he stays atop the Ridge for five hours, bravely retrieving one wounded comrade after another, praying, “Lord, help me get just one more…”

Following “The Man Without a Face,” “Braveheart, “The Passion of the Christ” and “Apocalypto,” this is Gibson’s fifth film as director, and there’s no denying his talent as he places this avowed pacifist amid a bloody spectacle.

Although it’s often difficult separating the artist from his work, one might interpret casting Jewish Andrew Garfield as an act of atonement for Gibson’s virulent anti-Semitic ranting. Plus, there’s an obvious connection with war-obsessed Gibson, since his father moved the family to Australia to avoid his sons being drafted to serve in Vietnam.

Working from Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan’s cliché-riddled script, Gibson elicits fine performances, including Teresa Palmer as Dawes’ wife, Hugo Weaving as Dawes’ alcoholic father and Rachel Griffiths as his abused mother

The conclusion is lifted from Terry Benedict’s documentary “The Conscientious Objector” (2004).

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Hacksaw Ridge” is an intense, viscerally stunning 7. Idealized and idiosyncratic, it illuminates the first conscientious objector awarded the Medal of Honor.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.