Making the case for “Hacksaw Ridge” as the best picture of the year is defending the indefensible.
Of all the nominees, it shares the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score of 86 with “Lion.” But what makes “Hacksaw” an even tougher sell is its director, Mel Gibson, who has thrown around more than his fair share of vulgar slurs over the years.
In Hollywood, apparently, Gibson’s obnoxious behavior is water under the bridge. Not only did his “Hacksaw” receive six nominations, Warner Bros. floated the idea of handing him millions of dollars to direct a sequel to “Suicide Squad.”
Thankfully, Gibson’s movies are easier to defend than Gibson himself.
“Hacksaw Ridge” hits the Oscar bait requirements: a nearly 2 1/2 -hour biopic set in World War II that appeals to an older male demographic? Check, check and check.
I’m going to take a wild swing here and guess the film has failed to resonate on a “Saving Private Ryan” level because its overt religious themes aren’t connecting with secular audiences.
“Hacksaw” is based on the life of Desmond T. Doss (played by Andrew Garfield), an Army medic who saved at least 75 soldiers at Okinawa. Even more remarkable: He did so without firing a weapon. He was the first conscientious objector to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor (given by Harry Truman).
As is the case with most biopics, it’s occasionally choppy. Gibson skimped in places, using video-game blood splatters and some obvious green screen shots. Some of the casting choices are suspect: America just isn’t ready for Vince Vaughn as a serious actor.
The story is nonetheless compelling. Doss was a Seventh-day Adventist who not only marched into war weaponless but observed Sabbath on Saturdays. Garfield, up for best actor, does a fine job rendering him as a clear-eyed believer and not some crazed zealot.
From “Braveheart” to “The Passion of the Christ,” Gibson has made a career of films about men who lay down their arms in the service of a greater good. When people begin doing despicable things to one another, it takes truly special people to show a new way.
On both emotional and intellectual levels, I found “Hacksaw” vastly more interesting than “La La Land,” the front-runner. If the votes split among the more politically correct choices for best picture, “Hacksaw Ridge” is anecdotal evidence that with a little faith, something resembling miracles can happen.