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The 2016 Venice Film Festival is underway, and one of the many films being screened for critics is Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge. Based on a true story, the film follows Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), who enlists in the army as a medic in World War II, but refuses to carry a gun. During a notoriously bloody battle in Japan, Doss saves a number of soldiers without firing a single shot. The war epic is Gibson's first directorial effort since 2006's Apocalypto (right before he was swallowed whole by scandals), and many have wondered if they could even separate artist from art. While that answer is still debatable, the census is that Hacksaw Ridge is a great war film that invokes the heart of its anti-violence message while showing some of the bloodiest wartime violence captured on film.
Variety's Owen Gleiberman, was one critic who saw the film, and claims the feuding nature of the film works to its advantage, believing that this almost could have been made in the 50's were it not for the extreme levels of violence:
It immerses you in the violent madness of war --- and, at the same time, it roots its drama in the impeccable valor of a man who, by his own grace, refuses to have anything to do with war. You could argue that Gibson, as a filmmaker, is having his bloody cake and eating it too, but the less cynical (and more accurate) way to put it might be that "Hacksaw Ridge" is a ritual of renunciation.
Andrew Pulver of The Guardian notes that though many people may still find Mel Gibson a "repellent figure," he hit the film out of the park, giving it 4/5 stars:
Gibson's gift as a director has always been the coruscating portrayal of violent combat, imparting the viscera-knotting energy of a slasher film to the conventional matrix of the sober war film. It's not possible to say if Hacksaw Ridge contains the most violent or gruesome combat scenes ever filmed, but let's just say it resembles Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers without any of the satire or audience-winking.
When it comes to Hacksaw Ridge, it appears you're going to find a lot of praise thrown around the films main battle scene, which takes place an hour into proceedings and doesn't let up. The Wrap's Alonso Duralde writes that the choreography of the battle is excellent and easy to keep track of - no matter how chaotic it gets:
Gibson has created some of the most breathtakingly exciting wartime footage in recent memory. They craft a real architecture to this hellish landscape; no matter how chaotic the proceedings, we always know where everyone is in relation to everyone else, and pauses get inserted into the action lest it all become too much to take. (But remember folks, this is a movie about pacifism.)
Mike LaSalle of the San Fransisco Chronicler puts it a bit simpler, posting on Twitter a comparison to another major war film:
If you'd like a reminder than check out the trailer for Hacksaw Ridge to see how it might become the next great war film.
Hacksaw Ridge comes out in theaters November 4, 2016, and CinemaBlend will have our own thoughts on the move up soon.