Andrew Garfield is simply mesmerising as Desmond Doss in the best performance of his career to date. There remains a sturdy composure to his character, even in the many faces of adversary (from death on the Ridge to his abuse from his fellow soldiers). Defined and fuelled by a real innocence and humility of the character who always aligns his faith with his actions, Garfield portrays these characteristics and moral tension at the heart of the piece with a emotive, pitch-perfect performance that excellently nails the mannerism (accent and all) of the hero. His sheer force of will to save "just one more" is deftly portrayed as nothing short of inspiring with Garfield and Gibson in the driving seat and his slow-motion runs across Hacksaw can impact the hardest of hearts. The entire sequence of the battle, which takes up much of the second half of the film, is completely absorbing and compelling, mainly due to the warmth and humbleness of Garfield's visceral performance and the true life figure himself. Garfield earns his Best Actor nomination here and, if truth be told, I am backing him every step of the way. As with his work in Silence, it proves why he remains one of the most skilful, talented British stars and it is a relief to see him break out into these roles he handles so masterfully. Some supporting actors get a look in too, with the likes of Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey and Teresa Palmer giving solid performances, and although they are not quite in the same league as Garfield, all add what is necessary of their characters to the film.
It's not always worth spending a long time on the downfalls of the film, and with Hacksaw Ridge there are few, but they do prevent this from being a flaw-free picture. The tonal difference between the two halves of this film (the corny but serviceable Homefront and the calamitous battle) is staggering and a little overwhelming; it really jumps from one extreme to the other and while you could justify this as a reflection of the young soldiers being thrown in battle with such little preparation, as a viewer you almost want to see a more spaced-out build-up. I am so very on the fences about the pacing and structure of this piece but something doesn't quite work with it, although I understand the symbolism of the decision. Speaking of symbolism, the religious qualities feel a little on-the-nose at times and the very beginning scene feels ham-fisted beyond belief, but these are minor flaws in an otherwise intensely powerful and inspiring story.
Hacksaw Ridge paints a powerful portrait of the importance of faith and basic respect for one and other, with an emotional and moving tale of a man who refused to lift a gun, making the decision to save lives rather than take them. It is a tough balancing act, but the film remains deeply effective and gripping, as well as violent but dignified at the same time, all of which coalesces into a worthwhile experience. For all its blood, gore, explosions and injury detail, it never forgets the human story it is telling and guarantees that the themes are always front and centre of the picture. Andrew Garfield delivers a career-best performance and Mel Gibson crafts this harrowing and violent tale with enough thought-provoking and moral questioning to ensure you are totally engrossed in this pacifists' story. Each and every one of us can find inspiration in this one man's adherence to his true morals and beliefs and in turn will find the true meaning of strength and bravery in the darkest of circumstances in this film.
Summary: Hacksaw Ridge is a powerful, emotionally-charged and inspiring picture that examines the full horror of war on both an intimate and wider scale - all topped off with a mesmerising performance from Andrew Garfield.
Highlight: Garfield's performance of a man determined to save as many people as possible. "Just one more" stays with you long after the credits role and he will likely become a source of inspiration for many, many people.