Strange week – if you don’t choose Denial, choose Hacksaw Ridge, made by that charming man Mel Gibson, who is often accused of anti-semitism and Holocaust denial, something he is said to have picked up from his Dad.
For his first film in a decade, Mel might also have learned this WWII story from his raconteur father, too. Hacksaw Ridge is the bloody, war-torn story of conscientious objector Desmond Doss who refused to carry arms but went into battle against the Japanese in the Pacific as a medic and came out with a Medal of Honour.
This week’s Oscar nomination for Gibson as director might be taken as some signifier that Hollywood is a town that forgives and his welcome back at the top of the game is complete. I can only say the film’s 6 nominations baffle me – it’s the most old-fashioned, unsubtle piece with no originality or fresh perspective on war or, for that matter, faith.
Doss, played by Andrew Garfield with a goofily annoying grin, does a Chariots of Fire thing in his refusal, even having to go into battle on his Sabbath. His love story with a nurse (Teresa Palmer) is reduced to pretty set decoration, and we’re supposed to admire his determination and stubborness and pass them off as faith.
The Japs are shown as a faceless horde and the fact that Doss, in his one-man e-vac programme, saved some Japanese wounded is reduced to a throwaway line where a scene of his would have elevated the movie and at least provided relief from the non-stop battlefield carnage of its final hour.
It’s a dull version of every army basic-training movie at the start, then an war version of the Passion of the Christ, with Doss emerging from the turmoil of Okinawa with yet another injured comrade on his back, a saviour figure whose faith protects him.
This from the man who made the phrase Lethal Weapon famous.
Welcome back Mel Gibson.