I don’t usually write about movies I can’t sit all the way through, but I have nothing else to do, and I want to save you the two hours and $10 you would otherwise spend. Wait for the streaming version if you must watch it at all. My guess is, you don’t need me to tell you this. With Doctor Strange already out and Fantastic Beasts coming out this week, no one is going to see Hacksaw Ridge anyway.
(Parenthetically, the trailers. What is up with Matt Damon starring in a movie about the Great Wall of China? Oh wait, it’s 2016. That’s why. End parenthetical rant.)
Since it was marketed as the best war movie since Saving Private Ryan, I had high hopes for this movie. Figured I would cry and have all the America feels.
It isn’t enough to make a movie about a real war hero who saved lots of lives while himself in dire peril. That’s enough to earn the Medal of Honor, as our hero Mr. Doss did, but it’s not enough to make a great movie.
A great movie needs not to wallow for over an hour in hokeyness and cheesey grins. Needs to not have a hero who stands there gaping and whispering as if there is something more wrong with him than pacifism or never having met a girl before. Played by Andrew Garfield, Private Doss is a cartoon of a hero, and not well-drawn. Nearly everyone else is also a cartoon. Flat characters playing parts with predictable lines. Soldiers who don’t drink, smoke, or swear. What’s an R-rated war movie without the language, I ask you? Disagree if you like, but I’ve known some soldiers in my time, and it’s unrealistic to scrub them this clean. It felt like Opie Goes to Boot Camp and Sees a Naked Man and is Startled. I realize they got the R for peril and war scenes, but we left before any of that happened, so maybe there was also some language later.
We gave up after an hour of wanting something to happen and being nearly drowned in the predictability and sappiness: “Oh, she gave him a Bible. Betcha it saves him in the end,” and “Oh, right, just at the exact moment he’s going to be Court Martialed, an important man walks in with a letter that saves the day.” I mean, seriously, the gavel is on the way down when Important Man with Important Letter muscles his way into the courtroom. Puh-leez.
There’s a naked man being predictable, put there of course so that there’s a naked man–neither he nor his nakedness advances the plot. There are also some rough soldiers doing rough soldiery things. Because Private Doss, who is a conscientious objector and a Seventh Day Adventist, won’t touch a rifle, and they really want him to so that they don’t all get punished. Which made me wonder if Drill Instructors are really like badly-trained third grade teachers: “One of you acted out, so all of you miss your recess,” which is supposed to be a lesson in class loyalty or unity, but really just makes people angry.
Weirdly, we don’t hear that Private Doss is a Seventh Day Adventist until he is all the way at boot camp. I’m not sure, but I think his family sits down to a meal that includes meat. Maybe it’s the Loma Linda meat substitute that comes in cans and you can buy it at your local grocery store above the tuna and canned salmon. Or maybe their kind of Adventism is different from the vegetarian kind I know about. They never talk about being Adventists. They don’t pray or attend church. There is no Bible reading or Ellen G. White reading. The Adventism is just something he brings up far too late to be believable. And in fact, his Adventism, if any, actually is not the reason he is averse to weapons, a fact that comes out in a jail-induced nightmare/flashback. Maybe the religious angle was put in there to make the movie one of those “Take your youth group!” films people make when they wonder if the movie itself is too sappy to make any money, and if that is the case, it should have been PG-13, since even youth pastors can’t haul groups of teenagers to R-rated movies without having so many chaperones the kids would refuse to go.
This movie could have been great. It needed more grit. Less sap. More realism. Less, “Oh goody, I met a girl, I’m in love, let’s get married.” There was a great true story. I wish they had told it better. From the beginning.
Fascinatingly, Mr. Doss, who is presented as the most Christian of everyone in the movie, believes antithetically to nearly all the Evangelical Christians I personally know. He’s a pacifist, won’t touch a rifle, has no use for the right to bear arms. That being said, I don’t know to whom this movie is marketed or how it will get any “likes” (we call those kinds of likes “dollars”). Christians who “stand their ground” are all about their guns and–I know this because I see it daily on Facebook–would call this young man a coward and disgrace, while hippies and other pacifists will think this hero is too shallow and unthinking.
It’s a Nicholas Sparks movie with guns. Or not guns. At least for the first hour and some. Our movie started at 6:40. We left at 8 and nothing had happened yet of any interest whatever. They had arrived at Okinawa, and were looking around wondering what was going to happen. I knew what was going to happen–he was going to save a bunch of people and then be saved by the Bible or with the Bible, and everyone was going to be proud.
Maybe the last half hour makes up for the rest. I’ll never know.
What I do know is that it doesn’t compare to Saving Private Ryan. In any way. At all. Nor does it come close to Fury. Or Monuments Men. Or Inglourious Basterds. Or even Pearl Harbor–not even close, and that had a lot of hokey and sappy.
Another thing I know is that I should leave before the people in front of us get all mad and turn around to give me stink eye because I’m whispering, “How stupid is this?” and Brian is saying, “Is this movie ever going to get going?” one too many times.