Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mel Gibson|
|Music by||Rupert Gregson-Williams|
|Edited by||John Gilbert|
|Box office||$75.4 million|
Hacksaw Ridge is a 2016 biographical war film about the World War II experiences of Desmond Doss, an American pacificist combat medic who was a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, refusing to carry or use a firearm or weapons of any kind. Doss became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor, for service above and beyond the call of duty.
The film was directed by Mel Gibson, written by Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan and stars Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths and Vince Vaughn. It was released in the United States on November 4, 2016, received positive reviews and has grossed $75 million worldwide.
While growing up in Lynchburg, Virginia during the Great Depression, young Desmond Doss nearly kills his brother Hal, hitting him with a brick. This traumatizing experience, along with a talk from his religious mother, firmly reinforces his belief in the Sixth Commandment of the Old Testament. Years later, Doss saves a man who becomes injured by a car and while taking the man to hospital, is instantly smitten with a nurse, Dorothy Schutte. They soon begin dating and fall in love, and Doss begins to learn about medicine from her work.
With the majority of his town, including his brother, enlisting in the Army to fight in World War II, Doss is motivated to sign up as well. His father, a troubled veteran from the First World War, is deeply upset as he expects to lose his sons just as he lost his boyhood friends. Because of his beliefs as a conscientious objector, Doss intends to serve as a medic. Before he leaves for training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, he asks for Dorothy's hand in marriage, and she accepts.
Doss is placed under the command of Sergeant Howell, and while he excels physically, he immediately becomes an outcast among his fellow soldiers when he refuses to handle his rifle nor train on Saturdays, as he is a Seventh-day Adventist. After Howell and Captain Glover fail to get Doss discharged for psychiatric reasons, Howell worsens Doss' conditions by putting him through grueling labor and turning his fellow soldiers against him by mistaking his beliefs for cowardice, intending to get Doss to leave of his own accord. Despite being beaten one night by his fellow soldiers, he refuses to disclose the identities of his attackers. He continues training.
Doss' squad is temporarily released from training, and Doss intends to marry Dorothy, but he is arrested for insubordination for his refusal to carry a firearm. Dorothy visits Doss in jail, and tries to convince him to declare a guilty plea in his upcoming trial so that he can be released without charges, but Doss is still unsure, not wanting to compromise his beliefs. At his trial, Doss pleads not guilty, and before he is to be sentenced, his father barges into the courtroom with a letter from his former commanding officer stating that his son's refusal to carry a firearm is protected by the US Constitution. The charges against Doss are dropped, and he and Dorothy are promptly married.
Doss' unit is assigned to the 77th Infantry Division and sent to the Pacific theater to participate in the Battle of Okinawa, where the Americans must climb the cliff face of the Maeda Escarpment, nicknamed "Hacksaw Ridge", to take on the Japanese forces stationed there. In the initial fight, losses are heavy on both sides, and Doss is successful in saving several soldiers, including ones whose injuries appear too severe for them to survive. The Americans bivouac for the night, and Doss spends the night in a foxhole with Smitty, a squad mate who was the first to call Doss a coward. Doss tells Smitty that he nearly shot his drunken father after he threatened his mother with a gun, revealing his aversion to holding a firearm. Smitty apologizes for doubting his courage and the two make amends.
The next morning, the Japanese launch a massive counter-attack and drive the Americans off Hacksaw. Smitty is killed and many Americans, including Howell and several of Doss' squadmates, are injured and left on the battlefield. Disheartened, Doss hears the cries of the dying soldiers and decides to run into the carnage instead of away from it. He spends the entire day and night carrying wounded soldiers to the cliff's edge and rappelling them down on rope, each time praying to save one more. The arrival of dozens of wounded who were presumed dead comes as a shock to several men stationed below. When day breaks, Doss rescues Howell and the two finally escape Hacksaw under enemy fire.
Captain Glover tells Doss that the men have been inspired by what they are calling his miracle, and that they will not launch the next attack without him. Despite the next day being the Sabbath day that was kept as a Holy day each week by Doss, he joins his fellow soldiers to care for the wounded. Along with extra reinforcements, they begin to win the battle. During an ambush set by a falsely surrendering group of Japanese, Doss manages to save Glover and others by knocking enemy grenades away with his bare hands. Doss is wounded by the blast of one grenade, but the battle is won. Doss is safely lowered down the cliff, clutching the Bible Dorothy left for him.
Pre-credit text reveals that Doss ended up rescuing over 75 soldiers at Hacksaw Ridge, and was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry S Truman, the first time in history it was given to a conscientious objector. Doss stayed married to Dorothy until her death in 1991. He died on March 23, 2006 at the age of 87.
- Andrew Garfield as Desmond T. Doss
- Vince Vaughn as Sergeant Howell
- Sam Worthington as Captain Glover
- Luke Bracey as Smitty Riker
- Hugo Weaving as Tom Doss
- Ryan Corr as Lieutenant Manville
- Teresa Palmer as Dorothy Schutte
- Rachel Griffiths as Bertha Doss
- Richard Roxburgh as Colonel Stelzer
- Luke Pegler as Milt "Hollywood" Zane
- Richard Pyros as Randall "Teach" Fuller
- Ben Mingay as Grease Nolan
- Firass Dirani as Vito Rinnelli
- Jacob Warner as James Pinnick
- Goran D. Kleut as Andy 'Ghoul' Walker
- Harry Greenwood as Henry Brown
- Damien Thomlinson as Ralph Morgan
- Robert Morgan as Colonel Sangston
- Nathaniel Buzolic as Harold "Hal" Doss
- Ori Pfeffer as Irv Schecter
- Milo Gibson as Lucky Ford
- John Batziolas as Private Schulenburg
- John Cannon as Corporal Cannon
- Mikael Koski as Private Giles
- Charles Jacobs as Private Webb
- Ulyses Medina as "Are you alive" boy
The project was in development hell for 14 years.
In 2001, after finally convincing Doss that making a movie on his remarkable life was the right thing to do, screenwriter/producer Gregory Crosby (grandson of Bing Crosby) wrote a treatment and brought the project to film producer David Permut through the efforts of Stan Jensen of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
In 2004, director Terry Benedict won the rights to make a 2004 documentary about Doss and secured dramatic rights in the process. However, Doss died in 2006, after which producer Bill Mechanic acquired and then sold the rights to Walden Media, which developed the project along with producer David Permut of Permut Presentations. Co-producers of the film are Gregory Crosby and Steve Longi. Walden Media insisted on a PG-13 version of the battle, then Mechanic spent years working to buy the rights back.
After acquiring the rights, Mechanic approached Mel Gibson and wanted him to blend the concoction of violence and faith as he did with The Passion of the Christ (2004). But Gibson turned down the offer twice as he previously did with Braveheart (1995).
With a budget of $40 million, the team still faced many challenges. Hacksaw Ridge became an international co-production with key players and firms located in both the United States and Australia. When Australian tax incentives were taken off the table, they had to qualify the film as Australian to receive government subsidies. Fortunately for the production, despite being American-born, Gibson’s early years in Australia helped the film qualify along with other Aussie-born cast members such as Rachel Griffiths (Doss’s mother), Teresa Palmer (Doss’s girlfriend/wife) and Luke Bracey, one of Doss’s most antagonistic unit members. Rounding out the cast are unit leaders Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington, and Hugo Weaving as Doss’s father.
On February 9, 2015, IM Global closed a deal to finance the film and also sold the film into the international markets. On the same day, Lionsgate acquired the North American distribution rights to the film. Chinese distribution rights were acquired by Bliss Media, a Shanghai-based film production and distribution company.
Hacksaw Ridge is the first film directed by Gibson since Apocalypto in 2006, and marks a departure from his previous films, such as Apocalypto and Braveheart, in which the protagonists acted violently.
Robert Schenkkan and Randall Wallace wrote the script while Wallace was previously attached to direct the film. Andrew Knight polished the original script. Gibson's partner Bruce Davey would also produce the film along with Paul Currie.
The cast – Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Rachel Griffiths, Richard Roxburgh, Luke Pegler, Richard Pyros, Ben Mingay, Firass Dirani, Nico Cortez, Michael Sheasby, Goran Kleut, Jacob Warner, Harry Greenwood, Damien Thomlinson, Ben O’Toole, Benedict Hardie, Robert Morgan, Ori Pfeffer, Milo Gibson, and Nathaniel Buzolic, Hugo Weaving, Ryan Corr – were announced between November 2014 and October 2015. The younger Doss was played by Darcy Bryce.
Andrew Garfield plays Desmond Doss, a US Army medic awarded Medal of Honor by the President Harry S. Truman for saving lives during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II. Garfield had high regards for Doss and venerated him for his act of bravery hailing him as a "wonderful symbol of embodying the idea of live and let live no matter what your ideology is, no matter what your value system is, just to allow other people to be who they are and allow yourself to be who you are." He found the idea of playing a real superhero (as compared to his past roles playing of Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel) much more inspiring. Garfield admitted that he cried the first time he read the screenplay. He visited Doss' hometown and touched his various tools. Gibson was drawn to Garfield the first time he saw his performance in The Social Network.
Teresa Palmer wanted to land a role in the film so badly that she auditioned via her iPhone and sent the recording to Gibson. She heard nothing back for three months, until Gibson called Palmer to tell her in a Skype chat that she landed the role of Dorothy, Doss' wife.
Principal photography started on September 29, 2015, and lasted for 59 days ending in December of that year and was filmed entirely in Australia. The film was based at Fox Studios in Sydney after producers vigorously scouted for locations around the country. Filming took place mostly in the state of New South Wales — where Gibson spent much of his early years — in and around Sydney such as in Richmond, Bringelly, and Oran Park. He moved to the state in July 2015, two months before filming began. The graveyard scene was shot at the Centennial Park Cemetery. Filming in Bringelly required the team to clear over 500 hectares of land including deforesting 80 trees. This evoked the ire of certain environmentalists. However, producers had the full clearing and approval to take up such tasks after conditions were imposed to replant and rehabilitate part of the land after filming ceased. According to Troy Grant, New South Wales' deputy premier and minister for the arts, the film brought in 720 jobs and US$19 million to regional and rural New South Wales.
Altogether, three jeeps, two trucks and a tank were featured in the film. Bulldozers and backhoes were used to transform a dairy pasture near Sydney to re-create the Okinawa battlefield. A berm had to be raised around the perimeter so cameras could turn 360 degrees without getting any eucalyptus trees in the background. Gibson didn't want to rely heavily on computer visual effects, either on the screen or in pre-visualizing the battle scenes. Visual effects were only used during bloody scenes like napalm-burnt soldiers. During filming the war scenes, Gibson incorporated his past war-movie experiences and would yell to the actors reminding them constantly of what they were fighting for.
The film is described as an anti-war film with a pacifist theme. It also incorporates recurring religious themes and imagery such as eternal peace, baptism and ascension. Producer David Permut said it was very crucial that the team maintain the integrity of Doss' story as Doss was a very spiritual and very religious man.
After the war, Doss turned down many requests for books and films, because he was wary they would portray his life, his wartime experiences and his Seventh-day Adventist beliefs inaccurately or sensationally. Doss' only child, Desmond Doss Jr., stated: “The reason he declined is that none of them adhered to his one requirement: that it be accurate. And I find it remarkable, the level of accuracy in adhering to the principal of the story in this movie.”
The makers of the film did change some of the details, notably the backstory about his father, the incident with the gun Doss took out of his alcoholic father's hands, and the circumstances of his first marriage. The film also does not mention his prior combat service in the Battle of Guam and Battle of Leyte and leaves the impression that Doss' action on Okinawa took place over a period of a few days but his Medal of Honor citation covered his actions over a period of about three weeks.
The world premiere of Hacksaw Ridge occurred on September 4, 2016, at the 73rd Venice Film Festival, where it received a 10-minute standing ovation. The film was released in Australia on November 3, 2016, by Icon Film Distribution and in the United States on November 4, 2016, by Summit Entertainment. at the 73rd Venice Film Festival on September 4, 2016, where it received a 10-minute standing ovation. The film released by Icon Film Distribution in Australia on November 3, 2016, and by Lionsgate/Summit in the United States on November 4, 2016. It will be released by Bliss Media in China in November, with IM Global handling international sales. and in the United Kingdom in 2017.
In August 2016, Gibson appeared in Pastor Greg Laurie's SoCal Harvest in Anaheim, California, to promote the film.
As of December 4, 2016, Hacksaw Ridge has grossed $57.3 million in the United States and Canada and $18.1 million in other countries for a worldwide total of $75.4 million, against a budget of $40 million.
The film opened alongside Doctor Strange and Trolls and was projected to gross around $12 million from 2,886 theaters, and was expected to play very well among the faith-based, Midwest and Southern audiences. It made $5.2 million on its first day and $15.2 million in its opening weekend, finishing third at the box office. The debut was on par with the $15 million opening of Gibson's last directorial effort, Apocalypto, in 2006. In its second weekend the film grossed $10.8 million (a drop of just 29.1%), finishing 5th at the box office.
Hacksaw Ridge received positive reviews from film critics. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 86%, based on 165 reviews, with an average rating of 7.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Hacksaw Ridge uses a real-life pacifist's legacy to lay the groundwork for a gripping wartime tribute to faith, valor, and the courage of remaining true to one's convictions." On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average out of 100 to reviews, the film has a score of 71 out of 100, based on 45 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". CinemaScore reported that audiences gave the film an average "A" grade on an A+ to F scale.
IGN critic Alex Welch gave the film a score of 8/10, and praising it as "one of the most successful war films of recent memory" and "at times horrifying, inspiring, and heart-wrenching." Mike Ryan of Uproxx gave the film a positive review, praising Gibson's direction, and saying: "There are two moments during the second half of Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge when I literally jumped out of my seat in terror. The film’s depiction of war is the best I’ve seen since Saving Private Ryan." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone praised the film as "the best war film since Saving Private Ryan and wrote "[I]t is violent, harrowing, heartbreaking and unforgettable. And yes, it was directed by Mel Gibson. He deserves a medal, too."
|List of awards and nominations|
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|AACTA Awards||December 5, 2016||Best Film||Bill Mechanic, David Permut, Paul Currie and Bruce Davey||Pending|
|Best Direction||Mel Gibson||Pending|
|Best Original Screenplay||Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan||Pending|
|Best Actor||Andrew Garfield||Pending|
|Best Actress||Teresa Palmer||Pending|
|Best Supporting Actor||Hugo Weaving||Pending|
|Best Supporting Actress||Rachel Griffiths||Pending|
|Best Cinematography||Simon Duggan||Pending|
|Best Editing||John Gilbert||Pending|
|Best Sound||Andrew Wright, Robert Mackenzie, Kevin O'Connell, Mario Vaccaro, Tara Webb and Peter Grace||Pending|
|Best Production Design||Barry Robinson||Pending|
|Best Costume Design||Lizzy Gardiner||Pending|
|Best Hair and Make-Up||Shane Thomas and Larry Van Duynhoven||Pending|
|Camerimage||November 19, 2016||Golden Frog Award for Best Cinematography||Simon Duggan||Nominated|
|Critics' Choice Awards||December 11, 2016||Best Picture||Hacksaw Ridge||Pending|
|Best Director||Mel Gibson||Pending|
|Best Actor||Andrew Garfield||Pending|
|Best Editing||John Gilbert||Pending|
|Best Hair and Makeup||Hacksaw Ridge||Pending|
|Best Action Movie||Hacksaw Ridge||Pending|
|Best Actor in an Action Movie||Andrew Garfield||Pending|
|Hollywood Film Awards||November 6, 2016||Hollywood Director Award||Mel Gibson||Won|
|Hollywood Editor Award||John Gilbert||Won|
|Hollywood Make Up & Hair Styling Award||Shane Thomas, Angela Conte, Bec Taylor and Noriko Waztanabe||Won|
|Hollywood Music in Media Awards||November 17, 2016||Best Original Score – Feature Film||Rupert Gregson-Williams||Nominated|
|National Board of Review||January 4, 2017||Top 10 Films||Hacksaw Ridge||Won|
|Satellite Awards||February 19, 2017||Best Film||Hacksaw Ridge||Pending|
|Best Director||Mel Gibson||Pending|
|Best Actor||Andrew Garfield||Pending|
|Best Adapted Screenplay||Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan||Pending|
|Best Cinematography||Simon Duggan||Pending|
|Best Original Score||Rupert Gregson-Williams||Pending|
|Best Art Direction and Production Design||Barry Robinson||Pending|
|Best Film Editing||John Gilbert||Pending|
|Best Sound||Hacksaw Ridge||Pending|
|Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association||December 5, 2016||Best Actor||Andrew Garfield||Pending|
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