Mel Gibson is back. He may have gone on a Jewish rant and called a policewoman ‘sugar tits’ but hey, forgiveness is good for the soul. Would you believe the Australian Government (tax incentives) and Hollywood, that town of virtue has forgotten past sins or more likely seen this movie as a potential moneymaker and welcomed ‘our’ Aussie larrikin back into the fold.
Mel directs this true story about Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a small town deeply religious man who as a ‘conscientious objector’ refuses to fire or even touch a gun during the battle of Okinawa at the end of World War 2.
Doss has seen enough violence in his life, an alcoholic father (Hugo Weaving), an incident from his childhood and his deeply held seventh day Adventist beliefs convince him he can serve his country in battle not by killing the enemy but by saving his comrades as a medic.
You can imagine the Army doesn’t cater to individual soldiers beliefs or views, which causes Doss to dodge a few minefields before he even makes it to Japan. In some ways Doss reminds me of Forest Gump, combining a heavy accent with small town innocence which people underestimate but underneath lies steel.
Doss can’t live with staying home in Virginia whilst other men fight, but he also can’t live with killing another man. As usual, there’s a ragtag bunch of men in his unit headed by Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) and Captain Glover (Sam Worthington). Keep an eye out for ‘Ralph’ (Damien Thomlinson) who is an actual real life war hero who took up acting. He lost both legs in a roadside bomb in Afghanistan whilst serving with the Australian Special Forces in 2009.
This movie, shot in and around Sydney is Garfield’s. He plays it straight as Doss. You cheer for him, you may or may not agree with his beliefs but you can’t deny his conviction. The Japanese have their own conviction, doing whatever it takes to defend the homeland, they are driven by their fanaticism.
Gibson as director is showing both sides, leaning more of course towards Doss, although what happens in the Japanese underground tunnels trumps anything Doss is driven by. It’s not a movie for the squeamish. The battle scenes are as realistic as Hollywood can make them, body parts everywhere, troops on fire and rotting corpses. Amongst all this Hell is Doss, driven by religion, his desire to help and to get home to his love Dorothy (Teresa Palmer).
Mel has done well in his ‘comeback’, it was a story stuck in ‘development’ for decades that needed to be told. You may not agree with Desmond Doss and his reasons for not ‘fighting’ but you can’t deny he isn’t a hero.
hallymustang rating: 4/5