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Hacksaw Ridge

For years, the opening fifteen minutes of Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" has been considered the most intense war scene ever on film. Imagine that opening stretched to the entire back half of a film and you get close to the intensity of Mel Gibson's brilliant HACKSAW RIDGE.

Based on a true story, the quiet first half of the film introduces us to young Desmond Doss. We first see him as a young boy, growing up with an alcoholic father damaged from WW1 and a sympathetic mother. We watch the boys grow up and soon see Desmond as a young man, now played by Andrew Garfield.

Soon after meeting a beautiful young nurse named Dorothy, he falls in love with her. Dorothy is played by Teresa Palmer, who shares incredible on-screen chemistry with Garfield.

Just as you grow fond of the young couple, Gibson and the story change gears. Desmond enlists but insists that he not carry a weapon into battle.

He wants to be a medic, helping his fellow troops while refusing to touch a gun. The middle section of the film depicts Desmond's battle with his fellow soldiers and senior officers, who confuse his position as cowardice instead of conviction.

Vince Vaughn is very good as Sgt Howell, Desmond's commanding officer. He takes the predictable role and builds nice dimensions on top of it, aided by Gibson's sure hand and a strong screenplay by Robert Schenkkan (The Pacific) and Andrew Knight.

Special affects are excellent, recreating middle America in the forties and the massive naval attack on Okinawa with equal dexterity.

The less you know about the film going in, the better. If it wasn't a true story, it would be impossible to believe.

Once Desmond and his brigade end up in Okinawa, they immediately become the latest in an endless group of men trying to take the sheer face of Hacksaw Ridge and the thousands of Japanese soldiers at its top.

Gibson is one of our finest directors at staging action scenes as any fan of "Braveheart" or the riveting "Apocalypto" can attest.

This is one of his best films, immersing you in the fierce man-to-man carnage while keeping you engaged on the forces as a whole.

It's violent, bloody and ultra-realistic.

Doss's story is incredible and Garfield does the man justice, conveying the conviction of his principles and the terror of the battles.

Gibson ends the film with interviews with the real Desmond, his wife and other key characters from the film, making what goes before even more jaw dropping.

HACKSAW RIDGE is one of the best war films of all time and earns a heartfelt, bloody A.

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