‘Hacksaw Ridge’ reviews: Oscar comeback for Mel Gibson & breakthrough for Andrew Garfield?

Mel Gibson has been under fire — pardon the pun — for years leading up to the war drama “Hacksaw Ridge,” his first film as a director since “Apocalypto” in 2006. It opened on Friday, November 4, and the reviews so far indicate that Hollywood might be ready to welcome him back with open arms. As of this writing it has scored 71 on MetaCritic and 87% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Gibson courted controversy in 2004 with his Biblical film “The Passion of the Christ,” which was a box office blockbuster but was criticized for its graphic violence and perceived anti-Semitism. He fanned those flames during a notorious traffic stop for DUI in 2006 in which he delivered an angry tirade against his arresting officer. But 10 years later he has made a “brilliant return” as a filmmaker that “fits beautifully” in his body of work.

Like “The Passion of the Christ,” “Hacksaw Ridge” is concerned with faith in the face of violence. It tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a Christian medic in World War II who refused to carry a weapon but was awarded the Medal of Honor for saving dozens of lives during the Battle of Okinawa. Doss is played in the film by Andrew Garfield, who is “note-perfect” in the role.

Gibson is a two-time Oscar winner — Best Picture and Best Director for “Braveheart” (1995) — but he hasn’t been nominated since then. Meanwhile, Garfield came within striking distance of an Oscar bid in 2010 for his supporting role in “The Social Network,” which earned him Golden Globe and BAFTA noms, but none from the motion picture academy.

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The film has been rising in the Oscar predictions of our Experts. It’s among the top 15 contenders for Best Picture (the Oscars will nominate up to 10), while Garfield is knocking on the door for Best Actor in seventh place. Garfield also has the lead role in Martin Scorsese‘s as-yet-unseen “Silence,” so this could prove to be a great year for the 33-year-old actor.

Check out some of the reviews for “Hacksaw Ridge” below, and discuss this film and more in our movie forum.

Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle): “To see ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is to come away with two distinct impressions. The first is that it’s a brilliant return for Mel Gibson, which confirms his position as a director with a singular talent for spectacle and a sure way with actors … This is pure, unadulterated, go-for-broke Gibson, and what do you know? He makes us all like it.”

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Ann Hornaday (Washington Post): “Luckily, Desmond himself is not nearly so contradictory, and the fey, almost doe-like Garfield imbues him with an irresistible mix of gentleness and grit … Most important, [the film] immortalizes a man that, shockingly, many filmgoers likely have never heard of. Thanks to this stirring introduction, once they have met Desmond Doss, they will never forget him.”

Marjorie Baumgarten (Austin Chronicle): “Garfield is note-perfect as the dichotomous Desmond Doss, a conscientious ‘cooperator’ instead of objector, as he would frequently say. The conflicts raised by the character do not dissipate easily, nor does the memory of his selfless acts of heroism. ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is drenched in the blood of the fallen and the mud forever caked on the boots of those who survived to tell the tale. It’s the closest thing to feeling as though you’ve marched a mile in those shoes.”

Tirdad Derakhshani (Philadelphia Inquirer): “The violence and gore are so raw and so graphic, the confusion so overwhelming, they recall the famous opening scene of Steven Spielberg’s ‘Saving Private Ryan’ … What’s certain is that ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is one of [Gibson’s] most important films. It fits beautifully in Gibson’s body of work as a director.”

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