We follow the story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a young man who grew up in a religious household with an alcoholic father (Hugo Weaving). One day, Desmond comes across a nurse named Dorothy (Teresa Palmer), who he instantly falls in love with, but their love is forced to be put on a halt when Desmond decides to go to war, following in the footsteps of the soldiers who came before him, including his father and brother Harold (Nathaniel Buzolic). When training under the command of Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn), it becomes rather apparent that Desmond is unlike the other soldiers. While he wants to fight in this war, he refuses to pick up a gun, making him an unfavourable member in his squadron. But still, he's sent off to battle, and his act of bravery is an astounding one to watch unfold.
It takes its time setting everything up, but it needs to. It needs this time, and it uses it wisely. While the main portion of the movie takes place on the battlefield, the events before that are just as needed, not only as an introduction to this character, but to aid in the message this film gives. It's a biopic that avoids being a biopic, only really having two scenes that serve as flashbacks, and the rest of the film being told to us in realtime. It creates an attachment to the character of Desmond, as well as strong empathy, and when he does make it to the war, my heart was racing in anticipation, just hoping for the best for this character.
Here, we also get a good sense of who these characters are, or at least who they seem to be. Their personalities shine through, and while a bunch of them are walking clichés, such as Luke Bracey's Smitty (although once we get to the war scenes, these clichés go away somewhat, replaced by an actual character) or Luke Pegler's Hollywood, there are a few characters who I really enjoyed watching. One of these would be Vince Vaughn's relentless sergeant, as well as Sam Worthington's Captain Glover, who just wants the best for his men. While Vaughn did an excellent job, once again starting to prove talented as a dramatic actor after his impressive appearance in True Detective Season 2, I was a big fan of what Worthington brought to his role.
This is without a doubt Andrew Garfield's best performance yet, taking this film to a whole other level. Whether he's awkwardly trying to flirt with Teresa Palmer, who's also impressive here, or saving dozens upon dozens of lives on the battlefield, Garfield gives it his all, much like his character does, and the result is something extraordinary. I am a very big fan of The Social Network, having seen it countless times, and that used to be my favourite Garfield performance, but Hacksaw Ridge just came along and changed that, for he is at the absolute top of his game here. There's a flashback scene involving him and the iconic Hugo Weaving that, while brief, completely blew me away in terms of performances.