Director: Mel Gibson (2017) BBFC cert: 15
Disgraced star Mel Gibson battles his way back to career success with this storming Second World War drama which has been nominated for six Oscars.
Gibson’s well publicised personal problems seemed to have shot his Hollywood popularity to pieces. But having spent time out of the firing line of bad publicity, this is a rollicking return to the filmmaking frontline for the devout Catholic.
The Oscar winning director of 1995’s Braveheart takes a barely believable story of real life heroism and transforms it into an apocalyptic account of faith under fire.
In the first half Gibson provides a treacle coated view small town America, and in the second he blasts us with the brimstone of battle.
Brit actor Andrew Garfield carries the film with open faced charm and innocence as Desmond Doss. Despite being a pacifist Christian, the conscientious objector won the US Medal of Honour in the war against the Japanese.
After a Tom Sawyer-ish upbringing in rural Virginia, Desmond becomes engaged to a pretty nurse called Dorothy. Teresa Palmer and Garfield share a sweet rapport in sentimental scenes which seem to last too long. But the astute Gibson is simply softening us up for the fireworks to follow.
Desmond signs up as a combat medic but he refuses to learn how to shoot. On the Pacific island of Okinawa, the platoon buckle under a blistering barrage. The combat rivals the famous ferocity of the opening scene in Spielberg’s war classic, Saving Private Ryan (1998).
With Desmond’s suffering persecution for his beliefs, his air of martyrdom and determination to succeed in an overwhelmingly hostile environment, it’s hard not to read his journey as an allegory for Gibson’s personal tribulations.
And rather than being a plea by the director for absolution for his misdemeanours, this is Gibson forgiving Hollywood for casting him out. And he does it with a superbly crafted, finely acted and tremendously entertaining film.