Last year, if someone had told you that a relatively low-budget World War II film about a Seventh-Day Adventist, directed by Hollywood outcast Mel Gibson, would be racking up awards nominations right and left, you’d be forgiven for having a good laugh … which is exactly what God does when people think they know it all.
Released in early November, “Hacksaw Ridge” is the fact-based story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield, who also stars in Martin Scorsese’s upcoming “Silence”), a devout Adventist Christian who volunteers to be a medic in World War II, but refuses to touch a weapon. He suffers physical and mental torment for this at boot camp, but stands firm and earns the respect of his fellow soldiers. Later, on Okinawa, he’s left alone on an escarpment after a devastating battle.
Unarmed, he locates roughly 75 wounded soldiers, drags them to the edge of the cliff and lowers them down to safety. For that bravery, he becomes the first conscientious objector to be a recipient of the Medal of Honor.
The film has earned critical kudos — starting with a 10-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival in September — and currently has an 87% positive rating from critics at review site Rotten Tomatoes, and 95% from viewers.
Awards season is hard upon us, and nominations and early awards are coming out. Here’s what “Hacksaw Ridge” has garnered so far:
* Nominations from the Golden Globes: Best Actor, Motion Picture Drama (Garfield); Best Motion Picture Drama; Best Director, Motion Picture (Gibson).
* Nominations from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG): Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Motion Pictures (Garfield); Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture;
* Awards from the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) — already announced: Best Film; Best Direction (Gibson); Best Original Screenplay (Andrew Knight, Robert Schenkkan); Best Lead Actor (Garfield); Best Supporting Actor (Hugo Weaving); Best Cinematography (Simon Duggan); Best Editing; Best Sound.
* Awards from Critics Choice Awards — already announced: Best Action Movie: Best Actor in an Action Movie (Garfield).
* Nominations from the Satellite Awards (from the International Press Academy): Best Film; Best Director (Gibson); Best Actor (Garfield); Best Adapted Screenplay (Knight/Schenkkan); Best Cinematography; Best Original Score (Rupert Gregson-Williams); Best Art Direction and Production Design; Best Film Editing; Best Sound (Editing and Mixing).
To date, “Hacksaw Ridge” has earned $111M worldwide, split between domestic ($50M) and international (61.1M). This includes $20M earned in China in just five days. The film’s budget is estimated to be $40M.
Quoted at Deadline.com, Gibson said:
It’s been an incredibly exciting week for Hacksaw Ridge between three Golden Globe nominations and then learning that the film has surpassed the $100 million mark at the worldwide box office. The amazing commercial response and critical recognition the film has achieved is a testament to the talented creative team, our remarkable cast, and our world-class partnerships with producers Bill Mechanic and David Permut, IM Global, Lionsgate, Cross Creek and so many others who helped make this possible.
People have long awaited the mainstream film (not one with an overtly religious storyline, like Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”) with a strong Christian element that received both critical acclaim and made money.
The wait may be over.
“Hacksaw Ridge” is not a blockbuster by Hollywood standards, but it may convince filmmakers that keeping God in the movie isn’t boxoffice poison.
Click here for a podcast with Schenkkan talking about writing the movie.
Image: Courtesy Lionsgate