Based on the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) this is a World War 2 film that is well acted with some particularly effective battle scenes that ultimately left me cold. Doss was a heroic conscientious objector who went to war as an army medic refusing to carry a gun into battle. It is a tale that should be awe inspiring, but I just found myself disconnected from the characters involved.
Mel Gibson’s 5th directorial feature seems to cover his two main calling cards of violence and religion. Set in two distinct halves, the first part of the film shows glimpses of Doss’ home life, his drunk World War 1 veteran father, his religious beliefs, his courtship of Dorothy (Teresa Palmer) and Boot Camp. The second half is the war film with scenes rivalling Saving Private Ryan for visceral action and viscera. Some of the injuries on show could easily upset a weak stomach.
There are three main highlights that are worth a viewing. Vince Vaughn’s role as the Boot Camp Sargeant is scene stealing and funny stuff. The battle scenes are particularly tense and very well put together. Andrew Garfield, for the second film this month, puts in a stirring performance as a man led by his faith. However where it fails is creating the camaraderie between troops and building relationships that lead us to feeling a sense of loss or victory when characters are lost and saved.