COM­BAT ZONE

Mel Gib­son bat­tles back with war drama Hack­saw Ridge

Empire (UK) - - PREVIEW - WORDS DA­MON WISE HACK­SAW RIDGE WILL BE IN CIN­E­MAS IN 2017

“I NEVER DO things my way,” says Mel Gib­son (right) with a smile. “No, when I do things my way, I get into se­ri­ous trou­ble.” It’s true. When a drunk Gib­son called a fe­male traf­fic cop “Su­gar Tits” in 2006, the scandal threat­ened to sink his ca­reer. But af­ter a decade of semi-re­tire­ment, not only is he fi­nally mak­ing in­roads back into Hol­ly­wood, strong test screen­ings and a re­lease date in awards sea­son sug­gest he may achieve the ul­ti­mate re­demp­tion by bag­ging next year’s Best Pic­ture Os­car. Star­ring Andrew Garfield, Hack­saw Ridge, Gib­son’s fifth film as direc­tor, tells the story of Des­mond Doss, a war hero who was dec­o­rated for brav­ery — de­spite never fir­ing a shot.

“It’s a true story,” says Gib­son, “about a man who was a con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tor. He wouldn’t take an­other life, but he wanted to serve his coun­try as a medic. He was per­se­cuted. In boot camp, in the army, they tried to throw him out. They called him a cow­ard, and he just took all the shots.”

The crux of Gib­son’s film con­cerns Doss’ de­ci­sion to serve in one of World War II’S most vi­o­lent bat­tles: Ok­i­nawa. “In ten weeks, over 300,000 were dead,” says Gib­son. “I mean, it was a blood­bath — and this guy went in there. He never touched a weapon, yet he was so brave he would crawl into enemy fire and save peo­ple by him­self.” Amaz­ingly, Doss lived to tell his tale. “He got shot, and stepped on a grenade to save his friends. But he lived to be 87 — he died in 2006. What a hero!”

As the trailer shows, sur­viv­ing was no easy task. “It’s a war film,” Gib­son says, “but it’s a won­der­ful anti-war state­ment as well.” Sur­pris­ingly, this homage to an all-amer­i­can hero was filmed en­tirely in Aus­tralia, with an Aus­tralian crew and Hugo Weav­ing in the role Gib­son orig­i­nally ear­marked for him­self — Gib­son sees it as “an Aus­tralian film about Amer­ica”. So does this re­turn mean he might even take the reins of Iron Man 4, as his friend Robert Downey Jr has hinted? “Di­rect­ing’s a tough game nowa­days,” sighs Gib­son. “You’ve got 30 days. Boom!” That’s prob­a­bly a no, then.

Andrew Garfield’s Des­mond Doss risks life and limb to save fel­low sol­diers; Right: Con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tor Doss is viewed with sus­pi­cion by the other grunts. Be­low: And his su­pe­ri­ors.

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