He's courted controversy since the release of The Passion of the Christ in 2004, but actor-director Mel Gibson has returned to strong Christian territory with his new movie, and it received a hugely positive reception at its first showing. Hacksaw Ridge, a Second World War film about a soldier whose Christian beliefs drive his pacifism, got its world premiere at 73rd Venice Film festival in September, where Deadline Hollywood reports it received a 10-minute standing ovation. The film is now being tipped as a possible Oscar contender.
Hacksaw Ridge tells the story of Desmond T Doss (Andrew Garfield), the real-life war hero who received the Medal of Honor after saving scores of wounded soldiers during the battle of Okinawa in World War Two. Doss was a devout Seventh-Day Adventist, and believed his faith meant that he couldn't fire a weapon in battle, yet also that he couldn't turn his back on the war when others went off to serve. Despite initially being a figure of disdain among his fellow troops, Doss quickly became a hero after various feats of extraordinary courage.
The role of Christianity in the film is not subtle, as demonstrated by the official trailer (below). The two-minute clip includes multiple references to Doss' faith, including a scene of him in fervent prayer, and another when he is beaten up because of his beliefs. It also seems to show how Doss' beliefs begin to have a profound effect on his fellow troops.
The project to produce a film based on Doss' life had been in 'development hell' for over a decade, while a number of previous attempts to tell the story had failed to get off the starting blocks. Gibson signed up to direct the film in 2014, eight years after his previous effort Apolcalypto. The Australian, who suffered a well-documented battle with alcohol abuse in the interim, has stated in recent years his desire to return to faith-based work, and took on Hackshaw Ridge specifically because if its strong Christian themes. Gibson's next film is a director is likely to be a sequel to The Passion of the Christ, based around the Resurrection.
Hacksaw Ridge co-stars Vince Vaughan, Sam Worthington and Hugo Weaving. The film is released in the US on 4th November, with other territories expected to release around the same date. Now seriously, try watching the trailer without welling up. I've failed three times so far.