Hacksaw Ridge (Blu-ray) (2016)
|Year Of Production||2016|
|Running Time||139:03 (Case: 131)|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Ads Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Mel Gibson|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.40:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.40:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, Archival footage during credits|
†††† With Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto under his directorial belt, Mel Gibsonís track record as a filmmaker is second to none, and thankfully his staggering winning streak is confidently maintained with 2016ís Hacksaw Ridge. Even though a decade has elapsed since Gibsonís Apocalypto, he makes his return behind the camera without missing a beat, showing yet again why he seriously needs the opportunity to direct more movies. A stunningly vivid World War II picture, Hacksaw Ridge dramatises the heroic story of conscientious objector Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), who determinedly set out to serve his country without ever picking up a weapon. Almost impossibly, Gibson transforms what could have been a preachy religious fable into a frequently gripping and emotive war film.
†††† As a young boy, Desmond learned a valuable lesson about the true impact of violence when he nearly killed his brother and, as a consequence, grows up to be a deeply religious, God-fearing man. Managing to court endearing nurse Dorothy (Teresa Palmer), Desmond chooses to enlist in the United States Army with his brother Harold (Nathaniel Buzolic), much to the dismay of their alcoholic father Tom (Hugo Weaving), who lost all of his friends in battle during WWI. Sent to basic training, Desmond proves to be an excellent recruit, but refuses to participate in rifle training as he sticks to his religious and moral beliefs, aspiring to serve only as a combat medic. This frustrates his platoon staff, with Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) and Captain Glover (Sam Worthington) hoping to break Desmond, while fellow recruits perceive him as a liability who might get them all killed. But Desmondís resolve cannot be broken, and after his training he is sent to battle in the Pacific theatre with the rest of his company. Desmond is really put to the test during the vicious battle of Hacksaw Ridge, where he remains determined to save as many men as he possibly can.
†††† The screenplay, which was originally penned by Braveheart scribe Randall Wallace, has ample backstory to work through, and itís critical to note that this is more of a biography of Desmond as opposed to a more simplistic war movie. Despite a hefty 130-minute runtime, not a single frame feels superfluous here - if anything, the movie couldíve been longer. Every scene serves a purpose, developing Desmondís character, his romance with Dorothy and his home life, on top of depicting his experiences in the military. And miraculously, thanks to smart pacing and focused filmmaking, none of the build-up feels like homework. Additionally, whereas most dramas these days are grim and dour, Hacksaw Ridge is imbued with glorious gallows humour which feels entirely organic to the story and characters. Real-life soldiers do constantly crack jokes due to the nature of their job, after all, and Gibson recognises this. To be sure, not much dimension is given to the Japanese side, but such an angle is simply not necessary - it would have added too much narrative flab, and above all taken away from the storyís central focus. The movie does observe Desmond being kind to the wounded Japanese, which is sufficient in this aspect.
†††† Gibson is no stranger to war movies, but this is the filmmakerís first time tackling more modern warfare, with guns and canons rather than the swords and sandals of Braveheart. Frankly, itís a match made in cinematic heaven, leaving us to wonder why the hell it took so long for him to tackle this sort of thing. The combat sequences are a perfect fit for Gibsonís ultraviolent tendencies, and he absolutely goes for broke here. Working with the freedom of an R rating, the notoriously bloody Battle of Okinawa is done justice on-screen, with the viscerally exciting bloodshed even topping the genreís granddaddy, 1998ís Saving Private Ryan, in terms of sheer realism. Gibson underscores the fragility of human life on the battlefield, showing bodies being obliterated by explosions and bullets, yet itís executed with enough tact to prevent the movie from feeling like tasteless gore porn. Gibson does play up aspects of the fighting for dramatic effect, and there is some use of slow motion to underscore the gore and brutality, but it all works in the context of this story, and above all makes for thoroughly riveting viewing. Gibson thankfully relies more on practical effects, which creates a tangible aesthetic. Itís apparent that some digital effects were used for blood, but itís never distracting or phoney. Hacksaw Ridge looks like a big-budget, $100 million blockbuster with its rich period detail and slick technical presentation, yet it was achieved for a scant $40 million.
†††† Even though shooting on celluloid usually generates a richer cinematic texture for period films of this ilk, Simon Dugganís digital photography here is stunning nevertheless, and impeccably complemented by the exceptional original score by Rupert Gregson-Williams. The battle sequences are captured with gorgeous finesse and steady camerawork, demonstrating that shaky-cam is not always needed in flicks like this, and allowing us to take in whatís happening on-screen without getting a migraine. Contrary to what some of the foolish critics have decried, the graphic bloodshed is wholly necessary here, solidifying the storyís core anti-war message, and above all emphasising Dossí sheer bravery on the battlefield. Indeed, watering down the violence would only dilute the movieís impact. Hacksaw Ridge is an unforgettable experience, inspecting Desmondís faith and love for God through his actions in battle, with nothing in the way of tedious sermonising.
†††† Garfield was an awful Spider-Man, but heís superb as Desmond Doss, showing that his capable performances in 99 Homes and The Social Network were not just flukes. Espousing a thick but nevertheless convincing Southern accent, Garfield fully encompasses the role and never loses focus. Alongside him, Australian actress Palmer is endearing as Desmondís love interest, and it really works in the filmís favour that the central romance is both believable and easy to become invested in. Meanwhile, Worthington makes for a believable military captain despite his inconsistent accent, and Vaughn steals his every scene as a dedicated sergeant. Vaughn has never had much luck in dramatic roles (True Detective, Psycho), but his character here is gifted with an arsenal of one-liners, and his towering figure lends him further credibility. Also worth mentioning is Weaving, who turns in a remarkable performance as Thomas Doss, essaying a pained alcoholic with impressive assurance. Thereís nary a weak link on the acting front, despite the distinct shortage of American thespians.
†††† Affecting and powerful, Hacksaw Ridge is the best movie of 2016, and one of the best movies of the decade. The story of Desmond Doss absolutely needed to be told, and itís satisfying to behold such a phenomenal motion picture after many decades of attempts to get it made. Hacksaw Ridge may be corny at times, but Gibson commits to the material with utmost sincerity. The movie even closes with archival footage and interviews of the real people of this story, which serves as an effective footnote. Hacksaw Ridge is Gibsonís best movie to date, and thatís a big call.
†††† I imported the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc from America and can positively state that the quality of the 4K presentation is second to none. Hacksaw Ridge was shot with both Arri Alexa and Red Epic camera rigs, and reportedly only finished at 2K, yet the UHD presentation is still demo material on my 65" LG OLED panel. No matter which way you slice it, a standard 1080p Blu-ray was never going to compete. Furthermore, the standard Region A Blu-ray from Lionsgate suffers from a lot of unsightly banding, which consistently crops up in even the most insignificant dialogue scenes, marring an otherwise fine release. The banding issue is so bad on the Region A Blu-ray that the disc could be considered defective and should be recalled.
†††† So with all of the above in mind, how does Icon's 1080p video presentation on this local release stack up? Quite well, actually. First things first: there is some banding throughout, most noticeably in shots involving smoke or mist. An early shot of Doss on a ladder inside a church exhibits some slight banding, for instance, and I also detected mild banding at the beginning of the movie when the two young Doss boys play atop a rock formation. The most noticeable instance of banding in this presentation occurs during a shot of a Japanese soldier lunging with his bayonet, at night-time under green lighting. Thankfully, however, the problem is not as pronounced or as distracting as it is on the Region A disc, and I mostly picked up on it because I was looking for it. Others may not notice it as much since, as stated before, it is mild and fleeting. No other encoding anomalies are present, thankfully - there's no aliasing, ringing, or black crush.
†††† It's worth noting that no banding is apparent on the American 4K Blu-ray disc. One must wonder if the banding (reportedly also an issue on digital downloads) is a mastering issue, and the specs of 1080p/Blu-ray are simply too limited to prevent it.
†††† As befitting for a movie of this stature and length, Icon have placed Hacksaw Ridge on a dual-layered BD-50, mastering it with an extraordinarily high bitrate which consistently sits above 35mb/s and even crosses the 40mb/s mark on a frequent basis. Even by new release standards, that is above-average. Since the disc regrettably contains no special features (aside from a few ads), the feature has the entire disc to itself, taking up a bit under 40GB of space. The encoding may not be perfect but, minor banding issues aside, it's hard to imagine the movie looking much better in 1080p. Indeed, the transfer is genuinely something to behold when it's at its strongest. Visibly created from a pristine source, Hacksaw Ridge shines in 1080p high definition, boasting incredible detail and texturing in every inch of the frame. You can make out every last stitch on every piece of clothing, allowing you to appreciate the exceptional costume design. Sharpness is above-average too, with object delineation never falling short of its mark.
†††† Framed at the movie's original aspect ratio of 2.39:1, the presentation also faithfully retains the deliberate colour palette that I recall seeing on the big screen during its theatrical release. The image isn't overly bright or saturated, looking more on the muted side (the High Dynamic Range of the 4K disc gives the image more pop), but this traces back to the intentions of the filmmakers. Oftentimes, digitally-shot movies wind up looking too smooth or smeary, but this is never an issue here. Hacksaw Ridge retains its fine detailing no matter the conditions, and there's an ever-so-slight coat of source-related digital noise at times which only accentuates the textures and is in no way distracting. All things considered, this is an excellent presentation, one of the best in recent memory, and the banding is not nearly enough to undo the transfer's countless strengths. For local buyers without the capacity to watch 4K, this is a worthwhile option.
†††† Only English subtitles are provided. I had no issues with them.
†††† Now here is where things begin to get slightly iffy. Hacksaw Ridge was mixed in Dolby Atmos, and the sound mixing earned a well-deserved Academy Award. The Region A Lionsgate Blu-ray provides a Dolby Atmos mix which defaults to a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track for those without an Atmos setup. For whatever reason, Icon have chosen to exclude Atmos altogether, only offering a lossless English DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. The loss of channels is utterly inexcusable for such a flagship release, especially for an Oscar-winning sound mix, and it's all the more baffling given that there is over 10GB of unused space on the disc. This is ultimately the audio equivalent of a 720p presentation as opposed to a 1080p presentation.
†††† With the above in mind, however, it's fortunate to report that this 5.1 track is extraordinarily good despite the loss of channels, and I detected no encoding anomalies or drop-outs of any sort. Dialogue remains well-prioritised in every scene, even in the intense battle scenes when deafening gunshots and explosions are prevalent. Speaking of the battle sequences, it's in these moments when the audio mix truly roars to life. Subwoofer activity accentuates the chaos, and there's plenty of surround activity and panning as bullets whip overhead. Even in smaller scenes, environmental ambience fills the surround channels, and panning is employed when jeeps drive past and planes fly from one side of the screen to another. The score, too, comes through with superb precision.
†††† I'm deducting stars for the loss of channels. Normally a 5.1 is sufficient, but not when a movie was mixed in Atmos and should at least be presented in 7.1. Nevertheless, this is a strong audio mix which should prove sufficient for those without a 7.1 or an Atmos setup.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
†††† Here's what's available over in America:
†††† So here's the kicker: The U.S. standard 1080p Blu-ray release (Region A-locked, by the by) may have extras and superior audio, but the video presentation is borderline unwatchable due to its banding issues. On the other hand, Icon's release boasts improved video but inferior audio and no extras... It's a seriously tough call. I will have to call it a draw until a superior release comes along which reconciles the strengths of the two releases.
†††† I'll be sticking with the 4K Blu-ray, which is devoid of the banding issues and looks amazing. And if you're 4K compatible, I recommend you do the same.
†††† I adore Hacksaw Ridge. The dramatics of the story are well-written, well-acted and well-directed, while the combat sequences are truly a sight to behold. And it's really exciting to see such a tremendous motion picture in this cinematic climate.
†††† As for Icon's Blu-ray? Dearie me, this is a hard one. The video presentation is incredible thanks to astute encoding and a high bitrate, but the inferior audio and lack of extras really brings this one down. Still, it will likely be good enough for those who don't care about extras and who don't have expensive surround sound systems. I recommend this disc on the basis of the film and the video presentation, but only at sale price.
|DVD||Samsung UBD-K8500 4K HDR Blu-Ray Player, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Amplification||Samsung Series 7 HT-J7750W|
|Speakers||Samsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up|