In spite of relying on a few clichéd tropes, Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge is a skillfully made and accomplished film that tells the extraordinary, inspiring heroics of a young pacifist who enlisted at the height of WWII and the backlash he endured before proving his bravery to his fellow soldiers. The film serves a second tour of duty on Ultra HD as a Collector's Edition SteelBook, featuring the same reference-quality 4K video presentation and a demo-worthy Dolby Atmos track. Although supplements remain sadly light, the overall SteelBook package is Recommended.
From the same talented storyteller that brought us The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto, Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge manages to rise above its generic, formulaic trappings and gives audiences a poignantly gripping war film. The mawkish and frankly conventional melodrama occupying much of the beginning is easily forgiven when going into the second act of Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan's script. Inspired by the amazing heroics of a young pacifist who enlisted at the height of WWII, the story only really begins to gain interest as Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) makes more enemies than friends during basic training, magnetizing the ire of his fellow servicemen. He is quickly outcast in one pivotal scene that rapidly spirals out of his control and turns his pacifism into a sense of humiliation and contempt, which follows him into the battlefield. Of equal, or arguably more, interest is the level of backlash and repercussion Doss endured prior to proving himself in combat, targeted and harshly bullied, in essence, for his religious convictions, which ironically contradicts the function of serving during wartime.
Of course, this familiar pseudo-underdog trope predictably opens doors for Doss to surprise his platoon, as well as audiences, with his endless supply of bravery and repeatedly risking his life to save those who bullied him earlier. The tension-filled, anxiety-ridden second half reveals a deliberately restrained and perfectly measured craftsman at the helm, calculatingly luring viewers into a similar state of unease as the soldiers. Ultimately, the film's strength is in how Gibson humanizes a story that admires the protagonist's accomplishments in favor of exploiting his faith, but that is not to say it doesn't come with notable drawbacks. At times, the production borrows and mirrors other war classics, and Gibson can't help infusing some of Doss's brave rescue attempts with miracle-like implications. However, in spite of these minor flaws, Gibson, along with cinematographer Simon Duggan, editor John Gilbert and a talented team, brings to life the harrowing story of a real-life hero with a great deal of compassion, honor and admiration.
For a more in-depth take on the film, check out our review of the 2017 Ultra HD Blu-ray HERE.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Lionsgate Home Entertainment brings Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc collector's edition Steelbook, exclusively available through Best Buy. Housed inside an attractive, silver-and-Army-green colored SteelBook with a plastic, transparent slipcover, the triple-layered UHD100 disc sits comfortably over a Region A locked, BD50 disc. The pack includes a flyer for a Digital Copy, which grants owners access to the 4K digital version in Dolby Vision with Dolby Atmos audio. At startup, the disc goes straight to the main menu with the usual options, full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
The war drama conquers Ultra HD with a stellar, reference quality HEVC H.265 encode in HDR10. The most notable improvement over its Blu-ray counterpart is the disappearance of visible banding keeping the Blu-ray edition just short of perfection. The most egregious moment, when the sun's early morning rays bathe the aftermath of the previous day's battle now looks gorgeous and natural.
Originally shot on the Arri Alexa and Red Epic Dragon cameras at near 4K resolution, the digital photography displays sharp definition in every scene. Every stitch and thread in the clothing and uniforms is distinct, and viewers can even make out the different types of fabric used. The tiniest piece of debris, fragment and rubble is remarkably detailed, individual hairs are discrete from each other, and every minutiae of the battle is at all times crystal clear. Pores, scratches and negligible blemishes are plainly visible at all times and remain lifelike underneath all the dirt, soot and grime covering faces, including the five o'clock shadow of some actors.
The overall 4K presentation is noticeably brighter, with pitch-perfect contrast maintaining exceptional clarity and visibility into the far distance. The video is showered brilliant, true-to-life whites while specular highlights radiate with dazzling luminosity, allowing the bright whites of initial explosions to glow and the edges metal objects sparkle with realism. Brightness levels deliver inky rich blacks and dark penetrating shadows, providing the 2.40:1 image with depth and an appreciable film-like quality. As before, the palette is deliberately skewed to warmer, accurately-rendered earth tones, but now, the video alternates between a more visible yellowish and greenish hue, depending on the scene. Still, the overall picture is awash with a sumptuous array of primaries. The crimson red of blood is appreciably darker and fuller, the azure blue of the sky appears more realistic with a tinge of gray, and the green in the uniforms and foliage is animated throughout. (HDR10 Video Rating: 98/100)
The award-nominated film also hits home video with an amazing, demo-worthy Dolby Atmos soundtrack that throws viewers into the thick of battle and is sure to have neighbors calling in reinforcements. And it does this almost immediately, opening with a graphically violent sequence of sheer pandemonium, filling the entire room with the terrifying chaos of combat.
The scene is actually meant to instantly grip and absorb the viewer, functioning more like a tease of what's about to come in the second half of the film. After those opening moments, taking audiences back fifteen years earlier, the first half is a character-driven drama with priority given to the soft-spoken dialogue and various conversations. The front soundstage feels broad and spacious with an exceptional sense of presence, as an assortment of noises fluidly travel between all three channels and into the front heights keeping the listener engaged. On several occasions, the local wildlife and the commotion of a small, bustling town move into the sides and rears while basic training sequences are crowded with the swarming, busy commotion of military activity.
As expected, the object-based lossless mix suddenly erupts when soldiers land on the shores of Okinawa. The battles practically employ every speaker with debris and rubble flying directly above and raining down everywhere. Bullets whiz overhead and from every direction, the yells and cries of wounded soldiers fill in the gaps, and the blasts of fire from flamethrowers flawlessly pan from one side of the room to the other. Even those brief intervals of peace come with faint, subtle atmospherics occupying all the speakers, creating a stunningly immersive 360° soundfield. The loudest, most turbulent sequences maintain superb clarity thanks to a remarkably sharp and detailed mid-range while a thunderous, authoritative low-end provides a robust, wall-rattling impact to every explosion, digging as low as 10Hz on a couple occasions (bass chart). (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 96/100)
Other than the new SteelBook packaging, this UHD edition of the film ports over the same set of supplements as its predecessor.
Inspired by the amazing heroics of a young pacifist who enlisted at the height of WWII, Hacksaw Ridge tells the story of combat medic Desmond Doss and the backlash he endured before proving his bravery to his fellow soldiers. In spite of relying on a few clichéd tropes, which are admittedly negligible nitpicks, the film demonstrates Mel Gibson's skill and talent as an accomplished, confident storyteller who knows his craft. The Ultra HD Blu-ray arrives with a reference-quality 4K HDR10 presentation and a demo-worthy Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Although supplements are sadly light, the overall SteelBook package is nonetheless recommended.
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