There’s an old adage in Hollywood, “If you want to send a message, use Western Union.” The point is that story—especially film—is not the place for your message. Story is for telling the truth. Well, lucky enough for us who demand a little substance from our story, Hacksaw Ridge delivers on all fronts, being entertaining, enlightening, and true, and Mel Gibson proves once again that he’s one of the greatest storytellers of all time.

Hacksaw is a war movie, but unlike its redundant predecessors, it’s about much more than that. It’s about principle, it’s about love, and it’s about bravery. Constantly engaging, the audience watches as Desmond Doss enters the Army in order to help in the World War II effort. The only problem is that Doss is morally and strictly opposed to killing—even in war—and won’t even pick up a gun. As he and his superiors struggle to come to terms with this paradox, he’s supported by his “above his class” fiance and his family—most notably his abusive veteran father.

When he’s finally thrust into battle without a weapon, the vivid horror of war allows Desmond to prove his unbelievable heroism and earn the respect of his brothers in arms. Like most of Gibson’s films, the terrifying violence of war is not glossed over but is also no glamorized. Some viewers may get PTSD from the gruesome scenes, but all will appreciate the heroics of Doss in such an enterprise.

The well-rounded film features a compelling romance between the lead characters, a hilarious boot camp led by Vince Vaughn, and of some compelling moral dilemmas reminiscent of Thomas More’s struggle in A Man For All Seasons. Even those who aren’t interested in war movies will find this rich and enjoyable. It should stand as one of the greatest of all time.

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