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Hacksaw Ridge by Rupert Gregson-Williams (Review)

posted Nov 11, 2016, 8:21 AM by Kaya Savas

Rupert Gregson-Williams has always been one of the most underrated working composers in the industry. His work has always been consistently thrilling and engaging, but it’s usually his older brother that gets the attention (and Harry is equally amazing). Good ole Uncle Hans though has been trying to rectify the problem, and we’ve seen a sudden surge of Rupert over the past few years and finally we get to see Rupert getting the projects his talents deserve. They haven’t all been winners such as Winter’s Tale and The Legend Of Tarzan, but here we do truly have something special. Mel Gibson’s return to directing gives us the story of Desmond Doss who was the first conscientious objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor. And the score that Rupert wrote to accompany this film is one of the best of the year.

Mel Gibson’s sensibility as a director is clearly providing gripping stories in a very lush cinematic way to paint the portrait of a martyr or hero who rises above the rest in a very theatrical manner. Hacksaw Ridge follows his style of juxtaposing the brutality of humanity and the true inspiration that rises from it. Now even though both Rupert and Harry have incredibly different styles, I found that Hacksaw Ridge felt quite Harryish throughout. Not saying that as a bad thing, just thought it was interesting to feel a shared stylistic connection between the two Gregson-Williams brothers.

Rupert’s score is not bombastic, melodic or grand in any sense. We get a score that feels small, like a tiny candle burning with a flame that grows and grows into a roaring fire. The music never feels overtly “patritoic” or “heroic” maybe save towards the final act, and because of that the emotions never feel forced. This isn’t a film meant to tribute veterans as a whole, but definitely a portrait of one man’s story. Words like nuanced and intimate can be used to describe the music, and when we get to the action scenes of war the music doesn’t try to be overtly heroic. Rupert will take us into the madness and chaos of war with rapid percussion and textures to create a sense of danger. When the score opens up and lets the main theme take over it does get a bit “heroic” as can be heard in “One Man At A Time”, but never feels forced. When you hear that theme and the score is finally feeling like success is at hand, you’ll get chills and tears. The whole musical narrative is so wonderfully structured to paint Desmond Doss as a human being first before painting him as a war hero, and that build towards the climax is what makes the score work so well.

Hacksaw Ridge might be a career best for Rupert Gregson-Williams who was able to paint a wonderfully structured musical narrative here. The score starts off very intimate and internal to paint Desmond Doss as a person first before opening up into more heroic territory to give us those emotional and thematic swells for Desmond Doss the war hero. The music isn't necessarily doing anything unique, but by just looking at it in the bubble of this film it’s a very special score. Even if you don’t care for Mel Gibson’s religious overtones in his films, one can’t deny his ability to tell a gripping story. And he's definitely telling a gripping story here thanks to Rupert’s score.