Opinion: Mel Gibson and Hollywood’s arc of redemption

Hacksaw Ridge cover.

Hacksaw Ridge cover.

Actor, director, father, and for quite a while a complete outcast in Hollywood, Mel Gibson’s career has taken a variety of paths since he stepped into the limelight in several amazing Australian films, only to be characterized as someone who is distinctly, well, Mel.

With his blacklist from the industry being somewhat retracted with the immense praise coming from his latest film Hacksaw Ridge, it seems that Gibson is poised to make a comeback, with many calling for a nomination for best director at the upcoming Academy Awards.

While I was watching Hacksaw Ridge this past weekend, I started to understand where many critics were coming from. The film is extremely well made from its two major battle scenes and the tender portrayals of each major character that provided a deep sense of commitment to seeing these people find their way home.

While preachy at times, the film commits to its main character who is deeply religious, thus providing a reason for the film to take this preoccupation. But, as the film transitioned to its final battle, I will say that personally I felt the film’s motivation slid away from the characters accurate depiction and into that of something else entirely.

The casual racism felt throughout the film peaked at the final sequence as the glorious Americans fight against their Japanese enemies, lighting them on fire, firing bullets into hordes of men, gripping onto their firearms as a chorus of “angelic” voices ascend them above as the “Japs” fall below.

After reading this, how do you feel?

Listen, I am the first to point out that I am not the most PC of people writing in the paper, yet I do feel this is a bit of an antiquated way to think. Thus my confusion with the film is propelled possibly by either my lack of understanding of the filmmaker’s intent (wholly possible) or that the praise this film is receiving complements the complete lack of understanding in the industry many felt earlier this year with the controversy surrounding the whitewashing of the Academy Awards. And so the reason for Mel Gibson’s induction back into the circle of praise still eludes me.

While he has provided several moments of questionable reasoning in the past, many will see his fall from the spotlight as his anti-Semitic statements and general bad behaviour following his 2006 DUI. He blamed this behaviour on his alcoholism and the state of his relationship with his ex-wife. Yet, 10 years later many commenters have undoubtedly fallen for the wave that is following his newest film. And, while his filmmaking still has an acute sense of spectacle, Apocalypto being an extremely well crafted Mayan chase film, I have to wonder at what level of discrepancy the film industry is willing to look over to have another golden Hollywood comeback story.

Gibson may very well have a long and prosperous career ahead of him, but I feel like the audience should be more critical of the platform allowing these sentiments to slip into the everyday consciousness.

To this extent, expect Donald Trump’s “All American Exchange” to be making its way to your television on Fox in about a decade. I mean, who doesn’t love to root for the underdog?