Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge is the true story of WWII Army Medic Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield). Director Mel Gibson brings the unique story of this heroic army medic to light.

Release Date: November 4, 2016
Writer: Robert Schenkken, Andrew Knight
Director: Mel Gibson
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Rachel Griffiths, Hugo Weaving

The best you can say about Desmond Doss is that he’s a conscientious objector, who suffers from a great deal of guilt. As the son of a WWI Veteran Tom Doss (Hugo Weaving), Desmond lives under the tough reign of his father. As a Seventh-Day Adventist, Desmond has vowed never to hold a gun or any other instrument of death. And as an American, he enters the military as a medic to fight along with his countrymen.

At first, Doss excels at boot camp in the areas of fitness and endurance, but everything goes south when Doss refuses to hold a gun. Squad leader Sargent Howell (Vince Vaughn) takes personal offense and presses Doss to be court martialed.

Hacksaw Ridge tells Doss’ story in three parts. The first is his upbringing. Young Desmond is somewhat of an outcast. His father is especially harsh with him and there is a level of fear in Desmond who has to cope with his father’s PTSD from his war days. It is eventually revealed the reason Doss will not so much as touch a gun.

Next, we follow Doss through boot camp. We are treated to the obligatory training sequences, but it is his struggle to stand-up for his pacifism that filmmaker Gibson focuses on. Doss goes through physical punishment from his squad and he ultimately faces court martial for insubordination.

Finally, the battle of Hacksaw Ridge itself in Okinawa. The battle is especially brutal. The Japanese outnumber the Americans. Just entering the battle requires soldiers to climb up netting along a steep cliff.  As brutal as the battle is, we are reminded that Doss is on his own unarmed.

There is a trend in war film to accurately portray the savagery of battle and the realism of bullets flying through bodies. Hacksaw Ridge is especially gruesome as one of the bloodiest battles of WWII with an abundance of exploding heads and dismembered limbs. Medic Doss attends to each man alive, applying pressure, administering pain medicine and transporting bodies to safety.

After the first wave, the Americans are driven back to the sea at the base of the cliffs as nightfall arrives. Doss is alone on the battlefield. It is here when the movie takes off and as Doss begins to literally grab the wounded on the battlefield and lower them to back to camp from atop the cliff. He grabs man after man, praying “Help me get one more.” There are moments where Doss is forced to face his enemy without weapons.

Hacksaw Ridge is an amazing film. It is hard to realize that there are battles that we as Americans have never known if it were not for film. Hacksaw Ridge is a story of faith and conviction. Garfield’s portrayal of Doss is at first a little goofy and overly religious, but you follow and feel his pain through the trials of boot camp to his final heroism in the third act.

As a whole, Hacksaw Ridge ranks high in the world of war films. The acting is top notch. The production values and realism are haunting. But like any biopic, there are certainly forced moments of amazement. For example, when bodies are being lowered to camp, of course someone is going to ask, “Who’s up there?” or “Where did all this wounded come from?”  Heroism is our greatest form of inspiration for times like today.

9 out of 10 stars

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