Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson, depicts the story of how U.S. soldier/medic Desmond Doss became a conscientious objector serving in World War II. Doss is portrayed by actor Andrew Garfield who was nominated for a 2017 Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. In the movie, Doss endures criticism from his fellow soldiers for avoiding what they perceive as justified and necessary violence.
The cast of Hacksaw Ridge includes Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Luke Bracey, Vince Vaughn, and Sam Worthington, and though the film’s battle scenes are less grandiose than the ones in Braveheart the film tells its story well. Hugo Weaving plays the role of a war-torn father, Luke Bracey portrays a soldier embracing his job as a warrior, Teresa Palmer plays the love of Desmond’s life, and Sam Worthington and Vince Vaughn act as Doss’s superiors. What the film lacks in majestic cinematography it makes up for in character development and raw depictions of combat. Nothing is lost in the storytelling.
Initially the movie relies heavily on storytelling and the plot surrounding Doss’s upbringing and journey to becoming a conscientious objector, but as seems to be Director Mel Gibson’s style, the eventual battle scenes are gruesome and uncensored. When Doss finally reaches the battle at Okinawa, the shock of war mixes with his determination find and save wounded soldiers. The endurance of this man’s faith fuels his heroic actions on the battlefield.
The movie’s events are based upon the true story of Desmond Doss. Doss was a part of a group tasked with scaling a steep-faced ridge to drive Japanese soldiers out of their positions. Following a day in which the group suffered many fallen soldiers and were forced to retreat down the ridge, Doss remained and searched for those soldiers who were left behind.
In the film, Doss despairs and complains that he cannot hear the voice of his God. One can imagine this was a common feeling among soldiers serving in World War II. In this dramatic moment, Doss (Garfield) hears and responds to the voices of injured soldiers crying out for help.
This film provides a good basis for the discussion of the justification of war and a persons role in it. Murder is among the most consequential crimes imaginable, but warriors are celebrated for their killings and often garner more attention for a higher tally of kills. Some people may despise this film for its passivity while admiring a film like American Sniper for its decisiveness. Others may despise all war, and take a position of pacifism. Questions of the feasibility of avoiding all war or the implications of embracing its role in the world may arise. Regardless of one’s position in the discussion it’s clear that there is something valuable to be learned from these debates.
Hacksaw Ridge is a story of a man holding to his convictions. The man endured hard circumstances, hurting no one through his direct actions while achieving something great in the process. Everyone should be able to celebrate that.