Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Some films have a huge impact on you. They stay with you long after the film has ended. They endure. A part of them remains with you, and might even shape the way you newly see the world. Hacksaw Ridge, is one such film. After I watched caught it on Blu-Ray the day-before, the experience was such, that it compelled me to write about the film although it has been 6 months since its release.

Hacksaw Ridge follows the story of Desmond Doss a simple small town boy, who enrolled himself into the army for his country, but also at the same time refuses to pick up a gun. We can easily guess what it is about the real-life story of Desmond Doss that could have possibly grabbed Mel Gibson to make this film. The simple yet very powerful narrative will shake you intellectually, if you watch closely.

Desmond Doss, who’s played as an adult by Andrew Garfield, was a committed Seventh Day Adventist and pacifist who served as a medic at the hellish battle for Okinawa towards the end of the Second World War. He saved 75 lives on the field of battle without ever lifting a weapon, and remains only one of three conscientious objectors to have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Hacksaw Ridge, Desmond Doss

Desmond Doss

From the very beginning, the fact that Doss is a simple & regular guy, is well established. At an early age, he shows an untrained knack for medical skill when he uses his belt to apply a tourniquet, saving the life of a man who had shattered his leg in a car accident. In the aftermath of this event, in the hospital, he falls in love with a nurse, Dorothy (Teresa Palmer) and proposes marriage, but breaks his dad’s heart when he tells him he’s going to enlist. He is so affected by the incidents of Pearl Harbour, that he sees no other purpose in his life than to enlist himself in the military.

After enlisting, Doss’ faith is put through many tough tests. He is repeatedly and fiercely challenged by the army on his refusal to bear arms, but no one points out that, unarmed or not, he wants to use medical skills to assist the uniformed killers and make the war machine of death run more smoothly.

With the theme of battle at the core, Hacksaw Ridge, follows one man’s journey through time holding on to his faith, which ultimately becomes his and his troops’ biggest strength. As for the battle scenes themselves, they are undoubtedly well shot. It is more gruesome but less ruminative than Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998) and less surreal than Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One (1980). It looks almost like a second world war horror film, as if the excessive violence is there to make up for the hero’s non-violence.

I’m going with 4½/5 stars for Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge. This is a war film that moves as much as it bruises – and does both with power and conviction. Do not miss it if you haven’t seen it already.