Hacksaw Ridge ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp
I’d rather have Mel Gibson behind the camera where I don’t have to see him. His latest directorial effort is Hacksaw Ridge, a gripping World War II story with a conscientious objector from Virginia as its central character. When Desmond Doss sees that his country is in trouble, he can’t sit out the war and do nothing. He wants to enlist, but there’s just one thing: he’s a Seventh Day Adventist with very strong principles against carrying a weapon. He enlists, anyway, though, and soon finds himself in unexpected trouble in the military. His officers and fellow soldiers can’t and won’t understand his religious principles. How can he be such a fool as to believe he can go to war without killing the enemy or at least defending himself with a gun? He is harassed, beaten, called a coward, and yelled at (I would crumple under the yelling and name-calling) and finally given an easy way out, but he is not to be deterred. He wants to serve and he believes the best way for him to do it is as a combat medic. He will be the one to put people back together, he says, while everybody else is taking people apart.
He is about to be court-martialed for his refusal to pick up a weapon, but his drunken father, a World War I veteran, produces proof from somebody he knew back in the day that shows his son’s religious convictions are protected by the good old Constitution of the United States. (We can’t let politicians shred it!) He goes to war with his division and soon finds himself fighting the battle of Okinawa. Okinawa is of strategic importance to the U.S. war effort. If it can be breached, the next step is Japan.
The fighting on Okinawa is as close to hell as anybody has ever seen. (Bloody and graphic battle sequences, showing mutilations and head wounds.) Casualties are heavy on both sides. As a medic, Desmond Doss displays bravery beyond what anybody might have ever imagined. He selflessly rescues about seventy-five of his fellow soldiers from the battlefield under heavy fire from the Japanese. He manages to get each injured man down a cliff, using a butterfly knot that he learned in basic training. The man who was labeled a coward for his refusal to pick up a gun becomes an unexpected hero.
Actor Andrew Garfield (memorable in The Social Network and Never Let Me Go) plays real-life Desmond Doss with sweetness and sincerity. He goes to war armed only with a small Bible his girlfriend (later his wife) gives him with her picture in it. As modest and quiet-spoken as he is, he is never willing to compromise his principles under pressure that would make most of us buckle. We need more people like him.
Copyright © 2016 by Allen Kopp