Hacksaw Ridge (MA)

In A Word: Impacting

Hacksaw Ridge

PICTURE: Mark Rogers

"Desmond Doss was the only person to never handle a weapon to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour. This was heroism of the highest order. Here was a man who lived his faith right in the heart of death."

I can't remember the last time I came out of a movie feeling such raw emotion as I did coming out of Mel Gibson’s latest movie, Hacksaw Ridge.

This movie is brutal from start to finish. It holds nothing back from showing the absolute horror of war. It is gory, ugly and just doesn't stop. If it was made partly to show the hell that war is, then it has achieved its intention.

If you recall the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan, with the harrowing violence of the D-Day landings in Normandy, this movie magnifies that horror even more. And when you consider that it was produced by Mel Gibson, who explicitly portrayed the bloody violence of Jesus' passion, you might get an idea of why you would come out of this movie feeling numb.

Set against the backdrop of humanity's utter inhumanity to each other is this true tale of Desmond Doss (played by Andrew Garfield), the young man who enlisted in the army but wouldn’t touch a gun because he didn't want to fight. Doss is a Seventh-Day Adventist who signs up to fight the Japanese in World War II. Ridiculed by his peers and superiors in military training, called a coward and beaten up, Doss is eventually allowed to serve as a combat medic. Sent with his troop to Hacksaw Ridge on the island of Okinawa, we are immediately plunged into the reality of war where Doss throws himself into protecting his mates.

Going into battle without a weapon, Doss is straight away faced with wounded soldiers all around him. The deafening noise of battle, the cries of men who have literally had their limbs blasted off, and the presence of death all around him stirs Doss to put his own life in peril to save those of his comrades. One after another he hauls them out of harm's way, then goes back to get more. 

The combination of heroic courage mixed with the terror of the war is a vision to behold in this story. On many Anzac memorials in Australia you see the words of Jesus from John's Gospel, "Greater love has no one than to lay down their life for their friends". That verse is used to commemorate the soldiers who died in battle, but you never really think of the medics who were literally right in the middle of those battles, unarmed. The living out of Jesus’ statement is made even more remarkable by Doss as he takes up another of Jesus’ commands by even rescuing some of the enemy.

The courage of Desmond Doss’ convictions is hard to fathom. I wonder if I would have such courage in the middle of such devastation. Would I literally risk my life to save my mates? I hope I would, but this man actually did. 

This movie is profoundly impacting. If anyone ever tries to tell you that non-violence is weak and unrealistic, then take them to see this movie. Desmond Doss was the only person to never handle a weapon to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour. This was heroism of the highest order. Here was a man who lived his faith right in the heart of death.

Hacksaw Ridge pulls no punches and leaves nothing to the imagination. If you need any convincing that war is hell, watch this movie.