Hacksaw Ridge is a war movie on par with Saving Private Ryan both in cinematic power and in its realistic display of the gore and violence of war. Your personal opinion on director Mel Gibson is irrelevant because this is a top-notch film.
Telling the true story of US Army medic and Medal of Honor recipient Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a Seventh-day Adventist and conscientious objector who joins the war effort against Japan anyway, the film follows his struggle in being accepted by the Army, which is naturally unimpressed by his refusal to touch a gun.
Doss’s higher-ups, Captain Glover and Sergeant Howell (Sam Worthington and Vince Vaughn, respectively), try to convince him to quit, but his patriotic convictions persevere with the support of his wife (Teresa Palmer) and WWI-veteran father (the always great Hugo Weaving). Obtaining his wish to try to save lives amidst the death and destruction of world war, Doss and his fellow soldiers get sent to Okinawa to conquer Hacksaw Ridge, on which the Japanese have repelled all previous attempts with stunning carnage.
The battle scenes are intense, and make Saving Private Ryan’s Normandy invasion look tame in comparison. The fire fight for Hacksaw Ridge is much more comparable to the Flags of Our Fathers’s battle for Iwo Jima, and, like on Iwo, the Japanese are heavily fortified and entrenched underground with no conception that they will be leaving the island alive.
When the Americans climb to the top of the ridge and apprehensively creep forward, a maelstrom of bullets and explosions erupts, spilling blood and body parts everywhere without censorship. The Americans are forced off the ridge once more, except for one medic who spends the entire night dragging wounded soldiers to the edge of the cliff and lowering them to safety: Desmond Doss.
The fact that Doss was a real life person who singlehandedly saved over 75 lives is impossible to forget, and his endurance is a testament to his faith in God. After each soldier saved, Doss takes a momentary break only to ask God to help him save one more. The real Doss deserves this cinematic adaptation of his heroic efforts, even if he claimed with typical Greatest Generation modesty that the real heroes were the soldiers who died.
Though the film gets a little preachy toward the end, it’s still truly inspiring. No audience member will leave the auditorium without a sense of awe of the great sacrifice American soldiers have made for our country, and Mel Gibson has done them a favor by not sanitizing an ounce of the bloodshed or emotional scarring that soldiers experienced on Okinawa.
Contemptor grade: 9.5/10
Photo courtesy of Summit Entertainment.