I finally had the opportunity to watch a movie that I had long wanted to see: Hacksaw Ridge. I must confess that I’m generally a fan of war movies, especially those set during World War Two. However, it was difficult to “enjoy” this movie in that context.
That is not to say that I didn’t like the movie. I thought the story was very powerful, the acting impressive and the movie to be one of the best that I have seen in a long time. I would also say that it is an anti-war film, or at least one that puts the spotlight on the horrors of war.
Hacksaw Ridge is the true story of Desmond Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist and pacifist who enlists in the military to be a medic. Doss is happy to participate in the rigours of basic training but refuses to even train with a weapon. This brings him into conflict with his officers.
Ultimately, Doss makes it to combat, participating in the battles at Okinawa, specifically at Hacksaw Ridge. Mel Gibson does not use this as a showcase for military glory but as a means of highlighting the gruesome violence of war. I recently rewatched Saving Private Ryan and it does not begin to compare to Hacksaw Ridge when it comes to graphic battle scenes.
Although I am a Christian, I am not a Seventh Day Adventist. Nor am I a pacifist. But this movie is a moving portrayal of a man with convictions who refuses to back down, even in the face of tremendous pressure. Andrew Garfield does a great job of portraying Doss as a man who on the surface seems simple but is in truth one who has reflected on what he values and is willing to sacrifice comfort for the sake of integrity.
Hugo Weaving does an amazing job as Desmond’s father. Without spoiling anything for those who have not seen the movie, he is a complex man, deeply scarred by his experience in the First World War and is a flawed husband and father. Yet, he is more than that. He is able to choose to rise above his weakness.
I don’t normally like Vince Vaughn as an actor, perhaps because of the movies that he is in. But he does a great job as the sergeant who is in charge of the basic training and who accompanies Doss into combat. He brings some humour that does not disrupt the rest of the story, but rather deepens the relationships among the marines.
If you have not seen Hacksaw Ridge yet, I highly recommend it. It is a powerful story of faith, strength and integrity.