Hacksaw Ridge tells the incredible true story of Desmond Doss, an army medic who served in World War 2 that refused to carry weapons or do violence to another man. It is a fantastic tale of bravery, self-sacrifice and devotion to principles whilst showing a gritty and realistic insight into the effects of war.
We first see Doss as a boy and learn how early experiences gave shape to his views on violence, all the while being guided by religion. When Doss joins the army as a grown man, the film portrays the reality of the horrendous discrimination he received from fellow soldiers and his unbelievable efforts during the battle of Hacksaw Ridge.
The blueprint itself, lay out by Doss during the Second World War, is reason enough to give this film a great review. Andrew Garfield is fantastic in his portrayal of the slim, awkward and misunderstood Desmond Doss. The film also shows the effects of war in Doss’s father, played by Hugo Weaving, who is psychologically scarred from his time in the trenches and clearly disillusioned with life. Even though his father is portrayed as an alcoholic and abusive man, we see that underneath these problems are actually a loving and caring father, but war leaves deep scars. The first half of the film establishes Doss and his place in the world, his views on violence, meeting his future wife and discovering how best he can serve his country by enlisting as an army medic.
As Doss steps foot in his new army barracks, so begins a classic American war film. To be honest my heart sank when the most common of all scenes from every American ‘War Film’ took place. Doss meets his new comrades – only a handful of whom are based on real people – but all the clichés of American recruits comes out in abundance – A cocky kid from New York, a Native American named Chief, a chiselled body builder and a nice friendly one who introduces Doss to the gang!
And then the Sergeant enters the barracks, played by Vince Vaughn. Now, personally I was incredibly doubtful whether Vince Vaughn could play the tough and dependable Sergeant, but in all honesty he brings in some much needed comedy to the film. I laughed on more than one occasion as he walks up and down berating the new recruits, a scene synonymous of American War Films made famous by the film ‘Full Metal Jacket’, and he certainly won me over in his portrayal.
In training the discrimination experienced by given its due weight of importance. Sadly following the war Doss did not want his story recorded by another for fear that they would take it down incorrectly so I am unable to confirm whether the beatings and harassment were as harsh as depicting in the film. But I have no reason to doubt it. The court martial is a true event as well, but the touching moment of Doss’s father intervening for his son wearing his Great War uniform is classic Hollywood (But good Hollywood). It nonetheless is a moving and redeeming moment for the hapless father who initially disapproves of his son joining the army, but later finds respects in it.
The battle of Hacksaw Ridge is again difficult to research and so the chronology of actual events is difficult to establish. The film brilliantly displays the true nature of warfare – chaos, confusion and barbarity. Mel Gibson, the director of the notoriously graphic ‘The Passion of the Christ’, comes into his element with the gruesome realities of battle with the Japanese, and in my opinion action scenes stand alongside ‘Saving Private Ryan’ in production effects and shows really how combat was during the Second World War.
A few scenes do bring in some questions. Doss running around in the Japanese tunnels hiding from the searching enemy is questionable, so was a scene where he actually assists an injured Japanese soldier in the tunnels. I researched this further and it is true that Doss did actually aid wounded Japanese soldiers. More incredible than that was how Doss lowered man after man down the Cliffside calling to God to help him get one more every time. As an army medic it is absolutely right that we are confronted with the gory realities of what Doss and others like him would have faced. The horrendous wounds of broken flesh and bones are thankfully something that was not left out for fear of the age rating on the film. A film about war should depict war in my opinion, along with all its brutal realities.
By historical record Doss saved approximately 75 soldiers, this figure was picked because of a dispute between Doss who claimed he saved no more than 50 and his comrades who claimed 100, so they met in the middle. The final scenes of actual footage of Doss receiving his Medal of Honour, of his comrades and himself talking about his actions on Hacksaw Ridge are a perfect ending to a truly brilliant film. Doss thanked God for saving those men, but in my opinion Doss is wrong here, God didn’t save those soldiers, Desmond Doss saved them. A fantastic film depicting a man’s story that should always be remembered.
Written by Jonny Morris