An incredible true story of courage, bravery and perseverance.
Desmond Doss (RIP) was a soldier who served in the US military in the Second World War fighting against Japan, specifically at Hacksaw Ridge (in the film) during the battle of Okinawa. The taking of Hacksaw Ridge (or Maeda Escarpment) was a key in turning the tide of war the US’ way against Japan and, as a result, many lives were lost.
However, Doss (a medic in the 77th Infantry Division) managed to retrieve 75 wounded men from battle, including some Japanese soldiers too. On top of this, Doss refused to wield a rifle or partake in the taking of another man’s life. He was the first conscientious objector (someone who objects to serving in the armed forces) to be awarded the Medal of Honour. His story is truly amazing.
But, how does this translate to Mel Gibson’s film?
Gibson has created a fantastic war film which is only boosted in impact by it’s true story basis surrounding Doss and his incredible heroics. Very deserving of his nomination for the Academy Award for Best Achievement in Directing.
The action set-pieces are some of the best and most realistic I have ever seen for a war film, even rivalling the great Saving Private Ryan (1998). They’re done with such great intensity and without sparing any violence or brutality which makes the film that much more impactful. The audience are forced to feel the brutality of war, particularly of World War Two and the circumstances those soldiers had to go through, as well as how ill-equipped they were.
Furthermore, the performances provided by the cast, particularly Andrew Garfield, the younger cast of soldiers and Vince Vaughn were very strong. Garfield delivers a convincing and engaging performance as Doss, portraying his hardships, beliefs and his undying perseverance to do the right thing, serve his country and save lives. There is certainly a lot of empathy and sympathy for the character as he struggles to prove himself and fight for his right to not wield a weapon but to still serve his country.
Vaughn too serves up a surprisingly convincing role as Sgt Howell, although there have been strong glimpses of his acting talent beyond comedy this feels like another big step for him.
Above all, what is particularly heart-warming and inspiring about this story (and this film) is Doss’ never quitting attitude to serving his country and saving lives. The film teaches lessons and spreads messages of sticking to your values and morals; that violence isn’t always the answer and to not simply take the road most travel just because it’s what the majority believe. Most of all, it is a story about human compassion. To save lives, not take them, even if they are your enemy we are still all human. It is messages like these that apply to each and everyone of us that makes this so inspiring and such a relevant story which everyone should witness.
The brutally honest ways in which war is depicted is particularly powerful, echoing those of Saving Private Ryan and rivalling them. This film doesn’t hold back, and that’s the best way to teach people of the horrors of war.