Hacksaw Ridge is a film based on the true story of Desmond Doss, who carried 75 men to safety during the taking of Hacksaw Ridge on Okinawa during World War II. What made this all the more extraordinary, especially for the military men he had to work with, was that he was a conscientious objector. Hacksaw Ridge won two Academy Awards: Best Achievement in Film Editing, and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing. The film is rated R for intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence including grisly bloody images.
Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) grew up in Virginia, and had a difficult childhood. Several experiences depicted shaped him into the man he became, and when World War II erupted, he enlisted into the Army. His father Tom (Hugo Weaving) was an alcoholic, prone to violence, and his long-suffering mother Bertha (Rachel Griffiths) took the brunt of his abuse, as did his two sons.
Desmond enlists and tells his recruiting agent that he will not carry a gun, and that he wants to be a medic. He gets a rude awakening in boot camp. Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn), along with other superiors, tries to break him, as do his boot campmates. But Desmond remains strong. He is a Seventh Day Adventist, and will not pick up that gun.
He is shipped to the Pacific in May 1945 to Okinawa where the Japanese forces have hunkered down on the island in bunkers, and where the US Army has been unable to gain a foothold and overcome them.
The film does not spare us of the violence of war, nor should it. There is no glamorizing what war is here at any time. It is a brutal, cruel, awful thing to watch men being ripped apart, burned to death, and dying in agony. War is bad. I’m not saying World War II shouldn’t have happened, given the events of the Holocaust and the Japanese attacking the United States. But I will say that the wars that are happening right now on this planet are not for noble reasons, but for protecting natural resources, and sadly, not for the common people of the world, but so that major corporations can grow wealthier and plunder the planet in the way they are accustomed to. Please do not enlist. To borrow an old song’s refrain from the sixties, “What if they gave a war and nobody came?”
At any rate, Desmond Doss is to be remembered not just for saving the lives of 75 men on that Pacific oceanside cliff in 1945, but for NEVER being swayed from his belief that to kill another human is the worst of all sins. He was a conscientious objector, and that is what is to be honored above all. He stuck to his values. If only we all did that instead of giving lip service to that commandment of thou shalt not kill.
The film and especially Desmond’s story are worth watching, if you can tolerate explicit war violence.