Morality in war: ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ a poignant picture


Mel Gibson of “Braveheart” and “The Passion of the Christ” impactfully executes his latest directorial venture, “Hacksaw Ridge,” with screenplay by Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan. The film tells the true tale of United States Army medic Desmond T. Doss, played by Andrew Garfield, previously in “The Social Network” and “The Amazing Spider-Man.” Doss is a Seventh-day Adventist and a conscientious objector who refuses to bear arms during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II, a setting in which bravery is determined by the skillful handling of rifles.

The film begins as a scrawny, toothy-grinned and young Desmond faces various incidents of violence with both his brother and his father, Tom Doss (Hugo Weaving), who is deeply scarred by his own war experiences. Learning from these occurrences, Desmond develops a mentality that values religious morals and taking the Ten Commandments seriously. During this time, he meets his to-be wife Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer), a bold and daring nurse from whom the uneducated Desmond develops an interest in medicine and ventures on to become a U.S. Army medic.

He then meets the other soldiers, including Milt ‘Hollywood’ Zane (Luke Pegler) and Randall ‘Teach’ Fuller (Richard Pyros). The conflict, however, begins once Desmond refuses to pick up the rifle in training. Oblivious to Desmond’s true motives, a fellow soldier, Smitty (Luke Bracey), simply dismisses him as a coward, which Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) and Captain Glover (Sam Worthington) echo, believing that Desmond is a nuisance. They give Desmond a series of harsh commands in hopes that he quits. But Desmond, not affected by these acts, with help from his father and Dorothy manages to attain respect from the high commanders and prove his bravery in the field.

This film excels due to Gibson’s craftsmanship in storytelling. Having gained his expertise directing both “Braveheart” and “The Passion of the Christ,” Gibson strikes a perfect balance when portraying the rawness of both war and religion, neither overpowering the other. Te execution of the film accurately depicts the bravery and morality of the late Desmond Doss, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for saving over 75 of his fellow soldiers.

Visually, the harsh and brutally vivid war scenes highlighted Desmond’s drive to continue saving lives while putting himself at risk. He continued chanting throughout the night “Lord, let me get one more, just one more,” helping him to save all the lives that the higher generals though they had lost. Gibson manages to show Desmond as a metaphorically higher being, especially in the scene when Desmond is put on a stretcher and is raised up, with the visual shot being taken from underneath. Complementing the vivid imagery were the impactful string compositions from Rupert Gregson-Williams.

One of the highlights of the film was the casting. Andrew Garfield effortlessly portrayed a very religious individual with great bravery and morals. His scenes were complemented by the co-actors, especially Vince Vaughn as Sergeant Howell. Along with being a very forceful commander, Vaughn was also able to add a comedy track, especially in a notable scene where all the soldiers are introduced to each other. Teresa Palmer easily takes on the role of Dorothy, as she provides great support to Desmond as an influential character herself.

Gibson overall manages to create a highly commendable film, respectfully, with great accuracy regarding the story of Desmond Doss. This film will definitely be one to look out for this next Oscar season as all the film’s components tie together to tell a very poignant story.

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