Film Review: Hacksaw Ridge

By RENEE SUMMERS, A&E Editor

War movies are their own genre. There is something about such a frightening fact of life that makes some wish to add a story to that scary reality. The purpose here is not so much to glorify the ways in which war is carried out, but to find the hero who exists inside each person who picks up a weapon to defend his home. Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson and starring Andrew Garfield is one such story, only this hero here never picked up a weapon.  

Hacksaw Ridge is the true story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who enlisted in the Army during World War II. Doss was raised in a strict Seventh-day Adventist home. His parents instilled Biblical principles into young Desmond Doss which carried him through the horrors of war and remained with him throughout his life. As the film opens, we get a glimpse into this family’s life as we see Doss, his brother Harold, played by Nathaniel Bozolic, and his parents, Tom and Bertha Doss, played by Hugo Weaving and Rachel Griffiths. The family has its struggles and Tom Doss, a veteran of World War I, carries his demons with him, taking his anxieties out on his family.  

After saving a young acquaintance’s life following an accident, young Desmond begins to consider a career as a doctor. Instead, he enlists in the Army to serve as a medic, with the intention of saving lives. The army, however, sends Doss to an infantry unit where he refuses to carry or even touch a weapon of any kind. He is harassed by his fellow soldiers, labeled a coward and eventually court-martialed for disobeying the orders. Through all of this torment the two things that keep Doss going are his faith and his true love, Dorothy, played by Teresa Palmer.  

The court martial is eventually dismissed. Doss trains as a medic and goes into battle in the Pacific with his medical bag, his Bible and no weapon. He excels at this work as the army unit he is with attempts to secure an imposing rock ledge known by the soldiers as Hacksaw Ridge, from what appears to be a million Japanese soldiers. In the heat of the battle which followed, Doss treated and carried 75 men to safety, eventually sustaining injury himself. Desmond Doss received the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery and courage under fire. The men who labeled him a coward eventually see Doss was no coward at all. The talented cast includes Richard Pyros, Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington.  

This film is a genuine feel-good story about an American hero amidst the tragedy of war.  Director Mel Gibson (Apocalypto) works with screenwriters Robert Schenkkan (The Quiet American) and Andrew Knight to produce a brilliant tale which will stay with you, especially considering it is based on actual events. The film was nominated for a total of six Academy Awards including Best Motion Picture, Best Actor and Best Director. It won awards for Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing.