Hailed as Mel Gibson’s comeback film, Hacksaw Ridge brings cinematic life to the story of Medal of Honor recipient Mr Desmond T Doss. Did it stack up to the hype?
Firstly, who ever cast Andrew Garfield is a genius. He was a perfect fit for the role in both looks and ability. He portrayed Doss in just the right way, I struggle to think of another actor who could have done the role justice.
Now that is out of the way, my initial thoughts were “I love this movie”. Forewarned I love WWII movies. I was hesitant though, knowing nothing about the battle or the story I wasn’t sure I would like it. Also, I’m not the biggest Mel Gibson fan.
The cast list reads like a small time Australian drama series who’s who and I was surprised to see so many familiar faces. Then Vince Vaughn appeared and I couldn’t help but think he was a terrible pick for that role, not to mention he brought his own sense of comedic value to an otherwise serious movie and I couldn’t help but feel a little awkward for it.
The story follows the early life, enlistment and ultimately the battle that made Desmond Doss who he was. Medal of Honor recipient and war hero. Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist from Virginia, was the son of a Great War veteran and was traumatised at a young age after he took a brick to his brothers head in a backyard scrap. As a strict religious family, Doss regularly attended and worked at the local church. His father was also grappling with his demons from the Great War and fell into alcoholism and alcohol fuelled violence. The basis for Doss’s story and what makes it so special is that he vowed never to touch a weapon. He succeeded. He made the vow after almost shooting his father, with his own pistol after breaking up another attack on his mother.
It was one day as he worked in the church, a young man tore his artery and Doss raced out to help before the man bled out in the street. He took the man to hospital and met Dorothy, a young nurse who took the goofy kids breath away. He knew in the moment that he would marry her. Shortly before leaving for Okinawa, he did and they remained married until Dorothy passed away in 1991.
While in basic training, Doss refused to pick up a rifle as he was a conscientious objector. Meaning he didn’t agree with the war but felt a duty to serve. He entered the military as a combat medic. Obviously his Sargent found this to be a liability and along with the Captain and Colonel, tried to force Doss out before going to war. They were unsuccessful. Doss was court marshalled for “directly disobeying a direct order from his superiors” where he told the presiding judge that he signed up “With the world so set on tearing itself apart, it don’t seem like such a bad thing to me to want to put a little bit of it back together.” The charges were dropped and Doss was off to war.
It was on the battlefield that Doss set himself apart from the rest. He worked tirelessly on patients other medics wanted to ignore and got them to safety regardless of their wounds. The US made a fair advancement in them first night but come morning the Japanese launched a surprise attack forcing the US to retreat and request heavy fire from the Navy. While the other men retreated and left the escarpment, Doss stayed behind, quickly recovering a number of wounded until heavy bombardment shelter from the navy. It was when the bombardment stopped that Doss rose to the occasion, saving another 70 wounded from certain death whilst hiding from Japanese forces still scouring the scorched land for wounded to kill.
Doss only had one wounded man left to rescue, his Sargent, and as Japanese forces moved on him he fashioned a sleigh out of a jacket and rifle so he could carry his Sargent away as the Sargent provided cover fire. The ground crew provided cover fire as Doss and his Sargent made it down the escarpment and into safety. Just two days later Doss would be back. This time he would take a grenade round to the leg and have to be stretchered out himself. The US won the battle and the Japanese retreated. We know from history that Okinawa was a bloody battlefield key to the Allied win in the pacific.
The movie portrayed this story in graphic detail, with scenes on par with Saving Private Ryan. We had heartache as Smitty succumbed to his wounds and Doss realised he was the only one who could do what he did. We had fear that Doss wouldn’t make it. We had elation as he was lifted off the escarpment to safety. We had pride as footage ran showing him being awarded he Medal of Honor. Uplifting was the real time footage and interviews with Doss, his brother and Sargent Howell and added the personal touch to a true life story.
The movie was cinematic brilliance with only a few places that could have been improved. Out of 10, I would rate it 8.5. It’s a must watch for all movie lovers, especially the war cinema buffs.