Conscientious Saviour

Hacksaw Ridge

Director: Mel Gibson

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Luke Bracey, Sam Worthington, Rachel Griffiths, Hugo Weaving, Vince Vaughn, Milo Gibson, Ben O’Toole

Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ director Mel Gibson has assembled a mostly Australian cast in the World War II drama Hacksaw Ridge about the Virginia conscientious objector Desmond Doss who refused to bear arms during the war against the Japanese. Doss is played by Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) in one of his best acting roles yet.

Hacksaw Ridge opens in The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia in the early 1930’s where young Doss and his brother are constantly engaged in fraternal rivalry while their drunken father Tom played by Hugo Weaving (The Dressmaker) mourns the loss of his friends in the Great War and beats their mother Bertha played by Rachel Griffiths (Muriel’s Wedding).

As a practicing Seventh Day Adventist, Desmond from a young age takes a vow against violence yet is compelled to join the army soon after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbour. His romantic life is heightened when he meets Nurse Dorothy Schutte, a wonderful supporting role played by the gorgeous Teresa Palmer (Point Break, I am Number Four) which he soon proposes to.

While the first act of Hacksaw Ridge is taken up with establishing a credible back story of Desmond Doss, his religious beliefs, family and brief courtship, it’s really the second act of the film that captures audience’s attention as Doss undergoes basic military training under the supervision of Sgt Howell played by Vince Vaughn (Into The Wild, The Internship) and Captain Glover played by British actor Sam Worthington (Avatar, Clash of the Titans).

When it comes to target practice, the rest of the soldiers including a handsome Smitty Ryker played by Luke Bracey (The November Man) and Lucky Ford played by Gibson’s son Milo Gibson are all eager to take up arms to defend their country, while Doss completely refuses to hold a rifle on the grounds that he is a conscientious objector.

After a military inquiry into whether Doss can still serve in the armed forces without bearing arms, the action swiftly moves into the third act, the dreaded battle sequence at Hacksaw Ridge, on the island of Okinawa, a battle so gruesome that many of his fellow soldiers are killed instantly as the ruthless Japanese attack the Americans without restraint.

Director Gibson excels in the battle sequences of Hacksaw Ridge as a combination of frenetic sound editing, utter brutality and emotional tension is vividly captured as the soldier bravely battle a more sophisticated and disciplined opponent. As the battle for Hacksaw Ridge continues, many American soldiers are left wounded, easy prey for the bayonets of the Japanese soldiers.

Doss in this terrifying battleground questions his own convictions and has a crisis of faith amidst bullets whizzing past him and bodies rotting in shallow graves.

Hacksaw Ridge was indeed a vicious battle of attrition, but Doss realizes that if he can save as many wounded American soldiers as possible then perhaps the American military might recognize his true valour and bravery.

In terms of recreating one of the most gruesome battles of the Pacific Theatre of World War II, Hacksaw Ridge is an excellent film comparable to similar war classics like Steven Spielberg’s Oscar winning Saving Private Ryan and Oliver Stone’s Platoon.

Historically accurate, Hacksaw Ridge superbly retells the unbelievable story of Desmond Doss, the first Conscientious Objector who was in a battle and received the Medal of Honour without firing a single shot. This is highly recommended viewing and judging by its critical claim, Hacksaw Ridge will have a cult following for lovers of genuine war films.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desmond_Doss

 

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