Mel Gibson’s war films include Braveheart, The Patriot, Apocalypto, and now Hacksaw Ridge.
These movies have followed a pattern: each are period pieces, and each offer a good amount of blood and guts.
Hacksaw Ridge differs slightly, however.
It follows a U.S. Army Medic in World War II named Desmond Doss, a devout Christian and, more importantly, an adamant pacifist.
So adamant that Doss refused to carry a weapon into battle, or even touch one.
We find out that this pacifism stems from memories that give him grief, and the only way to cope with that grief is to stand by his beliefs.
Doss claims “Conscientious Objection” but doesn’t get any slack from his superiors, who instead accuse him of disobeying direct orders by not training with a weapon.
Despite impossible odds, Doss serves his country in the Pacific Theater.
The film follows Doss and his fellow infantrymen on their quest to secure Hacksaw Ridge, a.k.a. the Maeda Escarpment, a critical capture in the United States’ famous victory in Okinawa.
In order to reach the top of the escarpment, the troops had to climb a cargo net. Something left out of the movie was that Doss was one of three men who volunteered to climb the escarpment and hang the cargo net for the rest of his division.
Doss performs so many miracles even Jesus would be impressed, saving approximately 75 men.
However, I was skeptical, so I decided to do some research on Doss, and I was surprised with what I found.
Although Desmond Doss did refuse to bear arms, he was not subject to the same scrutiny as he was in the film.
The film dramatized his discrimination, leading to Doss spending time in a military prison (which never happened).
The army did, however, want to send Doss to a conscientious objectors camp and have him discharged; but when Doss explained the reasoning behind his actions, he was classified as a “conscientious cooperator,” not objector.
And he did receive torment from his peers, almost to the extremes that were shown in the movie.
“One fella, he told me, ‘I swear to God Doss, you go into combat, I gonna shoot you,’” said Doss.
The real miracles occurred on the front lines, where Doss showed true heroism that earned him his Congressional Medal of Honor.
When his entire Infantry Division retreated from the pursuing Japanese, Doss stayed on the ridge, dodging enemy soldiers and friendly artillery who were both unaware of Doss’s presence. He ran back and forth, saving about 75 men from the ridge, and even healing some wounded enemy troops.
If you thought this act of heroism was unbelievable, Mel Gibson left out a part that he figured the audiences wouldn’t accept was real.
According to The Conscientious Objector Documentary, on the night of May 21, 1945, Doss and his unit engaged in hand-to- hand combat with Japanese soldiers. The Japanese soldiers began to throw hand grenades, one of which landed in a hole near Doss and other men from his unit. Doss took the majority of the blow, to protect his unit, and ended up with 17 pieces of shrapnel in his body.
The end of the story, however, lies with his struggle to reach safety after his close encounter with the Japanese.
Doss waited five hours until someone was able to reach him with a stretcher, and then was carried through an enemy tank attack.
When he saw a badly wounded man on the ground, Doss rolled off of the stretcher and allowed the wounded man to be taken first.
While Doss was waiting for help to return, he was shot by a sniper, shattering his left arm. Doss fashioned a crude splint out of a rifle stock and crawled about 300 yards to an aid station, all while under fire.
Every other major aspect of the movie was incredibly accurate. Joined by impressive cinematography and directing by Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge is one of my favorite new movies of 2016.
It left me feeling contemplative about my life, what I value, and what I wish to accomplish – also that life is fragile, which was amplified through the point of view of a medic.
A fantastic movie, with a fantastic cast and production, Hacksaw Ridge is a must see for anybody with a pulse.