Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) grew up in a very strict household. His father (Hugo Weaving) served in World War I, and suffered from PTSD. He would often take out his anger on Desmond, and Desmond’s mother (Rachel Griffiths) and brother (Nathaniel Buzolic). It was during one of his father’s outbursts that Desmond swore he would never touch a gun.
After seeing soldiers return from the battlefields of World War II, Desmond realized it was his duty to serve. He enlisted in the army to become a medic, with the hope of helping as many of these injured soldiers as he could. Desmond stuck to his vow to never touch a gun, even when his commanding officer, Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn), encourages his squad to help Desmond decide to quit the army. Even in the face of retaliation from his barrack mates and a court-martial, Desmond kept to his principles.
Sergeant Howell and his soldiers are deployed to Okinawa. They are sent in to replace the squadrons of soldiers who were massacred at Hacksaw Ridge, as stronghold brutally defended by the Japanese. When the Japanese once again decimate the American forces, the Army flee the ridge.
Desmond finds himself stranded atop Hacksaw Ridge, along with scores of injured American soldiers. Desmond spends the night administering first aid to those he finds. He also drags the soldiers to the edge of the ridge to lower them to safety. As morning comes, the Japanese soldiers return, mercilessly executing any injured Americans they come across. Desmond, still trying to save as many as he can, must find a way to get his men, and himself, to safety.
Hacksaw Ridge is based on the amazing true story of Desmond Doss, the first Conscientious Objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Despite an impossible situation, Desmond remained true to his word that he would never kill anyone or even touch a gun. Desmond pulled 75 men from Hacksaw Ridge after the failed assault, including some injured enemy soldiers.
Under the direction of Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge is a brutal film. At first glance, the graphic nature of the film could be mistaken as gratuitous. However, I think Gibson takes the violence and gore to such extremes to show the horrific nature of war and what the soldiers went through during these battles. At times it can be hard to watch. This just serves to illustrate Desmond’s devotion to his cause to save as many lives as possible, with no regard to his own safety. He could have easily left the men to die alone on the ridge, but that was never an option for him.
Andrew Garfield was an excellent choice to play Desmond Doss. With his innocent look and boyish charm, he fits Desmond’s entire being. Further demonstrating this point are the clips of the real Desmond Doss recounting his experiences during the battle that play at the end of the film. He truly is a remarkable man, and I think Garfield does him justice. The rest of the cast, surprisingly including Vince Vaughn, fill in their roles nicely. Each has their own personality, who may at times become stereotypical, that round out the story credibly.
Hacksaw Ridge may not be for everyone, due to the graphic, violent nature of the film. That aside, it is a well-made film that tells an amazing, inspiring story about the viciousness of war and the will to not only survive, but to help those around you at your own expense. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about this one when award time rolls around. I recommend seeing it on the big screen to truly appreciate everything the film has to offer.