Based on the true story, Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield) is a Seventh Day Adventist who follows in his family's footsteps as he enlists to serve his country in the Second World War. While his dedication is strong and skills as a medic are high, his conviction of not killing by using a gun nearly prevents him from transferring to the battlefield in Okinawa. Through enemy fire on enemy territory, he pursues every injured soldier to save their lives without the use of a weapon to protect himself.
2 hours, 18 minutes
November 4, 2016
Director: Mel Gibson
Writer: Andrew Knight & Robert Schenkkan
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Hugo Weaving, Teresa Palmer, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure
Due to how violent and and gruesome the battle of Hacksaw Ridge was, Mel Gibson does not hold back in portraying the truth about war and its consequences, regardless of what each side is fighting for. Yet, despite these horrific scenes, light shines through the darkness as Andrew Garfield dedicates himself in his portrayal of Private Desmond Doss, the medic who did not fire a single shot in battle. Despite its rushed introduction, the film portrays strong messages of courage and dedication not just to a nation but to God Himself and one’s oath in a very humble and confident way.
While I was expecting scenes of war, I was not expecting to be on a Saving Private Ryan level. I advise parents to be cautious of taking their children. Despite the Biblical messages, it is not family friendly and is very graphic in its overall storytelling.
Violent Content: Gruesome, bloody, and realistic war fight scenes on a Saving Private Ryan Level.
Language/Crude Humor: S*** and S.O.B. come throughout the war scenes and boot camp.
Sexual Content: There is a hint of sexual intercourse on the night of Desmond and Dorothy’s honeymoon, but nothing graphic is shown. A few kisses here and there, and a soldier shows Desmond an adult magazine with a woman on it. The woman is covered but the implications can be understood.
Drug/Alcohol Content: Desmond’s father drinks heavily in certain scenes and throws fits of drunken rage. A couple of soldiers have drinks and smokes.
Spiritual Content: Prayer, conviction, faith, courage, and so much more play throughout this whole movie from the beginning to end.
Negative Content: The dark and grittiness of war and how awful it can be as it contributes to PTSD.
Positive Content: Private Doss displays large amounts of faith, conviction, and courage on the battlefield as he saves as many lives as he can.
The battle of Okinawa during WWII has been recorded as one of the most bloody and deadliest battles for both Japan and the United States with the battle at Hacksaw Ridge greatly contributing to that fact. Over 500 American lives were lost during the battle at Hacksaw, yet within this dark time was a medic who dedicated his life to save as many wounded as he could. Mel Gibson’s take on the Battle at Hacksaw could not be anything less than accurate as he captures the gruesome reality of war for both sides. If that were not enough, the capturing of soldiers struggling with PTSD gave another look on the reality of war and the mental and emotional damage that is the result.
Andrew Garfield’s take on Private Doss portrays a different side of U.S. soldiers as it captured the more humane side. This is not to say that previous war films did not, but Garfield’s take on Private Doss resulted in a glimmer of hope for humanity as he saved lives during a time when they were taken. While his character certainly outshines the rest of the cast, Garfield also portrays just how vulnerable and fragile he is as he suffers from PTSD and the shock of how dark and violent war is.
Hugo Weaving puts in all he has to portray Doss’s struggling alcoholic father, a veteran from the first World War. Due to his make-up, posture, facial expressions, and voice, Weaving dedicates himself to portraying the struggling father and husband who loves and cares deeply for his family yet is held back by his PTSD and alcoholism. Due to his involvement in the First World War, he wants anything but his sons to enlist and fight their generation’s war, thereby revealing how concerned and heartbroken he is by their decision making.
Due to Vince Vaughn’s comedic acting, his portrayal as Sgt. Howell was difficult to believe during Boot Camp training. It was noticeable that he was trying hard at certain points, and it isn’t until the battle at Hacksaw Ridge that his acting became more convincing. Aside from the second half’s focus on the battlefield, the first half greatly struggled as Private Doss’s life was rushed from meeting his wife to the beginning of his enlistment.
While the relationship growth between him and his wife Dorothy (Teressa Palmer) was cute, it was also very forced and quick, making it difficult to really invest the time into. While we see them really grow during Doss’s conflict with the military, it does not make up for it entirely. It is understandable that Private Doss is the main character and hero in the film, however, this is eventually shoved into the faces of the audience through slow motion shots of him running into battle to save lives. It makes sense to have at least one or two scenes like this in order to capture his heroism, however, it quickly becomes overdone as multiple slow motion shots appear, making the film feel forced and cliché to certain extents.
Hacksaw Ridge does the battle of Okinawa justice in its gruesome and realistic portrayal of one of WWII’s deadliest battles as it covers PTSD, fear, faith, and strength. It certainly upholds its ground on the accurate depiction as it honors both veterans and fallen soldiers. While audiences do have to get through the first half of the film, the trial and battlefield in the second half certainly make up for it as it accurately portrays the bravery and faith of Private Desmond Doss.
+ Realistic view of war
+ Strong portrayal of conviction and faith
- Rushed first half
- Symbolism overload