On Thursday, Oct. 27, we had the privilege of attending a screening of Mel Gibson’s latest epic film, Hacksaw Ridge.
Hacksaw Ridge, Gibson’s first directing effort in 10 years, is absolutely stunning.
Stunning in its storytelling and stunning in its visuals, I predict this movie will receive numerous awards come award season.
23-year-old Desmond Doss, one of thousands of young men, is drafted by the US Army in April, 1942. He feels “…it was an honor to serve God and country. We were fightin’ for our religious liberty and freedom.”
And yet Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist from Virginia, refuses to bear arms while still insisting on joining the army medical corps.
“My dad bought this Ten Commandments and Lord’s Prayer illustrated on a nice frame, and I had looked at that picture of the Sixth Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ There’s a picture that had Cain and he killed his brother Abel, and I wonder how in the world could a brother do such a thing? I’ve pictured Christ for savin’ life, I wanna be like Christ go savin’ life instead of takin’ life and that’s the reason I take up medicine.”
The first half of this film describes his early childhood and his difficult relationship with his father (played by a superb Hugo Weaving), a veteran of WWI with PTSD and a vicious temper.
We learn that Desmond is a member of the Seventh Day Adventists, a pacifist Christian splinter group which celebrates their Sabbath on Saturday.
Gibson, through a series of flashbacks to Desmond’s early life, slowly reveals another reason behind Desmond’s unwillingness to take up a rifle.
When drunk, his dad repeatedly gets into fights with his mother, played by Rachel Griffiths, and threatens her with a pistol.
As the war begins, young men enlist and Desmond also enlists as a medic but is shunted off to an army infantry battalion.
Basic training is hell for Desmond as he battles his superiors and fellow grunts to prove to them that he is worthy of becoming a soldier, even if he refuses to shoulder and shoot a rifle. Doss call himself a “conscientious cooperator” rather than a “conscientious objector” because he wants to save lives rather than take lives.
Their first battle is a bloody one on the island of Okinawa.
This is where Gibson shines as a director.
War is hell.
And Desmond Doss performs well.
In the final flashback during the bloody battle, we learn why Doss refuses to touch a gun. Gibson has Doss describe to his injured sergeant how as a young man he intervened in a fight between his mother and his drunken father. He managed to disarm his father and pointed the pistol at his father. His dad asked him to shoot him to put him out of his misery.
Desmond refused. In describing the event, he tells his wounded sergeant (echoing the Matthew 5 Bible passage) that at that moment he “..had killed him in my heart.”
Desmond Doss eventually saves 75 fellow soldiers.
He later becomes the first “conscientious cooperator” to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Bloody and gruesome with an inspirational message of faith and heroism.
“Hacksaw Ridge” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Blood, guts and period-appropriate racial slurs and tobacco use. Running time: 2 hours 11 minutes.
Watch Terry L. Benedict’s documentary“The Conscientious Objector” here.
Thank you to Tim Underwood and Graf-Martin Communications.