Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for graphic violence, gruesome images and ethnic slurs
Running time: 131 minutes
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) was born in the Blue Ridge Mountains where he was raised as a Seventh-day Adventist. Devoutly religious, he followed his faith’s literal interpretation of the 10 Commandments, including the 5th’s dictate that “Thou shalt not kill.” So, when he rushed to enlisted in the Army right after the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, he did so as a Conscientious Objector.
But because he was unwilling to touch, let alone carry a weapon, Desmond was teased mercilessly by other members of his platoon. In fact, he was not only beaten to a pulp by a bully (Luke Bracey), but court-martialed for failing to complete the weapons part of basic training.
However, the military tribunal ruled in Desmond’s favor after his World War I veteran father (Hugo Weaving) showed up to testify on his behalf. Still, his fellow G.I.s remained reluctant to embrace a comrade they suspected to be a coward, since they had just been taught by hard-nosed Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) that a unit was no stronger than its weakest link.
Nevertheless, Desmond was commissioned as a medic with the 307th Infantry with whom he would more than prove his mettle on the island of Okinawa in the bloodiest battle of World War II. For, he exhibited extraordinary courage over the course of a month spent dodging bullets and bombs to attend to the wounded during the siege of Hacksaw Ridge.
Desmond would save the lives of 75 grateful soldiers, and his selfless exploits would be appreciated by both grateful buddies and the Pentagon. And the heroic medic eventually became the first Conscientious Objector to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
All of the above is recounted in riveting fashion in Hacksaw Ridge, a gripping biopic directed by Mel Gibson. Fair warning: the film features very graphic battlefield tableaux reminiscent of the gory D-Day reenactments found in Saving Private Ryan (1998).
When not devoting its attention to recreating gruesome war scenes, the flashback flick focuses on Desmond’s formative years , as well as to his whirlwind romance with Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer), the pretty nurse he fell in love with at first sight and married shortly before shipping out for the Pacific Theater of Operations. The film fittingly brings down the curtain with archival newsreels and stills of the real-life Desmond and Dorothy to ensure there won’t be a dry eye in the house following the closing credits.
A moving portrait of an unorthodox war hero who contributed considerably to the effort without ever wielding a weapon against the enemy.