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Movie Review: Hacksaw Ridge

Gary Casey, Entertainment Editor

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“War is Hell” – William T. Sherman, 1933

Mel Gibson held nothing back when he set out to depict the gruesomeness of war. Swords, knives, flamethrowers, and, of course, lots and lots of guns, made it easy to litter the Okinawan ridge with bodies and appendages. “After the first ten minutes, nobody had legs,” remarked one moviegoer humorously.

The battle scenes from Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge achieve a standard of authenticity that hasn’t been seen since Saving Private Ryan, and they do so from the perspective of a young and whole-hearted Desmond Doss, who, unknowingly, is about to become the first conscientious objector to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Setting this war thriller apart from those of Steven Spielberg and many others, is its objective view of conflict. It doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong or who’s the good guy or who’s the bad guy; all that’s relevant is that they disagree, and that they’re going to kill each other. They’re all bad guys–from one perspective or another–,and they’re all wrong because war is, by definition, immoral. And the storyline reflects that, the evil, the mindless killing that takes place in battle.

So, who is our beacon of light, our angelic Private Desmond Doss?

Doss was strong in his beliefs, and as a Seventh-day Adventist, that meant no killing and no guns, which became a problem for his gung-ho drill sergeant. Doss fought a war before he ever got to the battlefield, but that same conviction and perseverance that got him through Basic Training is what made him great as a soldier.

Even after leaving the barracks, Private Doss couldn’t blend in. On Okinawa, he worked with the same vigor and frantic craze as the rest of his platoon, but he gave life to those around him instead of taking it, forming a polarized contrast between him and the rest of his platoon and the Japanese.

Private Desmond Doss saved over seventy-five Americans at the Battle of Okinawa and attempted to save many more, including a few of the enemy. In a 2006 interview Doss recalls a time when he helped wipe the blood and dirt from an injured comrade’s eyes, “‘I thought I went blind!’ he said to me.” After a moment of reflection, Doss adds:

“And if I hadn’t gotten anything more from the war than that smile he gave me, I would have been well repaid.”

Desmond Doss (1919-2006)

Hacksaw Ridge … 15/20

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Movie Review: Hacksaw Ridge