Film Review: Hacksaw Ridge

by Vincent Chan.

Rated M. Starring Andrew Garfield, Hugo Weaving, Vince Vaughn. Directed by Mel Gibson.

For those familiar with their World War II history, Hacksaw Ridge is based on the battle of Okinawa. This has been described as one of the bloodiest battles of the war in which incalculable lives were lost. As the Allied forces tried to make their way inland into Japan, both sides would engage in brutal attacks and counter-attacks that would leave its print on the history books. As both sides sought to kill as many as they could, one soldier chose to go onto the battlefield with neither a gun nor intention to kill the enemy. It is this individual that the film focuses on.

Desmond Doss (Garfield) would go on to receive a Medal of Honour for his heroics. During his time on the field, he never fired a gun. Yet through his actions, he would be responsible for saving over 70 lives. Hacksaw Ridge tracks Doss from the early days of his childhood in seeing his alcoholic father be ravaged by war, to marrying the girl of his dreams, before it sets him on the battlefield. It’s this examination of his life that provides much of the film’s depth. Garfield does an excellent job in portraying the character’s tension: How does one fight in a violent war with no intention of violence? What does it mean to obey God rather than man? What is the right thing to do?

There are not necessarily easy answers and you may even find yourself disagreeing with Doss. However, what one cannot deny is that he was a man of convictions and served heroically.

The film itself stars a strong cast. Hugo Weaving plays Tom Doss, the father. He does an incredible job of showing the atrocities of war. Plagued by the violence he experienced and now enslaved to alcohol, Weaving shows that the effects of war are indeed terrible. On a lighter note, Vince Vaughn stars as Sergeant Howell, Doss’s officer. A frequenter of comedies, I thought he would have felt out of place in this film. But Vaughn shows he can do both comedy and drama, bringing both sides out when needed.

If there’s one thing that held me back from Hacksaw Ridge, it’s the battle scenes. There are always dangers of depicting war. The tendency can be to glamourise it and show only heroism when the reality is that war is just downright ugly – there is no romance in battle. The film does well to steer clear of this. Nevertheless, the battle scenes are very long and feels at odds with the character-driven plot that was going for much of it.

‘THE MEN BELIEVE IN HOW MUCH YOU BELIEVE…’

Hacksaw Ridge provides plenty for Christians, and non-Christians alike, to think about. More than anything, what stands out about Doss is his conviction.

He is convicted that there is a God.

He is convicted that God wants him to save life and not destroy it.

He is convicted that he must obey God, even at great costs to himself.

As I watched the film, I found myself at points wanting Doss just to give in. Wouldn’t it be easier to fit in that way? Yet he never does. Doss holds onto his principles not in an arrogant manner, but rather a persuasion that he must be true to his character. As a Christian, the Bible promises opposition from the world around us. There will be many things that go against our identity as a Christian. Yet the call is clear: stand firm. Remember Christ and draw on him for strength.

The Verdict: Hacksaw Ridge does justice to a hero of war and does it with substance. 4/5

Hacksaw Ridge releases in cinemas worldwide from Thursday 3rd November.

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