With 1917 winning critical acclaim and wooing fans, thanks to Sam Mendes creative direction, we take a look back at Mel Gibson’s 2016 war masterpiece, Hacksaw Ridge!
The extraordinary true story of conscientious objector Desmond T. Doss who saved 75 men in Okinawa, during the bloodiest battle of WWII, without firing a single shot. Believing that the war was just but killing was nevertheless wrong, he was the only American soldier in WWII to fight on the front lines without a weapon. As an army medic Doss single-handedly evacuated the wounded near enemy lines – braving enemy fire and putting his own life on the line. He was the first conscientious objector to ever win the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Once the credits rolled on this, the fifth film directed by Mel Gibson, I began to think of certain things in life. For instance I thought of Footballers, guys who are for some are on 300k a week and idolized by millions all over the world. Some fans call them “Legends!” and “heroes”, but are they? They may give joy to fans every week who wear their shirt with pride, but are they just fortunate that they are much more able to kick a ball around a field than an average person?
The definition of the word hero states: “a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character“
But even that description does not quite fit what Desmond T. Doss managed to achieve in a muddy battlefield way back in World War II. I had never heard of this tale up until this week, but I am thankful that Mel brought it to my attention. It is story that had to be told to the masses, an unforgettable tale that left me stunned in disbelief and I am now thankful that not only do I know of this man called Desmond but also of his heroic act that made me humble and thankful long after the film had finished.
Many films carry a “True Story” tag, some pull away from the actual truth, while there are some that blatantly lie and make up such a life event, but Hacksaw Ridge is 100% real. The tale being shown on screen is not something, a person thought up next to a computer or a typewriter and while you wish at times this was all a work of fiction, especially with the horrific scenes of war that makes you bow your head in silence, you can not help but being in awe at what is unfolding.
The film makes it quite clear that Desmond is a nice guy. Even when he is courting his future pretty wife Dorothy (Teresa Palmer), he acts the perfect gentleman and its easy to fall in love straight away with such a nice pleasant gentleman. Played with wonderful charm by Andrew Garfield, Desmond wants to do the right thing, he has his values and standards and refuses to be swayed in doing it in a different way. He want’s to fight and serve his country in World War II, but he will not kill, or hold a gun. A stunning admission that causes ripples in his training, that results in the Army not only ordering him to be beaten up by his fellow men, but also threatened with Jail. Its this opening hour that you can’t help but feel for this guy. He wants to be a medic and help those suffering, not inflict pain on others, but his views are met with such disdain, that you can not help but hate those involved, which include the likes of Captain Glover (Sam Worthington) and Sgt Howell (Vince Vaughan).
The beauty of this tale is that Desmond is not trying to shy away in his duties. It could be quite easy to paint the picture of a man who says the big things but when the horror starts, crawls in the background until its safe to come out. This guy, despite his refusal to kill, is on the front line, risking his own life for others. You can also understand where the Army are coming from, even though their actions towards Desmond are quite extreme and unwarranted. I mean who would send a man to a place of battle without some kind of protection? Its clear if he is there with no gun, then he is not only a danger to himself but also to his fellow men and while at times the film sort of slips into a melodrama, you can not help but be fixated at what is happening.
Its a remarkable tale, even more so as its real and the film really makes you understand what Desmond was trying to say and achieve. You can be a hero in a war without resorting to blood and death but even then what this guy done at Hacksaw Ridge will confound you with disbelief and make you applaud his every move and action.
Like all typical Mel Gibson films, when the battle starts, the director refuses to hide the camera from the violence that is being spilled. Anyone who thought Saving Private Ryan showcased war at his worst will be looking away as death hits the screen during the second half. Its violent and grim and will make you weep with thoughts of those poor men who actually went through this madness many years ago. Even those against Desmond find themselves suffering and its here that you realise that no matter what was said and done in life, everyone was together in such an extreme occasion.
As you get to the final act, its here that the tale of Desmond T. Doss is told, a guy who saved 75 of his fellow men, by staying all behind on his own in a place you can only describe as hell, with an enemy lurking in the shadows. If this was a Hollywood blockbuster, by the end our lead character would pick up a gun in a final moment of heroics that would have all those watching, cheering with the cliché. But not here! This guy saves the day virtually with old fashioned courage and a will power to help those in need. Its awe- inspiring! Really it is!
Many things have been written about Mel Gibson over the last few years but his talent behind the camera can not be questioned. In some ways, Hacksaw Ridge with its pent up violence and tale of redemption is Gibson reaching out to Hollywood and looking for redemption. Is it his best film? Impossible to say! This guy has the likes of Braveheart on his CV, but the fact it reaches those high standards is more than enough to say this is one of the greatest war tales ever told. A stunning, effective tale that will make you thankful for the age you live in.
It truly is a remarkable tale about a remarkable man.
Much respect Desmond T Dross….