Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge, is a remarkable biographical war drama based on true events during World War II and the heroic actions of one man, Desmond Thomas Doss, on the island of Okinawa in Japan. What makes this is a truly outstanding story is that Desmond Doss was a pacifist and conscientious objector, a combat medic in the US Army, who refused to pick up a gun or kill another human being and single-handedly saved 75 injured soldiers from the bloody and active battlefield. He joined the army to do his bit for his country, but to save lives rather than take them. You can read more about Desmond Doss on desmonddoss.com.

Hacksaw Ridge stars Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss, Vince Vaughn as Sgt Howell, Sam Worthington as Captain Glover and Teresa Palmer as Dorothy Schutte. It is directed by Mel Gibson. It has a running time of 2 hours 14 minutes and has a age rating of 15.

The film starts with showing Desmond and his brother fighting as children. Desmond picks up  a brick and hits his brother in the head and nearly kills him. This turns to be a life changing moment for him. As a Seventh-day Adventist it was instilled into him “Thou Shall Not Kill” and that commandment shaped his life. 15 years later he saves the life of another boy and decides that he wants to become a medic. With World War II in full flow and the attack on Pearl Harbour bringing the US into the war, he enlists in the army to become a combat medic on the basis of his religion and beliefs that he wouldn’t have to pick up a gun or take a life. He is placed in basic training with the 77th Infantry Division as a rifleman and refuses to pick up a rifle or train on Saturdays (his sabbath). Desmond is deemed a coward, a liability and not someone that anyone wants to go into battle with. His unit and the army want him out – he is treated a pariah; bullied, beaten, given the worst jobs, psychiatric reasons were used to try and force him out and he was even put in prison (on his wedding day) for failing to obey orders (not picking up a rifle). Ultimately, every attempt failed and he was granted training as a combat medic.

After completing his training, Desmond’s unit is deployed to Okinawa, an island in Japan, tasked with ascending and securing the Maeda Escarpment (“Hacksaw Ridge”). During very heavy and bloody fighting with large loses on both sides, the US army retreat back down the cliff. Desmond is left on the battlefield and starts to venture back into the fray to rescue injured soldiers and lowering them down the cliff face. He keeps going back for “just one more” and eventually takes out 75 soldiers (and not all American, some Japanese as well – he wanted to save lives), single-handedly and without picking up a weapon or firing a single bullet.

Overall, Hacksaw Ridge is a remarkable story of the brutality of war and one man’s faith and courage to not take any lives. As a pacifist that refused to take a life, his courage under fire is outstanding. It is a raw portrayal of war and the human spirit. Desmond Doss was a truly selfless hero that stuck to beliefs and faith which gave him the conviction to do what he needed to do, even in the most harrowing of circumstances. His heroism earned him the Medal of Honor, United States Armed Forces’ highest military decoration and the first conscientious objector to receive it.

This is a war film, centred around one of the most violent and bloodiest battles of WWII and the film does show a lot of violence, brutality and death which is absolutely necessary to convey the fierce and deadly reality of war.

Andrew Garfield as the softly spoken Desmond Doss is outstanding, he portrays the character extremely well giving a powerful performance, embodying the quiet strength and determination of Doss with a sincerity that shows how humble and how his strength of conviction shaped his life.

Vince Vaughn played a very different role than I am used to seeing him play and wouldn’t have been an actor I would have expected to see in a war film, but he was excellent and carried off the role brilliantly.

Mel Gibson direction is sublime, showing the brutal reality of war that will shock some, but the violence doesn’t come across as gratuitous.

Hacksaw Ridge is more than a war film. It is a very emotional film of belief, the power of conviction, true courage and the human spirit.

Whether you like war films or not, this is a film that everybody should watch. The true courage, faith and belief of one man to do what’s right really shows through. It serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by those who serve in times of conflict in whatever role they play.

Hacksaw Ridge is based on the documentary “The Conscientious Objector” which is based on the true story of Desmond Doss. You can view the documentary on YouTube here.

A very powerful story of war, humanity and a combat medic who fought a war without a weapon.

Rating: 5/5

Available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon here.

DISCLOSURE: All thoughts and opinions are my own. This review uses an affiliate link which I may receive a small commission from if you purchase through the Amazon link (it helps with running costs of the website).

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