Hacksaw Ridge is the most brutal, gory, bloody, and redemptive movie I have seen in my entire life. Rated R for “intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence including grisly bloody images,” the film is quite possibly the most gory movie to be made, and yet it does justice to the story it was based on.
If you have had the opportunity to watch the movie, I congratulate you. You survived a long, harrowing 139 minutes, and you lived to tell the tale, unlike 90% of the soldiers shown in the movie. After reading the critic reviews on the story, and hearing the full descriptions of the movie’s blood and gore, I wasn’t sure I wanted to see the movie at all.
Then, I learned that Andrew Garfield stars as the main character. Immediately, I was sold. Who cares about “a little blood and gore” when someone as magnificent as Andrew Garfield stars?
I would both regret and appreciate this decision.
I watched the first half of the movie with my little brother, Noah (say hi, Noah). Thankfully, we stopped before the battle scene, else he may have been scarred. Yet the beginning of the movie spoke directly to my heart.
Warning: Spoilers will be presented throughout this movie.
Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) was born in rural Virginia, just after the end of World War I. Born to carpenter William Doss and shoemaker/factory worker Bertha Doss, Desmond grew up with two siblings, his older sister Audrey (not shown in the movie) and his younger brother Harold. The movie opens with clips of the two boys, who’s relationship mimics that of mine with my brothers. The two are hardly seen apart, spending most of their time getting into trouble. Because of the spiritual absence of their father, who prefers to spend most of his time drinking, the boys are mostly raised by their mother, a devout Seventh-Day Adventist.
As the movie begins, a crucial scene is shown- Desmond and his brother wrestle in the yard, and as a measure of self-defence, Desmond picks up a brick and smashes it into the side of his brother’s head. The boy is instantly knocked unconscious, much to the utter dismay of his older brother, who believes him to be dead. The boys’ parents appear and manage to revive Harold, and although the injured boy would make a full recovery, the horror of the moment would remain with Desmond forever, eventually contributing to his decision to not carry a weapon in the military.
As Desmond grows up, he continues to clash with his father. At one point in the movie, Desmond recalls a night in which his father, completely drunk, was about to shoot his own wife. Desmond rushed in and grabbed the pistol, turning it on his own father. “I was about to shoot him”, he recalls, the horror of the time written all over his face. Realizing what he was about to do, he throws the pistol down and vows to never touch a gun again. He would never break this vow.
The movie fast-forwards several years to the outbreak of World War II in 1942. At this time, Desmond is a fully-grown man working at a shipping yard. While there, Desmond saves the life of an injured man who cuts his stomach very badly. After taking the man to the hospital, Desmond meets the woman he would eventually marry- Dorothy. His method of meeting her is something I, as a guy, can emphasize with. He sees her, and in an attempt to spend more time with her (she works at the hospital as a blood drawer) he donates his blood. Using the small window of time, he asks her if she’ll go to a movie with him, and she accepts. This begins a relationship the likes of which I would like to emulate.
As their relationship deepens, the situation between Japan and the US escalates. Eventually, Doss enlists, despite the fact that he likely would not have been drafted. He tells Dorothy of his enlistment, and she promptly bursts into tears. As she grieves, she demands, “Well, are you going to ask me to marry you or not?” Doss, thunderstruck, nods and asks. Unsurprisingly, Dorothy accepts, and the two plan to get married at the first opportunity.
Immediately after this, Doss is sent to Fort Jackson to train as an Army Medic. While there, he is massively ridiculed for his refusal to handle a gun or train on Saturdays. The tension between Doss and a soldier in the company, Smitty, continues to escalate until Doss completes basic training and receives his first leave. He and Dorothy had planned on using this time to get married, but their plans come to an abrupt stop when Doss is arrested for insubordination- refusal to carry weapons despite a direct order from his company commander.
Doss escapes being court martialed by the skin of his teeth. His father, having heard of the his son’s plight, barges in at the last second to remind the court that Desmond is within his Constitutional rights in his pacifism. Desmond is acquitted and he and Dorothy are married.
Soon after, Desmond is sent to accompany his division into the Pacific Theatre, where his company is tasked with a single mission- secure “Hacksaw” ridge. The ridge is riddled with the Japanese, many of whom have dug themselves deep into the ground to avoid the massive bombs shot from American ships.
The fighting begins. Blood sprays. Men die. I’ll spare the details.
In the first day of fighting, the Americans are moderately successful. Despite taking heavy casualties, they manage to take a Japanese bunker by the end of the day, and they settle in for the night. During the fighting, however, Desmond saves the life of the man who had tormented him so much at boot camp- Smitty. As they dig in for the night, the two reconcile and become friends.
The next morning, the Japanese launch a massive counter-attack. Many men die, including several from Doss’ company. As the Americans retreat back over the edge of the ridge, Doss hears the cries of the wounded men still left out on the field, which is enshrouded in fog. He leaves his company and runs back, fully prepared to risk his life for the men he was entrusted to save. Over the next day, he would find men, treat their wounds, bring them to the edge of the ridge, and lower them down by ropes. Immediately after, he would get back up and go find more, all while praying, “just one more, Lord, just one more.”
After dawn breaks, it is discovered that seventy-five wounded men had been lowered from the top of the ridge. The final wounded soldier was Doss’ sergeant, the one that had him court martialed. Despite being pinned down and shot at by enemy snipers, Doss manages to get his sergeant down the edge of the ridge, following promptly after.
As the movie wraps up, Desmond continues to serve with his company. In fact, they become so dependant on him as both a spiritual leader and a hero that they refuse to fight without him, and on Saturdays (his sabbath), they wait for him to finish praying before going to fight. After being wounded later at Okinawa, he was evacuated and went home to Dorothy.
What a fantastic story! That second-to-last paragraph in particular struck me. “Just one more, Lord, just one more”. Therein, we find proof of two things. 1: Christians can be brave even while refusing to fight. 2: The battlefield is also a place for Christians. Despite what the world says about Christians being weak pacifists, even a pacifist has a place on the battlefield. When you look past all the blood and the gore, we see a message that rings true- even on the battlefield, God is there. He remains true, and He never gives up on us.
Even on the battlefield, God is there. He remains true, and He never gives up on us.Tweet
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