Hacksaw Ridge: the Story of American Hero in Word War II

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Hacksaw Ridge: The Story of American Hero in Word War II

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To the world, any war is considered to be successful when cities are conquered and the perceived enemy has been subdued, probably from the count of the casualties. The Battle of Okinawa could have passed as the most successful mostly because it put an end to a fierce battle, but it was due to selfless and noble acts of one military man, Desmond Doss, that puts more significance to the event. In April 1st, 1943, Young, Seventh Day Adventist adherent Desmond Doss enlisted to join the US military from his native Virginia. He firmly believed in the sixth commandment that forbids killing a fellow man, a belief that put him under fire with his seniors and his counterparts alike. This was because he refused to touch a weapon but opted to enlist as a medic, a scenario that did not sit well with the directors. Desmond Doss would later become a savior and a hero that would leave a mark even when all odds were against him and who opted to keep a clean slate while the world went up in flames, as this paper seeks to show.

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In summary, Hacksaw Ridge movie is a biographical, war drama movie based on a true story of an American military hero who single-handedly moved injured soldiers to safety amid heavy fighting and death in World War II. “It is directed by Mel Gibson and the writers are Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkan”. The main character, Desmond Doss is played by Andrew Garfield. The film runs for a total of 131 minutes and was premiered on 4th September 2016 at the 73rd Venice Film Festival. The film gained a lot of positive ratings and grossed about $176 million all over the world. The movie was filmed in Australia at a place called Goulburn where several locations were prepared for the filming. It is a movie that is at war with itself, as it wrestles with pacifism and violence.

The plot structure is linear as the sequences in the story follow each other save for a few flashbacks. The protagonist, Doss, wanted to enlist in the army as a non-combatant though there was no such provision in the army. The antagonist role is played by Luke Bracey, who actively torments Doss mainly because of his beliefs. The objective of the protagonist is to try to save the wounded soldiers. He says, ‘While everybody is busy taking life I’m going to be saving it.’ The point of attack is when Doss declares his intention and immediately, the Sergeant tells the rest of the soldiers, ‘Private Doss does not believe in violence. Do not look to him to save you in the battlefield.’ Ironically, that is what he ended up doing, saving them. The rising action is when Doss is court martialled and has to stand for his faith. The climax is when the denouement is when the gavel comes down and the judge tells Doss, ‘Private Doss, you are free to run into the hellfire of battle without a single weapon to protect yourself.’ The favorite line is said by Doss, ‘One more, give me one more.’

The climax of the movie comes during the intense battle when one of the tormentors, Smitty is wounded. Before the battle, he hated Desmond and touted him because of his faith but when he is wounded, he looks to him for help. The Theme of the film is staying true to what one believes in, even when it means dying for it. It challenges the audience to carry out their faith with conviction, especially when it is for a noble cause. It is the kind of conviction that goes on to bear fruits that humankind sits down to enjoy. It is for this reason that Hacksaw Ridge is my favorite movie because ‘true heroism does not lie in weaponry, but in a heart that reaches out to the weakest of the weak.’

Those in the supporting role are Vince Vaughn, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Rachel Griffiths, Sam Worthington and Hugo Weaving. His objective was to show that though he believed in war, he did not want to partake in the killing. He later touched a gun, not to kill, when he rolls a blanket over it to enable him to pull the sergeant to safety. On the other hand, the antagonist role is taken by Smitty (Luke Ryker) who had humiliated Doss in the camp. The stock characters include Smitty who represent those people who make life hard for the seemingly weak people. The favorite character is Sergeant Vince because of witty humor even when uncalled for. There are several interesting things about the movie. Desmond said he rescued about 50 people, the witnesses thought they were about a hundred and so the producers put it at 75. The film had a life path of 14 years from conception to the actual shooting. Hal Wallis sought to buy the story from Desmond in 1955, but he refused as he did not want it to be turned into a Hollywood film. The filming took 59 days on Sydney’s dairy farm that was turned into a battlefield. When Dorothy gave the Bible to Desmond, her photo bookmarked a page which features David and Goliath, which strikes an interesting parallel. Some of the shots showing the charging Japanese soldiers are from the film; The Last Samurai.

Hacksaw Ridge Movie

The story unfolds with grotesque pictures which are quite raw and full of graphic details, which are disturbing to the mind. A viewer is treated to a spectacle of chaos, burning bodies, explosions and gruesome pictures of human bodies which are badly torn, carried by stretchers. The earth is full of the red and unsightly flesh of humans, still smoldering after a fiery exchange. Soldiers are running helter-skelter as bullets whiz around them. The scene is bloody and terrifying, probably to prepare the viewer for what to come. Grenades explode all around as soldiers who happen to be nearby are killed. In the background, music is heard as it rises with the sounds of the explosions. Shortly, a voice is heard reciting a bible verse which is in Isaiah 41; 28-31. One soldier is carried in a stretcher as his counterparts, looking visibly horrified look at him and one of them desperately tells him to hang on to his life as they would soon get him out to safety.

The brief scene fades away to reveal a serene and peaceful environment in Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. The viewer sees two rural boys playing in their rural home of Virginia, 16 years earlier. The boys are Desmond and his brother Hal who are playing in the forest running up and down the rocky cliffs. When playing dangerously close to the edge of the cliff, two adults passing at the base of the cliff shout for them to come down but the boys shout back annoyingly. The two passersby give up and one comments that the boys are as crazy as their dad. The scene fades to reveal a man standing in a cemetery talking to some invisible people as he takes alcohol from a bottle and occasionally pours some to the grave. The man, Tom Doss (Hugo Weaving), is the father to the two boys who is a war veteran and an alcoholic. He is affected by the memories of the World War I where he was a soldier. He breaks the bottle on some grave, hurting his hand, which he ties with a handkerchief.

The scene fades and the viewer sees a rural modest home with the two boys fighting dangerously in front of their drunken father who encourages them on. The mother, Bertha Doss, (Rachel Griffiths) hears them fighting and asks the dad what is happening. When asked to make them stop, the dad says that he won’t, as he wanted to whip the one that won. Suddenly, the younger boy takes a brick which is lying nearby and hits his brother unconscious before the mother arrives. The dad gets concerned and reprimands the boy who is visibly shaken. The injured boy is taken inside the house where after some first aid, he regains his consciousness. Young Desmond goes to a room where the Lord’s Prayer is hung and as he is looking at it, the father comes in shouting at him while holding a belt. The boy would have had a good thrashing but the mother intervenes.

The father leaves them and shouts at her, telling her to continue being soft on the boy as if the world will be soft to him. The mother assures the terrified boy that his brother would be alright but she also tells the remorseful son that violating the sixth commandment is the worst thing a person can do. One should never take another man’s life because it makes God angry. Later in the night, the young boys lay awake as they listen to their father shouting at their mother. Desmond wakes up to find his mother crying and she beckons him to sit with her. Young Desmond asks his mother why the dad hated them so, but the mother replies that the dad does not hate them, but he hated himself, sometimes. Another scene opens to show fifteen years later, a church where singers are singing a hymn. Desmond (Andrew Garfield) is cleaning the windows of the church and when asked by his mum how the singing was, he told them that it sounded like a heavenly choir. Shouts and chaos outside the church catch his attention and he rushes out to see a man, probably hit by a car and now was lying stuck under the vehicle. Blood spurts from the injured leg and Desmond quickly remove his belt to tie around the leg and then rushes the victim to Lynchburg Hospital. The doctor commends him because he had saved a life. In another room, a beautiful nurse, Dorothy (Teresa Palmer) catches his attention and he walks toward her. The nurse thinks he has lost direction and tells him that the room was for blood donors. Desmond says that he is waiting for his belt as his trousers would fall without one. He also tells the nurse that he would donate blood. While giving the blood, they talk casually with the nurse and Desmond tells her that he wanted to be a doctor but he had little schooling.

The scene fades to show Doss’s family with Hal and the dad in front of the open vehicle, probably repairing it, while the mother is sitting outside. Desmond comes out of the house and kisses her, bouncing away happily. When asked where he was going, he said that he had met a girl he was going to marry. He walks through the woods to the hospital where he finds Dorothy who calls him the ‘belt man.’ Desmond playfully asks for his blood back and Dorothy tells him he cannot have it back.

Later the two sit in the movie theatre watching a movie and Desmond tells her that she is the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. As they walk outside, a car speeds by almost knocking them down, which scares them. Desmond takes the chance to kiss her but she hits him, saying that he didn’t ask. During supper that night, Hal came into the dining room and found others eating. He said he wanted to enlist in the army and the dad got emotional and started reminiscing about how a fellow soldier got shot, ruining his uniform. He sends Hal out of the room. Desmond takes Dorothy for a walk in the woods and they go to the cliff where they used to play as kids where she allows him to kiss her. It was when Desmond was dropping her in her workplace that he told her that he was going to enlist in the war as a medic, to help the injured soldiers. He says that he could not stay at home while the others went to fight for him. Dorothy cannot take it and rushes out of the vehicle with Desmond following. After some exchange, he asks her to marry him and she agrees because she loved him.

The next scene opens to show Tom in the cemetery where Desmond finds him. As Tom explains about his friends lying in the graves, his son informs him that he had decided to enlist in the army but his father is quite annoyed. Tom tells his son that he will not be able to live with himself if he went but Desmond tells him he would not live with himself if he didn’t. The dad goes on to discourage him telling him that he won’t live to see his ideas come to fruition. However, Desmond will prevail as the next scene opens with an emotional parting of many recruits leaving their loved ones. The vehicle pulls away and travels to Fort Jackson where training would take place.

The next scene opens and Desmond is greeted by an unpleasant scene of chaos, soldiers fighting and naked soldier working out. After a brief introduction, the air is suddenly intercepted by a command from Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) who calls them to attention. Sergeant Howell looks at Desmond and because of his lean frame; he likens him to a stalk of corn but says he had seen better physiques. He tauntingly tells Corporal to ensure that Desmond is kept away from strong winds. It is hilarious as the naked man has no time to cover his nakedness and even when he tries to dress up, Howell calls him a son of an exhibitionist who enjoys showing his private privates, and that he would enjoy basking outside. Howell is at it again when he takes Desmond’s rope and tells him to build a bowline and not a bra. Later, as the soldiers train using ropes to climb, Desmond meets a bully, Smitty Ryker (Luke Bracey) who kicks him and he falls back. Smitty cannot hide his hatred when Doss eventually beats him to the finish line.

The moment of reckoning comes when the soldiers are given a ‘gift’ from the US government, a gun. Sergeant Howell says that it is supposed to bring death and destruction to the enemy. It is supposed to be a soldier’s lover, a mistress, and a concubine which might be the only thing a soldier will ever truly love. Everyone grabs one and only one remains, which is supposed to go to Desmond. He tells Howell that he is not supposed to touch a weapon as it is against his beliefs. He is taken before Captain Glover (Sam Worthington) who lectures him on the issue. Desmond replies that he joins the army as a conscientious objector. The Captain tells him that as long as he is in that camp, he is under his command. Later, Sergeant Howell severely reprimands him for his beliefs in front of the other recruits and sees him as a person who is not ready to defend his country. As Desmond reads his Bible in the room, Smitty grabs it and proceeds to humiliate him by hitting him and telling him to turn the other cheek as the Bible says. Later, Captain asks Desmond if he hears the voice of God speaking to him. Desmond says he is not insane and that he is only different from others. Desmond goes on to defend his faith and mentions the commandment that says ‘do not kill’ when the Captain asks him if it was God that told him not to kill.

As it was hard to kick Desmond out of the camp due to the legitimacy of his course under the constitution, Captain Glover and Sergeant Howell decided to use tactics to make him give up and leave. Desmond was given tough duties such as washing the toilets. He is humiliated in front of others by the Sergeant who says that a unit as weak as the weakest of its member. There was no sabbatical rest for him and was later beaten up while he slept. He refused to point out his aggressors when asked to do so, proving that he was up to their bullying.

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