Hacksaw Ridge is an American war movie, directed by Mel Gibson and released in 2016. It is based on the life of the military medic Desmond Doss. Desmond grew up in a small village in Virginia. His father had fought in the first world war and had become an aggressive drunk, who uses violence against his family members. As an young adult Desmond decides that he wants to join the army as a medic. Since he has been through a lot of violence in his youth and because of his religion, he doesn't want to carry a gun and kill people. He is a Seventh-day Adventist, and strongly believes in “Thou shalt not kill”. During military training he is not accepted by the other soldiers, they think that he is a coward. But he still goes to the battle of Okinawa together with his unit. The Americans fight for Hacksaw Ridge, an area on the top of a steep cliff. Desmond acts as a true hero, by helping everyone as a medic while risking his own life. Ultimately, the Americans win the battle. At the end of the movie clips are shown of the real Desmond Doss.
In this short essay I will discuss how the war is portrayed in this movie. At first it seems like this is a movie against war. whereas unlike in other war movies, the war is not glorified. The cruelty and horrors of war are bluntly shown. We see images of corpses with their guts out, bodies blown apart and soldiers on fire. Because of this you really get a feeling how horrible war must have been. Binns and Ryder (2015) argue that the advanced cinematography leads to experiencing a war movie as more realistic. Even to the extent that a modern movie like Saving Private Ryan is seen as a more realistic portrayal of war than documentary footage of the real event. The cinematography in especially the battle scenes in Hacksaw Ridge is very good, it makes the war look very realistic and it conveys the horror of war. The carnage is so well filmed that it leaves you silent and shocked, just like as the writer describes in Saving Private Ryan.
We also see soldiers who were acting really tough during military training losing courage. Also we see how damaged Desmond’s father is because of the first world war. He is very much against war, because he has been through all the horrors and has lost a lot of friends. However the ending of the movie is somewhat portrayed as a glorious victory. Glorious music is playing while we see the americans slaughtering many of the japanese soldiers until the battle is won.
Desmond self is also in a conflicting position when it comes to his opinion on war. On the one hand he is pro war and decides to enlist and fight for his country, but on the other hand he is against killing people and does not even want to touch a weapon. This makes me wonder if this movie could have been shown in the cinema if it was during the second world war. In this time the government carefully controlled what could be filmed and what not. A lot of propaganda was used. Cinema was a means of war, it could be used to boost fighting spirit (Carruthers, 2011). A movie like this might not have been able to be filmed during that time. Because it does show all the horrors of war, which may result in less people willing to enlist. Or it may lead to more people being negative towards war and violence.