Hacksaw Ridge

After some consideration, I have decided I’m going to do something new. In addition to poetry, stories, and blogging, I’m going to write book and movie reviews on my website as well. I will generally keep these reviews spoiler-free, and of course I will give a spoiler alert beforehand if I do discuss specific plot elements.

For my first review, I will discuss what is hands-down my favorite new movie I’ve seen this year: Hacksaw Ridge.

Hacksaw Ridge is, in summary, the story of a young man who decides to enlist in the army during World War II. However, this man, Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), is a conscientious objector: he refuses to touch a gun, arguing that he is constitutionally allowed to join the army as a combat medic without having to learn how to use a rifle. This, of course, is a very unpopular view, and Desmond meets stiff opposition from both his peers and his commanding officers. He is told, more than once, to “stop this joke” and to give in to the system, but Desmond steadfastly and respectfully refuses. Eventually, despite a near court-martialing, Desmond manages to join an army unit that is deployed in the Pacific Theatre. There, he witnesses the horrors of war firsthand as he struggles to fulfil his duty as a combat medic while also remaining true to his religious beliefs against carrying arms.

Throughout the movie, there are several powerful moments that I keep coming back to and pondering. During the court martial scene, Desmond is asked why he is so intent on serving, and gives a powerful reply that never ceases to give me chills:

“It isn’t right that other men should fight and die, that I would just be sittin’ at home safe. I need to serve … while everybody else is takin’ life I’m gonna be savin’ it. With the world so set on tearin’ itself apart, it don’t seem like such a bad thing to me to want to put a little bit of it back together.”

The film is excellent on all accords. The characters are believable and well-developed, the acting is excellent, and the dialogue is well-written. The story takes the viewer on an emotional journey. There were moments of comedy, especially in the character of Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn); moments of heart-wrenching bittersweet tension with Desmond’s father (Hugo Weaving); scenes of tender affection between Desmond and his fellow soldiers; and an overarching theme of the gruesomeness of war. A word of warning: Hacksaw Ridge does not downplay the horrors of war, and there are frequent grotesque images. Since Desmond is a combat medic, a lot more focus is placed into the injuries of the wounded than in other war films, and as such, there are many visceral scenes. As much as I love the movie, I will say that it is not for those with a weak stomach.

I really have no complaints with this film. Admittedly, Desmond’s relationship with Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer) is a bit rushed. But honestly, when isn’t a relationship rushed in a two-hour movie? For the story to fit into the constraints of a two-hour film, Desmond’s and Dorothy’s relationship has to be established early on, and considering this, I think that the relationship is handled well and is well-written.

I have only watched the movie twice, but both times, I have laughed, cried (and cried…and cried), and found myself in a deeply reflective state. It is not a lighthearted movie, but it is incredibly good. I highly encourage you to watch this film. All around, I’d have to say that Hacksaw Ridge is a solid ten out of ten.