I love this movie! Regardless your feelings towards Mel Gibson who directed the film, if you enjoy war movies, movies about historical events, or even just courageous people performing heroic deeds, this movie is a must see! Mind you, there is a lot of death, destruction, and carnage as it is set in World War II – Asian theatre, and our hero is a military medic. If that is not your cup of tea then you may want to just do your research on Hacksaw Ridge and Private Doss rather than watch this film.
***SPOILERS***YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED***Private Desmond Doss grew up on the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia in Lynchburg. His father served in World War I and suffered from extreme PTSD. His father would berate and beat his mother which left Desmond and his brother to know only violence as children. One day, Desmond and his brother were fighting and he hit his brother with a brick, knocking him unconscious. This would mark the first pivotal moment in Desmond’s life when he realizes God condemns those who murder.
The next biggest moment in Desmond’s life would come when he saved another man’s life by tourniqueting his leg after an accident. He would also meet his future wife at the hospital the injured man is taken to.
This all leads up to the moment Desmond’s brother enlists in the second World War despite his father’s objections. (Hugo Weaving’s performance and monologue in this moment hit me hard as he recounted losing a friend in the war in a violent fashion.) This seemingly sparks Desmond’s desire to enlist as well, but he refused to carry a weapon.
As Desmond goes through basic training, he continually resists pressure to carry and handle a firearm until finally court marshalled for disobeying a direct order. Desmond (Andrew Garfield) gives a beautifully delivered speech about how he wants to put some of the world back together as we tear it apart, but it is his father in the end that saves him from jail and from dishonorable discharge.
Desmond goes to war without a carrying a weapon and saves as many men as he is able in the first assault on Hacksaw Ridge. His unit is able to climb the rope ladder into literal hell and take over a bunker to hold it overnight. Desmond then reveals why he will never touch a weapon to take life because in a moment of drunk depression when his father weilded a gun at his mother, Desmond fought his father for the weapon and held him at gunpoint. He did not shoot him, but “in his heart, he had killed him”.
By morning, the Japanese were sending in their cavalry to push the Americans off the ridge. Desmond and his unit are overwhelmed and call in an airstrike. Everyone that can descend the rope ladder does save for Private Desmond Doss. He stays on the ridge and lowers 75 wounded men to safety.
After almost 48 hours on that ridge, Desmond makes it back to camp only to be asked to head into hell again 24 hours after because his unit will not go without him. On the second assault, the unit takes the ridge, but Desmond is injured after smacking and kicking granades away from his fellow soldiers.
This man not only had to have had a ton of lucky horseshoes in his back pockets, but he had to have had a whole army of guardian angels at his back. He saved over 75 men who were essentially left for dead on that ridge after the onslaught of opposing military men and friendly airstrikes. This man not only should have a Medal of Honor, but his own wing in the White House or Army base or both. To run staright into hell without carrying a single weapon to defend himself to save others is the most selfless act any one person could perform. Just knowing his story and his amazing act of bravery makes me have a little bit of faith in humanity again, but then I remember that this was World War II era and have to find a more recent example. Wish me luck.