We see lots of movies with great derring-do, but rarely do we see a movie that actually depicts the true-life heroism of an actual American hero. Desmond T. Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist who could not in good conscience pick up a rifle found another way to serve his country and his fellows. He became a combat medic.
Doss was a Medal of Honor recipient ... “As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machine gun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Pfc. Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying all 75 casualties one-by-one to the edge of the escarpment ...”
Imagine that, carrying 75 men to safety, one at a time, through a storm of shot and shell so fierce that the other soldiers were driven from the field.
Double Oscar winner Mel Gibson directs as he has directed other amazing films like “The Passion of the Christ,” “Braveheart” and “Apocalypto.” Writers Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan are best known for their many scripts for TV. The writers’ tall task is to write the dialog and the story that shows Doss for what he is, a man of faith from a rural area, but without mocking him or making him seem mawkish. These two TV guys manage to do it. They also take the time in their script to develop the life history of Doss. When he shows his amazing heroism we have a sense of the man, so his acts do not seem disconnected from the person.
Andrew Garfield (“Amazing Spider-man”) plays the leading role. His Doss is humble, strong in his beliefs and when the need arose, for a period of a few days in his life, called upon his God for strength to save the lives of others and was answered. His fellow soldiers called his success a miracle. He is backed up by Teresa Palmer (“Warm Bodies”) as his girl, a very good Vince Vaughn as the company sergeant and Sam Worthington.
“Hacksaw Ridge” runs for a good long two hours and 11 minutes. It carries an R rating for realistic violence. Gibson is known as a director for holding nothing back in terms of realistic carnage and he holds nothing back here. The movie gets the R for violence — be warned. The producers made the four saw blade film with a smallish for Hollywood $40 million.
Doss also received the Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster and the Purple Heart with two oak leaf clusters (the clusters signify multiple awards). His citation singled him out for “outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty.” Truly he represents the best of the “Greatest Generation.”
On a side note for movie buffs, the period equipment and weaponry is spot on. Gibson had excellent advisers and scroungers on his team. The American arms are all in period as they should be and even the Japanese weapons are authentic to the period.