It is not often where a hero saves lives without taking any, but this is the case in the recent film Hacksaw Ridge with Andrew Garfield portraying Desmond Doss, in the true account of his heroics in World War II.
Doss was a Seventh-Day Adventist who took the commandment not to kill seriously and didn’t allow for any different interpretations of this, vowing to never even touch a gun. The inspiration for this covenant came from an encounter with his alcoholic father.
It is a war film, and has the depth and grittiness that those films typically hold, but Hacksaw Ridge also holds romance and comedy. Teresa Palmer plays Doss’ love interest, Dorothy Schutte. It is a love story that could have filled the entire film, and remained just as compelling. It is a dichotomy that may have faulted in other films, but with the real nature of this story, it served to illustrate the true peaks and valleys of Doss’ life.
Though the film is directed by Mel Brooks, and isn’t one of those corny, overtly religious films, the philosophy, theology, and iconography of religion play center stage. Doss’ Christian beliefs are constantly being played against those of his comrades, and serves as a challenge to the soldiers who are killing without question of the implications it has on their faith. It creates a stress that many today couldn’t completely connect with. Today modern culture frowns on our ancestors vilifying the cultures and ethnicities of those they were fighting against, yet the film highlights the need of the deeply Christian society to see the enemy as nearly demonic to justify their killing of them. The religion of the Japanese soldiers also comes into play, as the American soldiers are confronting their unrelenting, nearly inhuman, attacks with little care to their survival.
The film has already garnered success with it receiving a 10 minute standing ovation at it’s premier at the Venice Film Festival, and is already in talks for award season. I truly enjoyed this authentic look at a unique and important war story. What’s most surprising is that it maintained all of this while casting Vince Vaughn as a sergeant, if that doesn’t convince you of it’s merits than nothing will.