Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
“Help me get one more.”
Even the worst horror can’t make me look at the screen with disgust. But the moment one of these American soldiers set his hand on a seemingly lifeless body, a hysterical scream sounded and all hell broke loose, it did. The image of that unfortunate soldier whose body is torn to pieces by a devastating hail of bullets, took my breath away abruptly. And that’s the start of a brutal and bloody narrative. Yet another unknown story, doomed to disappear in the annals of this terrible great world war. Again the story is infused with some goody-goody events. Plus it has a high “outcast becomes ultimate hero” level. But that’s the only criticism I can think of. For the rest, this is an emotionally shattering film.
A horrifying spectacle.
The film immediately begins with a slow motion footage of the battlefield. A chaotic war scene. Infantrymen are shot to pieces. Japanese soldiers are running towards a certain dead. Disemboweled bodies. A pile of mangled corpses. And when there’s a sign of life, they are mercilessly burned with a flamethrower. After a while you wonder if this isn’t a bit exaggerated. But then again, for those who weren’t there, it’s difficult to imagine the hell these soldiers were in. And even while sitting safely in your lazy chair watching this horrifying spectacle, the realistic sound effects and gruesome images will make you shit your pants out of sheer anguish for sure. And this, my friends, was just a foretaste.
To war without a weapon.
“Hacksaw Ridge” jumps back in time after this introduction. Back to the rustic rural life in Virginia where Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) grew up. His pacifism was sparked the day he nearly killed his brother after hitting him in the head with a heavy brick. But he wants to serve his country and voluntarily signs up for the army. His family felt as though they have been hit by a bomb (no pun intended). Especially his father Tom (Hugo Weaving) , an ex-soldier who survived the 1st world war.
When it turns out that Desmond stubbornly continues to refuse to touch a weapon, his training becomes a series of harassment by fellow soldiers and the military command does everything to get rid of him. But a verdict is delivered by the court-martial, after an ultimate interference by his father, stating that he may serve his country without taking up arms. So armed with nothing but a pocketsized bible Desmonds he’s off to the front. Hell on the island of Okinawa.
Two contrasting parts.
“Hacksaw Ridge” is divided into two contrasting parts. On the one hand the cozy, peaceful first part where the sprightly Desmond tries to seduce his future wife and where he enrolls after which he starts his training. And on the other the bloody battle on the island of Okinawa. Actually it’s almost the same format as used in “Full metal jacket“. The stereotype of the average medic serving in a war, whose job is to take care of the wounded on the battlefield, is being refined here in no time. That image of the huddled, frightened soldier with a red cross on his helmet is replaced by a heroic, self-sacrificing soldier who would walk through fire for his fallen comrades. And this image is reinforced by the figure Desmond, a conscientious objector who’s running around the battlefield like a Speedy Gonzales and rescues abandoned soldiers who were doomed to die there. Unfortunately, this message was just a little bit exagerated in my opinion.
It’s not only the images of this war that’ll leave an impression on you, but also the rather magnificent acting. Andrew Garfield plays in a convincing way the devout and sometimes seemingly naive Desmond. By smiling constantly in a retarded way, it looks as if he isn’t right in his mind (No wonder he joined the army voluntarily). In addition, we see a few brilliant supporting roles such as the one from Vince “Term Life” Vaughn (again proof he can play something different than a goofy not-so-funny part) as drill sergeant Howell and Hugo Weaving as Desmond’s father.
But most impressive is the fact that this is all based on true facts and that Desmond Doss was the first conscientious objector who was awarded the “Medal of Honor” for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action”.
The stupidity of mankind.
In my opinion this film primarily showcases stupidity of mankind. A portrait of the madness during this World War. The senseless waste of young lives while trying to conquer an insignificant rock (A bit like “Hamburger Hill“. Only in reverse). I’m convinced that many of those heroic soldiers were asking themselves what the hell they were doing there at that time. I bet they didn’t see the point anymore of this whole operation. But stop the lingering. Orders are orders. Forward, straight ahead meeting your own demise. Madness!