DVD Review - Hacksaw Ridge
Andrew Garfield (The Social Network and The Amazing Spider-Man) stars as Desmond Doss, a young patriot who is also a Seventh-Day Adventist. He wants to be an army medic and help people on the battlefield but he refuses to use or learn to use a gun because he doesn't want to kill people. For about 30 minutes, this movie makes an issue of Desmond's refusal even to touch a rifle or any gun. His refusal to touch a weapon despite wanting to be in the army rises to the level of a court martial.
His stubbornness is so ridiculous that it deserved a bit of exploration. Writers Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight don't really challenge his stubbornness on an intellectual or logical way. Desmond can't have been the first or the only Seventh-Day Adventist to serve in war or maybe he is because most opt not to serve in combat, but even so, why aren't other Adventists asked if Desmond's stubbornness is normal for Adventists to behave?
Aren't Adventists evangelical? Isn't it such that Adventists want not to go against the Ten Commandments but also they want everyone else not to go against the Ten Commandments like the one against killing? If so, how is it that Desmond can be okay with being in a platoon where men are killing and killing in his country's name? There appears to be a cognitive dissonance with Desmond. He won't kill but he's okay with people next to him killing or even killing in his defense.
Another obvious question is if he were President, what would Desmond do about World War II? From the Holocaust to Pearl Harbor, could Desmond order men to war? He doesn't want to kill, but could he order soldiers to kill? If not, does that mean he's okay with the Holocaust or Pearl Harbor happening? If so, what does that say about his values? Desmond can be a conscientious objector because he is in a privileged position. It's easier in a way to carry a man than it is to carry the weight of the world.
It's not to say what he did wasn't brave and heroic because it absolutely was. Yet, I'm not sure what the takeaway is. Desmond is brave and heroic but not any more so than any other soldier. The movie perhaps suggests as much, but even if he is, it's not as if all soldiers can be like Desmond and enter into battlefields unarmed. The values of Desmond therefore are betrayed by the action sequences in this movie, particularly the final one, which almost celebrates American soldiers destroying the Japanese.
Director Mel Gibson doesn't really impress because the bullets, the bombs, the blood and the bodies dead are rather easy. Gore and chaos with flame-throwers to boot aren't that impressive given that the whole thing is just a back-and-forth of gunfire that doesn't progress beyond a single patch of land. Given that this film was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing, I suppose a certain technical craft can't be denied.
This movie has several soldiers with whom we become familiar, but not enough is done with them to have us care whether they lived or died. Luke Bracey (Point Break and The Best of Me) plays Smitty Ryker, the soldier who accuses Desmond of being a coward. Luke Pegler (See No Evil and The Condemned) plays Hollywood Zane, the soldier whom is totally naked in his introduction. Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers and Swingers) plays Sgt. Howell, the tough drill sergeant.
|Luke Pegler (center) in 'Hacksaw Ridge'|
Rated R for graphic sequences of war violence including grisly bloody images and some nudity.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 11 mins.