Reader BK writes:
I never served in the military. In fact, the most I can say is that I am a veteran of many a war movie. But Hacksaw Ridge, just like the Pacific campaign in World War II, is a whole ‘nother (movie) theater of war.
What makes it different: its real-life hero, Desmond Doss, is a conscientious objector (“I like to think of myself as more of a conscientious cooperator,” he tells his commanding officer). He feels bound by God never to touch a weapon. Doss is a patriot who takes the bombing of Pearl Harbor personally, yet as a Seventh Day Adventist, he seeks to honor his commitment to the Lord and his interpretation of “thou shalt not kill.”
This places him in a unique position: caught between his role as an American who loves his country and believer who would rather be court martialed and sent to Leavenworth than act contrary to God’s will for his life. The movie version of Doss (Andrew Garfield), just like the actual man, was beaten, ridiculed, punished and called a coward because of his beliefs. As a gun-totin’ Baptist, I may not fully agree with his theology but I can’t call Doss a coward.
So the hero refuses to touch a gun. And yet, it’s not an anti-gun movie. In fact, it’s extremely pro-liberty and I’d argue it’s not a stretch to say anything that it’s also pro-2A.
Director Mel Gibson goes to great pains to show Doss as a patriot. He has zero qualms about the war against Japan, and is very clear that though he personally doesn’t want to handle a weapon, he’s A-OK with his brothers in arms being, well, “in arms.” He believes in their cause and wants to help in his own way.
Thanks to laws and a Constitution that protect religious expression and exercise, military officials reluctantly determined that freedom of conscience can trump a direct order to pick up a rifle and fire. The charges against Doss were dropped. His Bible in his breast pocket, Doss stormed the cliffs of Okinawa as a combat medic next to those who mocked him and questioned his patriotism. It will come as no surprise that he would be called upon to save their lives.
What I like here is that while Doss may refuse to touch that M1 Garand when his Sergeant presents it to him during basic training, he doesn’t project his conviction onto others. He’s no gun grabber. They’re his beliefs, his convictions, and his choices, not others’. They’re free to load the clip, make it go BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG PING and take out as many Japanese as they can. He’s willingly to sacrifice himself, to do his part to help by patching up those who fall along the way. Doss may be a self-professed uneducated redneck, but he’s smart enough to see that his personal motivations don’t apply to everyone.
It’s a good thing too, because some of you are itching to hear about the guns that everyone else gets to shoot during this thing. Well, the gang’s all here: M1 Garands, M1 Carbines, BARs, Thompsons, a 1911 here and there, and the belt-fed M1919 machine gun. Vince Vaughn’s character carries an M3 grease gun that seemingly carries 1,000 round in its short stick mag and gets a lot of screen time. We also get a few decent looks at the Japanese soldiers’ kit, including the Arisaka 99 (bayonets included), and a Type 96 machine gun.
On top of its inspiring story and pro-liberty message, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is also a good movie. You may or may not like Gibson’s politics, but the man is a competent filmmaker. Garfield’s silly grin and molasses accent are a winning combination. Hugo Weaving is terrifying as Doss’s damaged father, and Vaughn has fun as the gruff and impatient drill sergeant. The crowd in my opening night theater applauded over the closing credits. In fact, my biggest complaint is that the entire cast is in desperate need of haircuts.
Hacksaw Ridge is rated R “for intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence including grisly bloody images.” That’s an understatement. As I mentioned, I’ve seen many a war film and this surpasses them all in terms of violence. Though the carnage isn’t glamourized, the sight of that many missing limbs, exploding heads, and dangling intestines will be too much for many.
SPECIFICATIONS: Hacksaw Ridge
Model: Hacksaw Ridge
Caliber: N/A He doesn’t touch a gun, remember?
Length: 133 minutes
Price: $45 million
RATINGS (out of five bullets):
Style * * * *
Gibson knows what he’s doing.
Reliability: * * *
It would have been more realistic if Andrew Garfield had visited the company barber.
Overall: * * * *
Regardless of Doss’s aversion to weapons, pro-liberty is pro-gun.