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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
Action: Grisly
Finish: Satisfying
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.

 

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40 Responses to Movie Review: Hacksaw Ridge

  1. Thou Shalt not Kill has been misinterpreted by many “Christians” sadly.

    The Lord condones killing, he does not condone murder.

    • True, but then there are plenty of ‘Christians’ that believe that Jesus committed a sin when he performed his first miracle. Everybody has the right to believe what they believe.

      • FYI, the original Hebrew word is actually “murder” not “kill”.

        Oh, I almost forgot: harrumph! 8>)

        • True, but I could see the line of logic that going to war is deliberately placing yourself in a position where you have to take a life and therefore isn’t truly self defense. Their definition of ‘murder’ might not be the same as yours.

          Anyway, I was referring to the Christians who think it’s a sin to drink alcohol, yet Jesus first miracle was turning water into wine for a bunch of people who were already pretty well lit up. That one I can’t see the logic in.

          Harrumph!

        • The people I went to church with said it was actually grape juice, and just got translated as wine by King James’s drunken flunkies.

          Harrumph!

        • What did they have to say about Jesus’ enemies brandishing him a glutton and a drunkard? And for that matter, what do they think he passed around at the last supper?

        • The logic I always heard was that The Bible never explicitly bans drinking, but does advise against “becoming drunk”. Most people I met who practiced that part would reason “if I never drink, I can never get drunk, so why risk it?”.

          And as for going to war: God led the jews to war multiple times. David, a man whom God described as “a man after my own heart” got famous for voluntarily killing a man (who was threatening his nation). “Murder” means different things to different people, apparently.

    • If someone is saying genocide is killing but not murder I think the Canaanites, the Midianites, the Amalekites, the Amorites, the people of Jericho, the people of Heshbon, the people of Bashan, the Egyptian Firstborn Sons, the people of Sodom & Gomorrah, the people killed in the Flood, and the approximately 2.3 Billion more people we are told will be killed in Revelation 9:7-19, would disagree.

      As for Mel Gibson, I would really like to see the movie, but hate the idea of contributing to his financial success, and no, I wouldn’t watch a pirated version I could see for free.

      • Like him or hate him, he’s playing the formulaic money machine like a maestro.

        Christian/religious character, lots of the ultraviolence, blood, soldiers. It’s made him a boatload.

  2. This is about as whimsical and fickle as someone can get: I totally lost interest in watching the movie because its name seems to be a copy of another war movie Hamburger Hill. (Hacksaw Ridge … Hamburger Hill)

    It would be like releasing a new movie with an archeological adventure theme called Illinois Smith and the Last Jihad. (Illinois Smith and the Last Jihad … Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)

    • A more reasonable, but still unreasonable imho, argument against this title would be the pre-existence of Clint Eastwood’s Heartbreak Ridge. Both battles are real. It may come as a surprise to you, but battles are often fought over high ground.

    • The story is true and Hacksaw Ridge was the name given to one of the defensive lines (I think the middle one) built by the Japanese to resist the invasion of Okinawa. Basically, they dug an extensive complex of interlocking underground tunnels. They fought from the tunnel mouths while the invading troops were out in the open. Since they were under orders to fight to the end, casualties on both sides were horrific. On the Japanese side, they were nearly 100%. Those casualties influenced the decision to use atomic bombs. If Okinawa was this bad, how much worse would it be to invade the Japanese home islands?

  3. Saw this last night. Sounds like the story was pretty honest to the history but they condensed about 3 weeks of fighting into 2 days. The battle scenes are pretty hard core and everything seemed a lot more frantic than in other films like Saving Private Ryan. Good flick. A must see for anyone who likes realistic portrayals of war.

  4. Nice review(where’s Ralph?). I too know it’s “thou shalt not MURDER”. Mel Gibson has called for gun control (but apparently not impulse control) so he ain’t gettin’ a dime from ME…

    • As far as I know, he has not advocated any specific policy. He just said there was a problem that needed addressing. Lots of us say vague things at times. No need to give up on him yet.

    • He is supposedly ultraconservative politically. Although he is a US citizen by birth, he did spend his formative years in Australia ( from the age of 12 to his mid-20’s ), so maybe he is ultraconservative as far as Australians are concerned.

  5. From the trailers I heard on the radio, Desmond Doss sounded (voice wise) a lot like The Thin Red Line’s Robert Witt.

  6. It is interesting that Mel Gibson has joined the ex- actor turned damn good director club. From a Ron Howard to Clint Eastwood; they really learned lot from the otherside of the camera. He may be even a better director than actor. He has come a long way since “Galipoli.”

  7. 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.”

    That’s where he lost me. I can respect a true pacifist, like Ghandi or those self-immolating Bhudist monks in Vietnam in the 60s, someone willing to die or be imprisoned for those beliefs. This “conscienscious cooperator” B.S., though, is too cute by half.

    There’s no sideline exception allowed, whereby others do the shooting you’re too good for, but agree with. Morally, you don’t get to contribute to the war effort directly, while still claiming a halo for pacifism.

    You certainly don’t get to share the same sentiment for the appliance of violence, while preserving some superiority and purity for not pulling a trigger yourself.

    • Jonathan,

      ” I can respect a true pacifist, like Ghandi …”

      Actually, there is a quote attributed to Ghandi to the effect of: when the Indians gave up their arms to the British, it was the darkest day in India’s history. Apparently, peaceful civil disobedience was plan A and armed revolt was plan B.

        • Well, he was a good tactician who understood his opponent.

          His strategy would not have worked so well against Nazis, Russians or the ChiComs. He weaponized the decency of the British against them.

    • The combat medic is the bravest man on tbe battlefield. Whether he chooses to wear the red cross or not he exposes himself to enemy fire to save lives.

      • I just saw the movie yesterday. I totally respect Desmond Doss and his convictions. And yet as a fellow Christian, I support armed medics and the use of guns in both war and self-defense.

        Sometimes to save lives you have to take lives of the enemy. Aka the bad guys.

  8. It’s worth contemplating that deeply held, sincere beliefs need not have a religious component to be worthy of consideration. Someone may subscribe to a congruent philosophy that does not have a religious component. For example in some places it is easier to get permission to home school your children if you claim some religious motivation. Not wanting to do violence upon others does not require faith in a deity to be a valid and sincerely held belief.

  9. During World War II, the Seventh Day Adventist Church recommended its adherents file as conscientious objectors who would enter the military as noncombatants. Noncombatants would serve as medics, but would not bear arms.

    Seventh Day Adventists also volunteered during the early 1950’s as guinea pigs in the Army’s biological research programs.

    Despite the lofty ideals of service proclaimed by some volunteers, Spectrum magazine argued that the majority of Adventists volunteered for medical research for more pragmatic reason—primarily the desire to stay in the United States. Others wished to further their medical knowledge or avoid Sabbath confrontations, while some were encouraged to join by friends and family.

  10. “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.”

    Paul Kersey of the “Death Wish” movies was a Conscientious Objector, war hero unarmed medic, who promised his momma he wouldn’t touch guns no more as a teen. Then after his wife was murdered he started thumping muggers in the head with a weighted sock. When a socking of a young strong mugger went bad, he remembered a client giving him a revolver as a gift, and decided shooting criminals might work better than socking them…

  11. Bill OReilly’s book “Killing the Rising Sun” talks about Doss and some of his actions; gun, no gun, I think the mans actions spoke a heck of a lot louder than his words.
    But I’m still not going to see the movie, it would spoil my streak of about 20yrs of not going to see a movie.

  12. If for some reason you don’t believe in killing, but believe in the cause you can always become a medic. They’re as necessary as necessary can be, and a braver bunch can’t be found.

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