Even 70 years after the end of the Second World War, there are amazing stories to be told. Hacksaw Ridge was the nickname for the Maeda Escarpment, a location on Okinawa Island defended ferociously by the Japanese against American attack, and this film depicts the heroic tale of Desmond Doss who saved an incredible number of lives in that assault.
What gives the narrative extra poignancy is that he was a devout Seventh Day Adventist and a conscientious objector who refused to touch, let along fire, a gun but overcame great prejudice to complete his training as a combat medic. He was credited with saving the lives of 75 infantrymen on the escarpment and while on the island he himself was wounded four times. He received the Medal of Honor for his bravery, the only conscientious objector to received the award.
As you would expect from formerly-disgraced Mel Gibson as a director, this work is firmly in the ‘war is hell’ category and immensely patriotic, but it is an astonishing piece of film-making. If you thought that the beginning of “Saving Private Ryan” was hard viewing, the second half of “Hacksaw Ridge” is much tougher with body parts and guts splaying all over the battlefield and many victims still alive with appalling injuries.
In the central role, British actor Andrew Garfield gives a convincing and nuanced performance that firmly enhances his career, taking him much further than the “Spiderman” franchise. Among the supporting cast, Hugo Weaving as Doss’s abusive father stands out in a role a million miles from his appearances in “The Matrix” movies.