Hacksaw Ridge

Last night I saw the excellent Hacksaw Ridge at the cinemas. It is the true story of Private Desmond Doss in WW2 whose faith-based convictions precluded him from touching a weapon but didn’t stop him going to war as a medic. He was determined to serve “God and country”, despite the opposition he would encounter, first from his fellow countrymen and then the enemy on the battlefield.

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This review contains spoilers so read no further if you intend on watching (warning: very heavy on the gore… possibly the bloodiest war movie I’ve ever seen).

Private Desmond Doss’ unit was attempting to take the heavily fortified 350-foot high Maeda Escarpment (“Hacksaw Ridge”) in Okinawa.

Japanese forces were deeply entrenched on the island, hammering American troops from caves and tunnels, in addition to setting booby traps. Private Desmond Doss and his battalion were ordered to ascend a jagged 350-foot escarpment called the Maeda Escarpment, which was heavily fortified with Japanese defenders

After horrendously bloody fighting his unit managed to take the area. The minor victory was short-lived as a counter-attack the following morning, with overwhelming forces, pushed them off the ridge. Around 40 men made it off the ridge a hundred or more remained on the ridge, wounded and dying. Doss stayed behind on the ridge alone over night to rescue men, under enemy fire.

Single-handedly Doss rescued and then lowered to safety approximately 75 men, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military honor in the US.

Too bloody?

I’ve said this is the bloodiest movie I’ve ever seen. It’s been a while since I watched Saving Private Ryan, but I’m pretty sure this beats it hands-down. That takes some beating.

In doing a little bit of Googling, I found one review (apparently from an Army officer) which criticised the level of gore. He worries that its war porn, a one-upmanship for the purpose of titillating the audience.

My opinion is a little different. I would agree with him if Gibson’s intention was simply shock-factor entertainment. If however the violence is an accurate reflection of the event then I thank Gibson for not diluting it for audience consumption.

War is horrific. It is people being asked – nay, conditioned – to do things that they wouldn’t otherwise choose to do. It is removing civility and restraint in the hope that one side can conquer the opposing force. War should be the last option and if graphically reminding the audience of why we don’t want war helps to hold one off, then I’m all for it. I’d take that any day, over the glorified Hollywood account which we used to get.

U.S. soldiers who were involved in the battle to take the ridge recall stacking the bodies of fallen Americans as high as they could reach and wading through 200 yards of mud puddles that were saturated with blood. The machine gun fire was sometimes so thick that men would be cut in half. -The Conscientious Objector Documentary

Further, in this day and age heroes seem in short supply. So to are people who say what they mean, and mean what they say. Desmond Doss was both of these and he thoroughly deserves the recognition that this movie brings.

There is no better way to end this post that to let Doss tell it himself,

The real Desmond Doss considers it a miracle that he made it off the ridge on Okinawa. “When you have explosions and bursts so close you can practically feel it, and not get wounded up there when I should have been killed a number of times. I know who I owe my life to as well as my men. That’s why I like to tell this story to the glory of God, because I know from the human standpoint, I should not be here.” The true story reveals that he spent 12 hours up on the ridge rescuing the men, averaging one man every 10 minutes. -Medal of Honor: Oral Histories

(All quoted information is taken from sources mentioned in http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/hacksaw-ridge/. I thoroughly recommend as further reading also reading this after seeing the movie as it has some incredible information. It seems the story was even more incredible, but Mel Gibson left it out because audiences wouldn’t believe it).

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