Coming to theatres is a courageous story of another kind with director Mel Gibson and Lionsgate bringing determination on HACKSAW RIDGE.
Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) is a young man living the small town life in Lynchburg, Virginia. Growing up with brother Harold (Nathaniel Buzolic) proved to be a challenge at times but more of a challenge is living with father Tom (Hugo Weaving). A man clearly defined by a war he fought in, both brothers and mother Bertha (Rachel Griffiths) deal with his outbursts.
When a friend is seriously hurt, Doss takes control of the situation and gets him to the hospital. There he is intrigued by the doctors, tools of healing and a nurse named Dorothy (Teresa Palmer). Deciding she was a woman to marry, he also has the task of informing everyone that joining the Army as a medic was something he had to do.
Knowing his father was already upset about Harold joining the service; it doesn’t change his position even when Dorothy begs him not to go. Determined to serve his country as World War II becomes even more dangerous, Doss is sent to training where Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) discovers Doss is a Conscientious Objector.
Refusing to kill people or to pick up a gun, Doss stands firm on his convictions and is brought up on charges by Captain Glover (Sam Worthington). Surprised at who defends him, Doss is allowed to go forward with medic training and arrives at the Battle of Okinawa to a place nicknamed Hacksaw Ridge.
Doss, along with Smitty (Luke Bracey), Lucky Ford (Milo Gibson), Andy (Goran D. Kleut), Vito (Firass Dirani), Jessop (Ben O’Toole), Milt (Luke Pegler) Wal (Nico Cortez), and Irv (Ori Pfeffer), climb up a rock wall that leads them face to face with the Japanese.
On that ridge a continual brutal battle will change the hearts and minds of those who never truly understood the beliefs of one simple man.
The story of Desmond Doss has been the subject of a book called The Unlikeliest Hero and a documentary entitled The Conscientious Objector (although in the film he refers to himself as a Conscientious Defender). Doss was also the subject in a comic published by Dark Horse in the Medal of Honor Special that also featured recipient Lt. Charles Williams.
In 1945, Desmond Doss received the Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty from April 29-May 21, 1945 while serving with the Medical Detachment, 307th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division, in action at Urasoe Mura, Okinawa, Ryukyu Island….Pfc. Doss carried 75 casualties one-by-one to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands.” That is only a fraction of what this man did under conditions that are not to be believed.
He also received the Bronze Star with one oak leaf cluster and a Purple Heart with two oak leaf clusters along with 9 other medals and decorations. HACKSAW RIDGE is a story of heroism to be sure but also belief, conviction, loyalty, courage and every other descriptor one could think of regarding such a man.
Mel Gibson took on the directorial duties to tell this fascinating story. It has been ten years since his directorial release of APOCALYPTO and the controversial THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST in 2004. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t busy acting in films such as EDGE OF DARKNESS (2010), the quirky THE BEAVER (2011), playing Voz in MACHETE KILL (2013) and recently BLOOD FATHER.
It has been a difficult road for Gibson the last few years because a star can rise in Hollywood but can fall at the speed of light. Working his way back with HACKSAW RIDGE, Gibson takes on the heroism and courage not just of Doss, but all of the men that serve in war.
So why HACKSAW RIDGE? Mel Gibson says, “I thought it was a very inspiring true story and I jumped on board. Doss was an ordinary man doing extraordinary things in incredibly difficult circumstances. All of this has the makings of legendary story telling. That is what inspired me to tell the story of all of these heroes. As far as the religious undertones of the film at the epicenter of any religion is love – that’s it, love.”
Playing the very sweet character of Desmond Doss, Andrew Garfield explains why he took the role, “I got the script and it killed me to read about what this man did and who he was. The struggles with the Army touched me and were extremely compelling. Doss takes no credit for what he did which speaks to the man that he is. He never wanted a movie made about himself. How do you make a movie about someone who doesn’t want a movie made about him? You try to infuse it with his essence and humility and make it about the divine help he got and the love in his heart.”
Watching Doss stand up for his convictions puts the tension on the characters of Captain Glover played by Sam Worthington and Sgt. Howell played by Vince Vaughn. Trying to force Doss out, they turn to the other men serving with him as Luke Bracey playing Smitty pushes every button possible on the Conscientious Objector.
HACKSAW RIDGE is not for the faint of heart. The first half of the film tells the story of Doss and his beginning troubles with the military, it is the second half of the film that is intense. Having screened the film I spent many of the battle scenes with my jaw dropped. I was definitely taken out of any comfort zone I had and thrown into what could only be described as an inkling of what the real Desmond Doss experienced.
Yet through it all I was constantly amazed at the performance of Garfield as Doss because it wasn’t as if this man was trying to be a super hero. That is not my take on it at all; instead this was a man who wanted to be of service to his country in his own way and also to help the brave men who were fighting.
As Doss says, “with the world so set on tearing itself apart, it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing to me to put a little bit of it back together”. No Pfc. Doss, it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing at all.
Opening November 4th in theatres, experience the courage of one man’s convictions when it comes to HACKSAW RIDGE.