WHY HACKSAW RIDGE IS ONE OF MY NEW FAVOURITE MOVIES I'm very grateful to have been given the chance to see an advance screening of this new WWII drama. I knew the story of Desmond Doss, I had heard interviews and watched the trailers, and I was, admittedly, determined to appreciate this film. At the same time, I was a little apprehensive, because the subject matter is so important, it would have been tragic if the movie was not an "A" grade movie. I'm happy to say, this movie is an A+. Here are five reasons why Hacksaw Ridge is now one of my new favourite movies of all time...
1. Hacksaw Ridge Entertains. Hacksaw Ridge excels as a work of entertainment, as it should. This is, after all, the entertainment industry and for a movie to succeed, it needs to be entertaining along with whatever else it hopes to accomplish. This movie takes its time to tell a good story, inviting us in to a beautiful world of principle and priorities, a painful world of family tension, and the horrible world of war.
2. Hacksaw Ridge Inspires. Whether someone is a Christian or not, this movie points the way toward the power of living according to our convictions, especially when our convictions are rooted in our love of God and the people God loves.
3. Hacksaw Ridge tells the truth. We humans are designed to be encouraged, edified, and motivated to move forward in life by more than just lofty ideas - we need examples. We always benefit when ideas and theories materialize in the world through a life well lived. We need the word to become flesh. This story of Private Desmond Doss is true and this is the kind of true tale we require to help us wrap our minds and hearts around some pretty lofty ideals like peace, nonviolence, bravery, enemy-love, and self-sacrifice. The snippets of real life interviews with some of the main characters at the end of the film are pure gold. They remind us all that, amazing as this story is, it is rooted in real life and was lived out by real people.
4. I needed a good cry. I haven't cried like this before in a war movie (and I've seen a lot of war movies). I cried because war is sad, yes. I also cried because I was so grateful to feel like I was getting to know a great man through the film, and was overwhelmed with a sense of privilege. I cried because I felt filled with gratitude, that finally this perspective was being portrayed. I cried because the violence of war was contrasted with one man's high value of human life, which kept pulling me out of the horrific violence to think, to evaluate, to wake up again and again to the real sorrow of war. Image-bearers of God, having lost their way, destroying one another.
5. Hacksaw Ridge is a conversation we need to have. Hacksaw Ridge is a conversation in a can: just open and serve. This is a relevant conversation for everyone, Christian and non-Christian. What did Jesus actually teach? What do his teachings actually mean? What is the overall implications of the story of the Bible, start to finish? What does it mean to be a peacemaker, more than *not* being violent? How can pacifists be known, not just for not doing something bad, but for doing so much good?
I hope you see this movie, and really see it. Then I hope you think, ponder, pray, and talk about it. For us today, the implications may be less about "how should Christ-followers behave during wartime" and more about "how should Christ-followers behave. Period." Because "love your enemy" takes practice.
I walked into the viewing of HACKSAW RIDGE with a particular bias. I served in Okinawa as a US Army trained Combat Medic, and like Desmond Doss was also a conscientious objector. However this was in 1965 (20 years after Doss) and the war was in Vietnam.
I was very familiar with Battle of Okinawa, and had heard various accounts from local survivors of the war, and even a Japanese Army Officer who said he took part in the battle for Maeda Escarpment (Hacksaw Ridge). I had toured the actual battleground and concluded no single medic could have accomplished such an extraordinary feat without divine intervention.
So I was curious to see how Hollywood would depict the main character. After all, lead actors in war movies are typically portrayed as powerful warriors that are willing to mane or kill with little remorse for the sake of the mission. Could a Hollywood film depict this tragic incident and present the hero as a non-combatant Christian? Could they show this war realistically? Could they portray the men and women who participated in this war as human beings and not as caricatures? And what, ultimately, would the message of the film be? I was eager to find out.
First off, I was shocked at how perfectly the Director, Mel Gibson, and his crew portrayed this world. This is about as close as you can get to war without going through one. So my hat is off to Gibson and his crew for their fine attention to detail and for getting all that to look so real. I was also quite pleased with the portrayals of every character in the film. They're all human, no matter if you see them as the hero or the villain in the story.
In the real world I see laughing, joking, and teasing among people no matter where I go, and this film perfectly captures that. After effectively making us care about the characters and fully understanding the impending disaster, we then see the incidents take place. It is quite spectacular and you will often be holding your breath.
HACKSAW RIDGE realistically and respectfully depicts the bloodiest battle of WWII in Okinawa. The film has the power to make audiences think and potentially change the way war is viewed. Hopefully all for the better.
There is much more I could say about my experience in Okinawa and the long-term impact for good I believe Desmond Doss had on the Island after 20+years, on its inhabitants, and on the attitude of the US Military toward conscientious objectors; but I'll share that in a future blog.
"Thank you so much for the invitation to see this transformational film. We were riveted to the screen through this moving portrayal of a dedicated Seventh-day Adventist soldier. My wife, Ann and I in 35 years have never been to the movies, but we felt it important and even historical to attend this one. It made us laugh, cry, and at times hold our breath. We were never more thankful to belong to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Thank you again."
"After seeing Hacksaw Ridge at a recent screening, I am left with these thoughts: The battle scenes are what I would call beautifully horrific. They set the tone for what Desmond experienced on Hacksaw Ridge. I had more appreciation for the selfless acts Desmond had performed for his fellow soldiers, over and over again! It shouldn't go unnoticed how many times he went back for the men, who had mistreated him in training, without giving it a second thought.
Desmond was just like you see in the documentary, The Conscientious Objector, very humble. He seemed the opposite of what one would think a war hero would be. Desmond talked about his actions in a matter of fact way, giving all the glory to God. To look at Desmond and his small 150-pound frame, you would never believe he could have accomplished what he did on Hacksaw Ridge. For me, the movie brought it together.
This story is important for many reasons. First, it is a story about holding true to who you are. In times when most men would comprise, Desmond never faltered. Second, as a Christian, it shows what real faith looks like – it doesn't waiver in the face of adversity, no matter how heinous it may be. Finally, for humanity, Desmond's story tells us how we should treat our fellow man, no matter the circumstance. What a world this would be if we all followed Desmond's lead!"
" I saw Hacksaw Ridge last night in Colorado Springs. Wow! A super-fantastic presentation. Not for the faint of heart, but exceptionally realistic of military life, combat, and individual values and spirituality. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it a 12. It truly depicts Desmond Doss and his life, and what a real hero is as opposed to the Mutant Ninja Turtles or some other fantasy characters. This is the REAL deal.
I also appreciate the emphasis on PTSD and military appreciation. The religious and faith issues are well entwined in the whole story, but the result is not just a story, but a movement to appreciate military people, to show non-military folks a bit of combat reality, to promote healing through faith, values, personal choice, and in addressing PTSD. Gibson has created a masterpiece."
This is the most positive portrayal of a Christian in a mainstream film that I have seen since Chariots of Fire. This film is about Medal of Honor winner Desmond Doss, a committed believer in Jesus Christ who is credited with saving 75 lives in a matter of hours during the WWII battle at Hacksaw Ridge in Okinawa. Hacksaw Ridge is a war movie, and is graphic and realistic. However, the big story of this film is about a man who stood by his convictions as a follower of Jesus Christ and showed incredible courage at the risk of his own life. I can't wait to see it in the theater!
"Reynir and I were utterly blown away by this movie. It took everything out of me-- it drew me in just that much! I've never been so emotionally drained by a movie like I was with this one. Amazing, horrific, exquisitely beautiful, profoundly moving, inspiring to the nth degree.... Bill Mechanic and his team have created a veritable work of art that is all the more so for being so full of truth and courage. The casting couldn't have been more perfect--the Doss character never is overplayed--he maintains the understated dignity and humanity of a common man who suddenly is placed in an uncommon circumstance that calls on his highest ethical powers.
As you know, I avoid violence in movies like the plague, but I came away understanding how necessary the graphic footage was in order to understand the moral magnitude of Doss' actions. The viewer asks him/herself "Who in their right mind would walk into THAT without any protection?" In the end, it is ironically and compellingly evident that Doss walked into the theater of war far better armed than his fellow soldiers.
Nor does this movie come across as a "Christian" movie--it's so much more than that. It's about the human capacity for moral greatness in the face of seemingly impossible and insurmountable odds. In the end, Desmond Doss comes across as a hero for all seasons and faiths."