War is Hell, but “Hacksaw Ridge” certainly isn’t.
The movie follows the story of Desmond Doss, played by Andrew Garfield, a conscientious objector, who nonetheless enlists to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II as a field medic. Doss’s religious beliefs bar him from carrying a weapon or taking a human life, a belief that does not sit well with his superiors and fellow soldiers. The struggle that follows pits Doss against one person after another who treats his moral objection as a sign of cowardice.
The film is a gritty and hellish portrayal of war, and fans of “Saving Private Ryan” will no doubt find many scenes reminiscent of the famous D-day sequence. The anti-war theme is unmistakable, but the movie is compassionate in its portrayal of soldiers, even the fiercest of them are still human.
Telling a war story from a medic’s point of view, the absolute brutality of war is on full display, and the film comes by its R rating honestly. It’s a testament to director Mel Gibson’s skill that in a movie with roughly half of its runtime dedicated to graphic scenes of war, the violence never feels gratuitous or leaves the audience numb to it.
The symbolism is, at times, heavy handed, but can largely be forgiven in a film dealing with such intense and grand subjects.
Garfield’s portrayal takes what could easily have been a too-nice, too-naive depiction and infuses Doss with a real sense of personal conflict and moral weight.
Doss’s story, as the first and only conscientious objector to receive a medal of honor, has long deserved to be told. He has a right to be remembered, and “Hacksaw Ridge” is a fitting tribute.