Movie Review: Hacksaw Ridge

A few things before I begin:

I was just hired to work at a warehouse moving boxes and packing things. I will be there mornings for four days out of the week. As a result I am forced to make concessions for my writing activities.

First- Movie reviews will continue, but they will be a day late. I can still catch early screenings, but instead of writing reviews immediately after, I need to use that time to sleep.

Second- Videogame reviews on the Drunken Odyssey will end. I cannot fit the required writing time into this new schedule and I also do not like it anymore. I still love playing games, but I am done trying to take them seriously. After Doom and Wolfenstein: New Order I realized games were better before whiners and agitators started treating them like they were anything but toys.

I play them to have fun, not to hear Anti-Semites, racists, and Marxist feminists (yes, they are real) complain like their existence means something. For the life of me, I could not review games as if they were bigger than they were, and I hated it. The people that try to overthink toys either have mental problems, an agenda, or their lives are so insignificant they want to ruin everyone else’s enjoyment for personal gratification.

However, I value my time at the Drunken Odyssey. I learned a lot from my editor John King and will continue my writing career knowing so much more.

Three- I did not see Fantastic Beasts because I do not care for Harry Potter. Even when I was growing up it was just this thing my sister was into. I liked the fourth movie, but that was it. I am sorry to all my friends. I also skipped Bleed for This because it is the same as Cinderella Man, Hands of Stone, Creed, Southpaw, and Warrior. You know I am right.

Instead, I saw Hacksaw Ridge.

With the onset of WWII Desmond Doss, played by Andrew Garfield, enlists in the Army to be a medic, but refuses to touch a weapon. In training he must choose between standing by his morals or succumbing to hazing from his fellow soldiers.

Despite what you may think, Hacksaw is not a Christian movie. The difference between this and the propaganda I voluntarily consume because I am stupid is the latter makes it obvious. I do not need to explain the meaning behind such titles as God’s Not Dead, Temptation, and I’m Not Ashamed. Each film uses obvious manipulation tactics to convince you of a message based on an established, organized religion. Hacksaw, however, is trying to push a message based on simple moral principles.

Yes, Doss is a devout Christian, but his convictions are universal. He does not believe in killing, no matter the situation. Even if he is on the wrong end of a rifle, he refuses to fight back. That is something everyone could get behind because killing is wrong. All Doss wants to do is be a good person and care for others. It is something inherent in most humans (except sociopaths) and you do not need religion to know that. He is just a guy trying to do his part in a time when the world was ripping itself apart.

In this way, Hacksaw is very similar to Ben-Hur (1959). Judah was a Christian that wanted to be good and was tested by becoming a slave, denying temptation, and seeing his family brought down from prominence. The religious nature of the story was in the background while Judah being martyred for his values took center stage. Doss is the archetypical martyr and the whole film was a test of his principles in the face of adversity.

The movie does a great job of establishing Doss and making you care about him. He is Forest Gump without the personality of a simpleton. He is utterly innocent and idyllic, yet stubborn in his beliefs. The entire first half builds upon what Doss believes in preparation for his ultimate test. While the way he is portrayed fits the bill of the archetypical martyr in a lot of Christian propaganda, Desmond Doss was the genuine article. It is hard dispute what his life was like before the battle when the man himself was so heroic in his actions and attitudes.

The second half takes a hard left turn into terror. Where the beginning was almost ridiculous in how perfect everything seemed the battle of Hacksaw Ridge on Okinawa is a nightmare. As Patton said after observing the destruction wrought upon Germany, “You who have not seen it do not know what hell looks like.” The closest I can compare to the second half of Hacksaw is every battle scene in Tae Guk Gi mashed into one.

There is blood, guts, people exploding, dismemberment, and violence that is beyond gratuitous. Even after the bulk of the fighting ends, the environment is desolate with rotting corpses laid out across a shredded landscape ripped apart from days of fighting. I have not seen violence on this scale in a war movie since the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. It perfectly punctuates the picturesque nature of the first half where Doss was coming into his own. It makes sense that the battle is the complete antithesis because it is his test.

The insanity of the second half does not take away from the fact this story actually happened. While Doss was a real person that was as good as he appears on film, the War in the Pacific was a nightmare of epic proportions. It seems no one remembers that we even fought the Japanese for four years in some of the most brutal fighting in WWII. At Tarawa, Marines drowned after they landed on reefs while thousands died to take a single airstrip. Guadalcanal became known as the Island of Death because most of the Japanese starved to death. Iwo Jima was a tiny island that cost 36 days and 25,000 total casualties. The titular ridge was only a fraction of what happened on Okinawa.

Hacksaw Ridge is a movie with a purpose. Instead of trying to convert audiences, it presents historical figure that practiced beliefs of overwhelming goodness in war. It does not beat you over the head with how right he is, but shows you what could happen if one were to dedicate their self. Despite the gratuity, the story of Desmond Doss was respectful and told in the only way it could have been. For an honest tale of morality in the face of evil, look no further. However, be prepared for intense violence.

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