As a mass-media practitioner who has watched a lot of films and read many books, I thought I had seen them all. Films about war are one of the hardest to produce for various obvious reasons. Too much violence because of the war setting could numb or disturb some people not just physically, but most of all psychologically and emotionally. On the other hand, portraying violence in war can give credence to a true story and may also be a means to convey a strong message against war itself.
Highlighting the appalling and horrible effects of war could transform a person into a true role model, a symbol of hope, possessed by a strong drive to become a builder and bearer of peace.
Hacksaw Ridge, the latest film directed by Mel gibson (Braveheart and the Passion of the Christ), first projected last November 2016 in USA. This film is all about the biographical drama of the Battle of Okinawa during World War II, lived and seen through the eyes of Desmond Thomas Doss (who was born on February 7, 1919 and died March, 23, 2006).
Desmond Doss was an American Corporal of the United States Army who served as a pacifist combat medic. As a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian who due to past experiences of sufferings and pain within his family, he came to believe firmly that killing was the worst of all sins, and from then on, he decided to become a conscientious objector.
Wikipedia would define conscientious objector as an “individual who has claims the right to refuse to perform military service” on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, or religion.
The case of Doss was different, however, for he opted to be enlist and serve in the US Army not as a combatant but as a pacifist combat medic. That meant going to war like the rest of his infantry, without carrying any weapons but just medical equipment to care for and help the wounded.
Some movie reviewers exploited Desmond’s Christian values to criticize this film and claim that Desmond through his beliefs and values was simply proselytizing to his viewers.
But I would say that good journalists when doing research should not only dig half-way, but uncover all the layers to find the real truth and this is what I personally saw in this film.
During his military training together with others, Desmond Doss to remain true to his values and beliefs, did everything to go against the current without breaking any rules, even to the point of risking a court martial.
Desmond Doss became the first and the only conscientious objector during the world war II to have been awarded a Medal of Honour. It’s the highest award given to a soldier who never fired a weapon, but was ultimately recognized for his distinguished and renowned struggle against all odds to save 75 wounded infantrymen at Hacksaw Ridge, a strategical stronghold of the Japanese during the Battle of Okinawa.
Most of the graphic war scenes in the film were very graphic artistically and skilfully handled by director Mel Gibson, perhaps to really demonstrate how in war, everyone loses and all perish, and that peace-building and performing acts of kindness are the only things that last.
Mixed feelings came from those who saw the film. The majority of them experienced a great feeling of awe and joy because of its positive ending, which was combined with feelings of compassion and empathy for those who suffered. For me, it was a film of great values and principles – intense, artistic, and recreational, with great nerve-wracking war action shots. It has created within me the strong desire to cultivate and re-establish relationships with my community, family, relations and friends.