Hacksaw Ridge. 2016. USA. Directed by Mel Gibson. Screenplay by Robert Schenkkan, Andrew Knight. With Andrew Garfield, Rachel Griffiths, Vince Vaughn. 139 min.
William Tecumseh Sherman famously observed that "war is hell," a concept director Mel Gibson thoroughly dramatizes in Hacksaw Ridge, the true story of Desmond Doss, an earnest Virginia country boy and Seventh Day Adventist who enlists as the patriotic fever of World War II comes to his small town. Emotionally scarred by a violent incident in which he caused harm to another, Desmond vows never to hurt another human being and enters the military as a conscientious objector. But instead of being assigned to the medical corps, as per his request, he is sent to basic infantry training, where his fellow enlistees see his refusal to touch a gun as weakness and doubt he’ll have their backs on the battlefield. When Desmond's company is dispatched to the Pacific, they must climb the treacherous Hacksaw Ridge, knowing that Japanese forces await on the other side. Director Gibson does not spare the carnage during the relentless battle scenes; grenades explode and bodies blow apart, spewing blood and sand at the camera. Amid this horrible violence, an unarmed Desmond rescues more than 70 wounded comrades, hoisting them over the ridge to safety—and eventually becoming the only conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor. Hacksaw Ridge is doubly a tale of redemption, both for Desmond’s heroism and for Mel Gibson's reputation as a director of contemporary epics of war, conviction, and grit.