The film, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’, tells the amazing true story of a real life hero. Editor David Littlewood looks at both the film and the man whose story it tells
As a movie ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is a brutally effective, bristlingly idiosyncratic combat saga telling the true story of a man of peace caught up in the inferno of World War II. The project to tell Doss’ story had been in development for 14 years. Despite numerous producers wanting to film it, Doss had always been somewhat reluctant to release the rights as he wanted the film to be true to life.
In fact, after the war, Doss turned down many requests for books and film versions of his story, because he was wary of whether his life, wartime experiences, and Seventh-day Adventist beliefs would be portrayed inaccurately or sensationalised. His son, Desmond Doss Jr., said: “The reason he declined is that none of them adhered to his one requirement: that it be accurate.” However of the movie ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ Dodd Jr commented: “I find it remarkable, the level of accuracy in adhering to the story in this movie.” The movie was premiered on 4 September 2016 at the 73rd Venice Film Festival, where it received a ten-minute standing ovation. Since then it has become a box office hit with takings far exceeding projections. Even in China it was a hit, grossing over $16 million in its first four days at the box office. It also marked Mel Gibson’s return as a director after ten years in the cinematic wilderness, with some critics calling it an act of atonement after Gibson’s well-publicised racist outbursts.
‘Hacksaw Ridge’ takes its title from a patch of battleground on the Japanese island of Okinawa, at the top of a 100- foot cliff, which has to be stormed by American troops. In the style of modern movies, the action is brutally realistic with limbs blown off and bits of men lying everywhere. Yet in the midst of this hell on earth there is Desmond Doss (superbly played by Andrew Garfield), the conscientious objector who refuses to carry a gun because it is against his values. Yet as an unarmed medic he puts himself in the thick of the action, saving one after another of his comrades. He’s in constant danger without a weapon to protect him, and the film makes a point of demonstrating not just his courage but his whole principled withdrawal from personal killing in response to his beliefs.