Hacksaw Ridge – The Hero without a Gun

A man who decides against taking actions based on his principles is not a coward - it’s a simple as that.

August 2019

The system hastily judges those who decide to go against what’s popular. In certain places, such as in the military, this theme is much more complex and extreme and labels are created without consideration which pressure those towards discrimination and offensive acts.

Hacksaw Ridge (2016) directed by Mel Gibson and starting Andrew Garfield (The Social Network, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of Electro) explores themes such as genuine heroism, valor and individual expression compared to the collective unit in the military.

Gibson, who has portrayed strong characters such as relentless warriors in films that have been added to the classic action film genre, approaches this film as a filmmaker and explores the idea of heroism which does not give the viewer battles, bullets or fights as usual war and action films would accustom us to.

This action film star who takes a turn at the director’s chair does not stray far from the macho characterizations in Hacksaw Ridge, yet his focus is quite different. Much like his famous films, we are brought to a war yet this time not in the past as William Wallace in the 13th century, or an American Revolution solider or a cop obsessed with the end of the world. This time the focus is on a young solder named Desmond Thomas Doss who through his own convictions, objected towards the use of force in World War II.

Gibson takes us back to those years and explores the religious foundations of Desmond Thomas Doss, his recruitment, his objection of using military force, and shows the viewer the character’s moral dilemma and vexations in order to not compromise his own moral code.

This could be enough in order to find a beautiful plot in history with a happy ending. But Gibson’s film, as it is based in true events, does not take that route. Life, which has always proved to be a better storyteller than writers themselves (and the goal is not to debate if reality imitates fiction or vice versa) took Desmond Thomas Doss to a critical moment in his life that proved to him that he was not a coward. Far from it, Doss proves himself he was more heroic and had what it takes to be a real hero.

Over a 120-meter cliff, in the isle of Ryukyu in Okinawa, Doss proved to be more than just a soldier; he was the hero who saved the lives of Marines without using his gun; not once (except to assist them in their walking journey).

Hacksaw Ridge is, without a question, a war movie and raises its flag not against World War II itself, but towards individualism as the standard of free will and thought. And it begs the question for viewers to debate what really makes a hero and what are the actions that makes us heroes.

Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson and starring Andrew Garfield, will air in August in Cinemax.