After 10 years of a shamed exile from Hollywood, Mel Gibson returns with 8 oscar nods following the true story of Desmond Doss – the first conscientious objector to be awarded a medal of honour.
The film opens 16 years previous, the Doss brothers are play fighting, Desmond hits his brothers head with a brick nearly killing him. In floods of tears Desmond helplessly stares at the 10 commandments “Though shall not kill”. 16 years later, Doss has a untameable desire to join the army, he wants to join as a medic, there is one problem; Doss is a pacifist and his beliefs don’t allow him to touch a gun. Obviously this is not going to go down well in the military.
The first half of the film is Desmond Doss fighting his way through the joining process to allow him to fight without using arms – he gets bullied by his fellow soldiers who think he is a coward. His Sergeant even attempts to force him to leave. However after a court ruling – Doss can go to war without arms and he is sent to fight for Okinawa in Japan.
This is when Gibson brings true form into action. His take on frontline warfare packs a punch – it’s extremely violent and graphic. There’s rats eating decaying bodies (gross). My heart was racing throughout the entire first battle scene – I honestly thought I was having a mild anxiety attack. It’s gorey, grim and grisely, exactly what it would of been like in real life. Doss helplessly runs from wounded soldier to wounded soldier attempting to administer medical treatment, obviously with guns firing and flame torches blazing that would be difficult. However it is when the US are forced to retreat that Doss works his pacifist magic. Alone on Hacksaw, Doss saves the lives of 70 injured soldiers by lowering them down the cliff edge, he looks to God “Please God let me save one more”, he saves a few Japanese soldiers (this guy?!). This brought complete admiration to my eyes for this man.
Andrew Garfield played the part magnificently, he has this Forrest Gump feel to him – he’s a little bit geeky, a painfully awkward demeanour and a goofy smile, I warmed to him instantly. The supporting acts were brilliant, Hugo Weaving as his pained father suffering from survivors guilt. Theresa Palmer as his wife who stuck through him throughout. I was also impressed with Vince Vaughn, obviously he brought along some comedic substance.
My only issue with the film was how the Japanese were portrayed. They were painted as evil soldiers, the bad guys and the Americans were the heroes. The Japanese soldiers were simply fighting for their own country and their beliefs just as much as the US. I feel the patriotic Americans would be thinking “WE RULE”. Sigh.
Aside from that the morals were beautifully drawn. Always stick by what you believe in, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. The clips of the real life Desmond Doss were an excellent touch, this really brought it home that this man was a true hero who we should all look up to.