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Movie review: A bloody, violent story of faith under fire

"Hacksaw Ridge" tells the true story of a conscientious objector who saved lives during World War II.



“Hacksaw Ridge” takes on a difficult task — telling a story of faith while showing the realities of war.

Twelve years after Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” brought fans an R-rated, bloody portrayal of Jesus’ crucifixion, Gibson helms another film with graphic scenes of death — this one based on the real-life story of Desmond T. Doss, a U.S. Army corporal and combat medic during World War II. 

On film | Mercedes Ducat and Katie Holroyd
Doss volunteered to serve after the attack on Pearl Harbor, but the staunch Seventh Day Adventist refused to kill an enemy soldier or carry a weapon due to his religious beliefs. Although he was a conscientious objector, Doss received the Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman for saving the lives of 75 soldiers during the Battle of Okinawa.

 Unlike many recent films crafted for Christian audiences (“Courageous,” “God’s Not Dead,” “Fireproof”) “Hacksaw Ridge” is a war movie. Though light on foul language (compared to “Fury” and other recent World War II films), the graphic portrayal of the war in the South Pacific is jarring at times. But the violence communicates the tragedy — and the horrors — of war.

Hopefully, audiences will not allow the gore to overshadow a truly great story of faith. “Hacksaw Ridge” presents a raw, real-life, tear-jerking story that shows followers of Jesus that we can live out our Christian calling in any circumstance. 

But that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer) and Desmond Doss (Andrew Gafield) in “Hacksaw Ridge.” (LIONSGATE ENTERTAINMENT)

Andrew Garfield (“The Amazing Spider Man”) gives a convincing performance as Doss as he endures physical and verbal abuse from his sergeants and his peers because of his refusal to use weapons. The grace and dignity Garfield portrays on screen provides believers with an example of how to overcome our own pride for the cause of following Christ. 

The film also highlights the realities of post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that affects so many of our men and women in uniform as they return from conflicts around the world. For Dawson and other members of the Greatest Generation, the horrors of war didn’t end when they returned home. “Hacksaw Ridge” does a tactful job of presenting the aftermath of combat in a way that honors our veterans.  

This is not an easy film to watch, but the insight is worth the discomfort. Look past the violence and seek the message. 

Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) in “Hacksaw Ridge.” (LIONSGATE ENTERTAINMENT)

For people of faith, “Hacksaw Ridge” combats the misconception that living a life for God is easy, even in the U.S. As a follower of Christ, you will face persecution — possibly from people you’re charged to serve and protect. You may be beaten and battered, but you must keep going because you aren’t fighting a worldly battle. 

“Hacksaw Ridge” opens Nov. 4 in theaters. The film is rated R for graphic sequences of war violence.

Mercedes Ducat and Katie Holroyd are students at Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City.

Filed under: Headlines - Secondary Reviews

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