Some movies are memorable because of their emotional impact and themes, some because of their technical achievements, and some because of their incredible story. And some movies are memorable because of all three of those aspects.
Hacksaw Ridge is one of those movies (Spoilers going forward).
At face value, this can seem like a movie that simply has anti-war sentiments. Its main character does not want to kill and only enlisted in the army because of a sense of duty, it shows his father to be very affected by his service time, and its war scenes are harshly brutal, and not at all a glorification of war, as some might say it is.
But if you look a little deeper, you’ll find that it is about something much more personal. It is about staying true to who you are, no matter the circumstances.
Desmond Doss, the main character of the movie played by Andrew Garfield, is a conscientious objector in the United States army during World War II. Doss sees his brother and all of the other men in the town where he lives enlisting in the army. He wants to serve the same way that they are, but with one caveat: he’s against using guns and would rather go onto a battlefield with the purpose of helping others. Doss spends much of the rest of the movie defending his position.
Now, just being told that he is against the use of guns without giving a reason would be ineffective. But the film gives two instances from Doss’ past that show exactly why he does not want to fight. First, there was an instance when he was a young boy when he got into a fight with his brother and ended up badly hurting him. Second, Desmond had to intervene when his father had a gun in his hand during a drunken rage towards his mother. These instances showed him the dangerous effects of acting violently and he made it his personal mission to show love to people, rather than going out to hurt them.
Once Desmond officially enters the army, he has to make sure that he sticks to his beliefs and convictions. And he does. No matter how much his superior officers and fellow soldiers push back at him, he never wavers.
This is possibly to a fault, though, and that is where the movie really makes the viewer question whether or not he is doing the right thing. Desmond’s wife asks him to look inside himself and see if he is doing this because it is what God would have him do, or if it is because of his pride. At that point, the viewer, who has been on Desmond’s side this whole time, begins to wonder whether he just has some misplaced sense of self-righteousness.
What we come to find out for sure, though, is that Desmond really is doing all of this because of his Christian faith. His convictions are so strong that he feels he has to stand by them no matter what. It isn’t because he thinks he is better than everyone else. It’s just that he believes so strongly in his faith and in his God.
Some of the other soldiers accuse Desmond of lacking courage and bravery, but it turns out that he has just as much as them, and maybe even more. At the end of the movie, when he and the other troops are on the titular Hacksaw Ridge, Desmond saves 75 (yes, seventy-five!!) injured soldiers who were left on the battlefield. He even saves some of the enemy soldiers.
This just goes to show the power of what he believed in. And he felt so strongly in what he believed in that he would not abandon it for anything. It is an inspiring message that can be taken and applied in any facet of life: stay true to what you believe.