Once I viewed the previews of Mel Gibson’s new film, Hackshaw Ridge, I decided not to see it. The luridly graphic war images were far too off-putting. Until a Franciscan priest friend told me that he planned to see it as soon as he could opened. His reply to my stunned Why? was that it was ‘a completely different take on war.’ Hence, my husband and I were in the audience on opening day. Most reviewers are writing about the “Mel Gibson comeback” and the “madness and majesty” of this movie. A far different reception than that received by The Passion of Christ.
However, the superlatives which come to my mind do not come even close to describing this important film. They fall far short of describing a story which seems impossible. In this cynical twenty-first century, the true story of Desmond Doss- an ordinary man- who chooses to place himself in extraordinary circumstances showers light and grace upon its viewers.
The dialogue is stark, elegant.
Here, arguing with his severely damaged World War l veteran father:
Tom Doss: Did you figure this war is just going to fit in with your ideas?
Desmond T. Doss: While everybody is taking life, I’m going to be saving it, and that’s going to be my way to serve.
And here where Desmond Doss wins his inconceivably agonizing battle to be granted the right to fight armed solely with jaw-dropping faith.
Desmond T. Doss: With the world so set on tearing itself apart, it don’t seem like such a bad thing to me to want to put a little bit of it back together.
Army Judge: Private Doss, you are free to run into the hellfire of battle without a single weapon to protect yourself.
Recently, a reviewer gave my novel, Do You Solemnly Swear? A Nation of Law-The Dark Side, a five-star review. She ended her review with this sentence: “This is not an easy book to love but I am grateful to this author for tackling this important topic.”
Just so, Hacksaw Ridge is not an easy film to love. The battle scenes are ghastly and seemingly interminable as Japanese soldiers decimate wave after wave of American soldiers. Americans had no knowledge of the tunnels under battle-ravaged Okinawa where the Japanese infantry could retreat and rest. Doss’ entire battalion retreats leaving one-hundred wounded soldiers. But then this ‘ordinary man’ repeats: “Lord, help me get one more,” over and over. Stumbling, crawling, hiding, Private Desmond Doss saved the lives of seventy-five soldiers singlehandedly.
If there were a ten star ranking for movies, mine would be fifteen. Hope, Courage, Humility. A man certain that all he did had been through the grace of God.