“In-your-face faith and cover-your-face violence”
When I heard that Mel Gibson (The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto) had returned to filmmaking after a decade with a movie about a conscientious objector in WWII, I knew to expect a couple of things: in-your-face faith and cover-your-face violence. “Hacksaw Ridge” offers both in heaping portions.
Hacksaw Ridge is the true story of Medal of Honor winner, Desmond Doss, who refused to carry a gun in combat due to his religious beliefs as a Seventh-Day Adventist. The movie shows us the conviction of a man who is determined to be a patriot while maintaining his identity as a Christian. A medic in the battle of Okinawa, Desmond Doss, played by Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spiderman), goes into battle with the 77th Infantry division face to face with the Japanese enemy on deadly Hacksaw Ridge – without a gun.
As a rather rowdy Christian myself, I particularly love the tough-guy depiction of those in the Body of Christ. (Think Arnold Schwarzenegger in End of Days) So often the “meekness” and “love” of Christianity is translated as “weakness” and “cowardice.” The men in Doss’ company initially saw him, not as a patriot with conviction, but as a coward and trouble-maker who put their lives in danger by refusing to kill the enemy.
Though there is quite a back story for us to better understand Private Doss, the war scenes dominate the screen. The first scene through to the last are filled with exploding heads, rotting skulls and shredded limbs. The soundtrack of rat-a-tat-tat gunfire forced me into a bag a skittles about three-quarters of the way through the movie. Within fifteen seconds of the opening you are absolutely certain of the genre. It’s a war movie.
“It’s a War Movie.”
If you can get past the guns and guts laying out everywhere on the screen, you may be able to reflect on the true theme of the movie. As I watched Doss, I questioned my own commitment to the faith I profess. I wondered if I would have such conviction to adhere to the word of God even when the people and environment make it counter intuitive to do so. I mean, who goes to war without a gun? Even Peter cut a man’s ear off for Jesus so this notion of non-violece is not easily adopted by the Body of Christ. You know we can pull from the whole “eye for an eye” thing in Exodus 21:23-25 when we need to defend ourselves.
As I squinted and cringed through the 171 minutes, I kept asking myself if the intended message was getting overshadowed by the gore and violence. Ultimately, the film shows us that it is the miraculous power of God that propels Private Doss into heroic action as he asks, “Let me get one more God.” In Hacksaw Ridge, the message is clear and effective. We see Doss reading his Bible, praying and standing strong in the faith with great courage that leads to his great patriotism. Now, isn’t that exactly what we need right now?