Not Just Another War Movie: Hacksaw RidgeIf you have not seen this movie and enjoy inspiring, potentially controversial and alternative storylines, then this one is for you. A story cleverly directed by Mel Gibson (Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ) and powerfully acted by Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man) brings to life a commonly depicted genre. However I warn you that this movie is not for those who aren’t at ease with blood and gore.
Due to the richness this movie brings for thought and contemplation, I aim to keenly discuss some of the various themes raised in Hacksaw Ridge and yet not spoil the movie for those who have not seen it yet.
A Controversial Story?
Hacksaw Ridge indirectly invites whether Christians should go to war or not? Or whether the commandment “thou shalt not kill” is valid during war times? The focus of the movie is more on the impact that “turning the other cheek” has on others, and the courage that it must take to uphold anti-violence principles.
I am still reeling from the understanding that this is based on a true story. It seems surreal. It seems as though not even Hollywood could think up a fictional synonymic storyline that could carry the same weight as does Hacksaw Ridge.
There is much to this movie that irked me and yet drew every ounce of respect from me as I watched.
The basic storyline is about a young man – Desmond Doss – who is a staunch Christian pacifist strongly adhering to the literal commandment “thou shalt not kill” and yet still wanting to be a part of the Second World War as a medic on the front line. This conviction meant that he was ridiculed extensively by his fellow comrades, being labelled as gutless and a coward. The consequences didn’t end there; Even on the battle field his convictions found him running to the front line amongst the horrors of war – without welding a weapon.
We live in a western world where Hacksaw Ridge has a great potential to offend and yet inspire. It could inspire those who believe in a dogmatic, absolute or resolute adherence to what one believes to be true. On the other hand, it could frustrate and irritate those who value re-evaluating or compromising their position in light of other arguments, or ongoing contextual analysis. Even though some may disagree with Doss’ absolute non-violent convictions, his passion and love for others and for what Jesus stood for was inspirational for anyone, to say the least.
While reflecting on the movie I could not help but be reminded of what C.S. Lewis once said, “courage is not simply one of the values but the form of every virtue at the testing point”. Hacksaw Ridge is the epitome of this quote. Doss truly had courage; courage to hold to his values even during the most very real circumstances he found himself in. Could we in his position hold to our values in the same way?
Some of the values that Hacksaw Ridge courageously came in the forms such as “turn the other cheek”, “love your enemies”, “love is blind” and “love holds no record of wrongs”. It’s truly refreshing to hear a story that emphasises these values in a world where “us and them” mentalities, revenge, violence and macho-ism at times are the predominant values.
Not on our own
This movie is not only a testament to courageous actions but to the power of prayer. A poignant moment in this movie saw a time where Doss struggled under daunting conditions and called on God for help. What followed was a feat that would normally have the odds stacked against Doss, however with God’s help those odds became ineffective.
Interestingly the resulted miracle was not merely what Doss achieved, but that praying to God changed him in a way that allowed him to cope with the traumatic situation he found himself exposed to.
In much of the world today we often hear of people taking the lives of others with their own, but Doss represented a potential reality that meant he risked his life to provide life for others. Hacksaw Ridge causes me to ask “what if everyone today could have the type of faith/courage that Doss had?” A selfless-like demeanor backed up with selfless-like actions. What if everyone turned the other cheek and only sought the good of others… even our enemies?
Not only was Doss sacrificial towards his own countrymen, even at a time of socially “justifiable” grounds for racism he cared for his enemies and cut through any judicial grounds of racism. Maybe we still have a lesson to be learnt from Doss today?
What we can take from this movie is not so much a question of should we as followers of Christ be supportive of war-violence or not, but more the possibility that if more of us took seriously the principles of peace that Jesus highlighted in scripture, we may actually influence and change whole cultures that tend toward selfish ambitions.
I’m not saying that we should always dogmatically follow our convictions regardless, but where it matters to you (and especially where impacting the well-being of others) do not be afraid to stand firm on those values. I have a feeling that Doss’ actions in this movie not only impacted those he helped 75 odd years ago, but will continue to impact others, like myself, for decades to come.