Hacksaw Ridge is Mel Gibson's award-winning comeback

A World War II pacifist makes history by saving lives on the battlefield without once carrying arms

Hacksaw Ridge (M18: violence and gore)

Starring Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving Directed by Mel Gibson

Private Desmond T Doss was a World War II conscientious objector awarded the Medal of Honor for saving 75 men in his battalion as a medic during the 1945 Battle of Okinawa while refusing to bear arms.

Hacksaw Ridge, starring Andrew Garfield, is Doss’ extraordinary true story directed by Mel Gibson.

Hang in there through the folksy prelude on his Virginia childhood under a drunk, abusive father (Hugo Weaving) and his romance with a pretty nurse (Teresa Palmer). It is key to understanding Doss’ Seventh-day Adventist pacifism.

He honoured these principles despite the ridicule of his basic training platoon (Vince Vaughn his snarky sergeant; Sam Worthington the captain) and the threat of court martial, his resolve all more remarkable upon arriving amid the chaotic carnage of combat: blasted limbs; spilled entrails; enemies in plain sight….

And there he was, single-handedly retrieving and lowering the wounded by rope down a 30-metre ridge to safety.

The Amazing Spider-Man played by Garfield in the 2012 Marvel Entertainment blockbuster franchise has nothing on Doss’ super-heroics.

The conjoining of piety and violence in Gibson’s Apocalypto (2006), incidentally Gibson’s last directed feature, and The Passion of the Christ (2004) perfectly serves Doss’ dual fulfillment of his spiritual conviction and military duty. Gibson incorporates recurring imagery of baptism and ascension into the battlefield scenes. The movie grows over this harrowing, visceral second half into a powerfully moving memorial to an unconventional war hero, a veritable brave heart. 4/5

5 facts you should know

Hacksaw Ridge is positioned as Mel Gibson’s comeback a decade after the one-time marquee star was disgraced for his drunken racist rants.

• The US$40 million (S$57.14 mil) production was filmed in Australia and won eight Australian Film Institute awards including best film, direction, lead actor and original screenplay.

• Desmond Doss was not the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor.

• But he was the first American soldier to enter the frontlines without a weapon.

• He died in 2006 at the age of 87.

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