NOVEMBER 3, 2016: Hacksaw Ridge, the ultra-violent World War II epic directed by controversial Hollywood actor and director Mel Gibson, debuts in US theaters on Friday, November 4.
The film depicts conscientious objector and Seventh-day Adventist U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Desmond T. Doss, and has been hotly anticipated by moviegoers and perhaps especially, Adventists themselves.
Starring Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Hugo Weaving, Ryan Corr, Teresa Palmer, Richard Pyros and Rachel Griffiths, the film tells the true story of Doss, a US Army medic and Seventh-day Adventist conscientious objector who heroically saved 75 fellow soldiers’ lives during the World War II Battle of Okinawa.
For each one, Doss prayed, “Lord help me get one more,” and continued working for about nine hours under the threat of enemy shells. One by one, he found injured men in the dark, bandaged each man’s wounds and carried him 50 feet to the edge of a cliff, tied a rope around him, lowered him at least 75 feet down the cliff, waited for the rope to be untied, and pulled it back up.
Doss refused to kill the enemy and would not carry a weapon. He became the first conscientious objector to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest American military honor.
Adventist church leadership has invested significantly in preparing members for the inevitable questions that will come from friends who see the movie.
The denomination’s North American Division bills the film’s potential to open conversations about faith “like no other witnessing opportunity… in 100 years.”
The Adventist church has not endorsed the film and has gone to great lengths to stress that Hacksaw Ridge is not an Adventist production.
Doss, who passed away in 2006, authorized the telling of his story as long as the historical facts, his beliefs and the nature of the Adventist Church were portrayed accurately. He released his story with the stated agreement that the portrayal of his life would honor God.
The Desmond Doss Council was set up to protect the integrity and accuracy of his story. The council worked closely with the Hackshaw Ridge creators to ensure that the script and plot were true to the life and spirit for which Doss stood.
Although much work has gone into preserving the historical accuracy of the film, this also means that extreme historical violence has been portrayed. The battle for the Maeda Escarpment where Doss heroically saved lives is considered by military historians to be the bloodiest of World War II. Scenes depict live action, using very little computer animated CGI. No female nudity is shown in the film and only brief, never full male nudity is featured.
Neither the Doss Council nor the Adventist church have advocated for church members to see the film. However, the church does claim that Doss’ character and the Adventist church are portrayed in a positive light.
Gibson was chosen by the film’s producer, Bill Mechanic, as the best fit to direct the film and his Roman Catholic faith was not taken into consideration. Hacksaw Ridge is seen by many as a redemption for Gibson, who was widely criticised for his 2006 drunk, anti-Semitic rant at police officers. Gibson directed The Passion of the Christ in 2004.
Hacksaw Ridge was highly praised when it screened at the Venice Film Festival where it received a 10-minute standing ovation. It is already being hailed internationally as an Oscar contender.
Those wishing to read more about Desmond Doss can avail themselves of a free book telling the official authorized story of the war hero.