Desmond Doss, the first (and only) conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor, could have his decorated life filmed during the studio days. The native of Lynchburg, Virginia would be tempted with the thought of studios like Warner Bros. embellishing certain aspects of his life, but this United States Army Corporal was a Seventh-day Adventist. Saturday was considered a rest day while devotees were discouraged from leading a high-profile existence. They were forbidden to eat pork too. He wanted his modest self to be seen by moviegoers, which meant it should be true to his ideals. Doss passed away after he finally agreed to the dramatization of his life. He didn't live to see Mel Gibson helming it, so the million-dollar question. Would Doss give his blessing to Gibson? Yes.
"Hacksaw Ridge", which focused on Doss's eagerness to be part of the United States Army and his participation in the Battle of Okinawa, would give viewers an impression that they were about to watch a war film. Gibson used it as a platform to reveal his thoughts on faith and violence, which he also showed in "Apocalypto" and "The Passion of the Christ". And Desmond Doss happened to be the ideal subject. Some would suspect that this might be Gibson's best directorial work even if his penchant for excessive gore was hard to ignore during the battle scenes. (George A. Romero might be at a loss for words.) And there was an irony behind it. This gave this biographical film another dimension.
Andrew Garfield may not resemble the real-life Desmond Doss, but the British actor captured the distinctive traits that made the young Doss endearing to his fellow soldiers. It had nothing to do with his modesty, not even his lack of social skills. ("What would be the difference between an artery and a vein?") The young Doss had pacifist views, but he didn't want it to be an issue in his joining the Army. He didn't carry a gun during the American campaign in Japan, yet he did the impossible task of saving 75 wounded comrades in Hacksaw Ridge. It was a no man's land, with a steep cliff separating life and death. Doss was a deeply religious fellow, yet some might have suspected that luck was on his side. It may have been his fate to live to tell his remarkable story, which seemed lost in the modern era.
Gibson's falling out with Hollywood meant he had to film in New South Wales, which substituted for Virginia during the Great Depression. (This was one of the ways for the actor/director to get additional funding for production.) Besides, New England of the early 20th century wasn't so different from Australia during her early years. (And the supporting cast included some of the big names in Australian Cinema.) There would be an irony in this one, and Gibson might not have intended it. The story of Doss could happen to anyone, but there was something else. His religious background taught him the value of hard work, and it prompted him to do a courageous deed in Hacksaw Ridge. He had something to prove to himself, and his comrades slowly gave him their grudging respect. He never had that sense of entitlement until his dying days.
Some scenes might give the audience an impression that the struggles of Doss would be quite similar to Christ, and they won't be farther from the truth. Gibson looked at his religious beliefs like a red bad of courage. But not Doss.