convictions to the test on the battlefield. While some audiences will note a jarring contrast between the film’s two halves, Gibson sees them as two sides to the same coin. “Both are like war sequences. One is like testing the man, testing the mettle, testing his convictions and courage to stand in the face of persecution,” Gibson says, who notes that before Doss gets to Okinawa “He’s already been put in the crucible.” The second half, Gibson says, is about taking Doss “out of the frying pan and into the fire to see if he can still maintain those principles when the going gets extremely tough.” The brilliance of Hacksaw Ridge is that even viewers who can’t relate to the literal battle will be able to empathize with the interior battle Doss wages to live out his convictions. And it is this sort of battle, when opposing convictions and consciences conflict, that defines another layer of the film’s timeliness.
current religious freedom debates overtly, but the story of Doss’ conscientious objection carries undeniable pertinence to them. “It’s a very hard thing to stay true to oneself and one’s convictions in the culture we’re in right now,” Garfield says. “Yet it’s those people who shape the change that a culture needs, by standIn a scene from the movie, ing strong in the midst of Andrew Garfield, portraying terrible storms.” Desmond Doss, appears before Doss’s pacifist convichis military superiors. tions were certainly very unpopular in his World War II context, and the film does a good job depicting the ridicule and persecution he en- In one scene, Doss saves Smitty’s life by dured because of it (Gibson insists the real wrestling a Japanese attacker, showing persecution was far worse than what he that Doss’s pacifism doesn’t keep him from portrayed in the film). Yet Doss also loved defending others. HONORING DIFFERENCES EVEN his fellow soldiers and wanted to serve “There is violence there. There is a kind WHEN WE DISAGREE them, even when they disparaged his con- of warrior defense that, when called upon, What happens when a Muslim woman victions. He is sober about the fact that his he will show up with,” Garfield says. “But wearing a “burkini” on a Côte d'Azur refusal to bear arms might put his fellow Smitty is the one who ends up killing the beach conflicts with the French values of men in danger, but he’s determined to com- guy. And then you can see that Desmond secularism and gender liberation? Or when pensate by being as ferocious a medic as he is sort of torn about that. Why did this guy can be. have to die and not me? He’s indirectly “It’s one of the a part of this man’s death. He’s partly rethings that makes sponsible. This is haunting for Desmond.” him even more Garfield sees in the film a timely mes[T HE STORY] M A K ES US BE T T ER BEC AUSE W E fiercely healing sage of “live and let live,” a modeling of on the battle- peaceful coexistence between people with R E A LIZE IT'S POSSIBLE. IT'S POSSIBLE TO field,” Garfield convictions of every sort. And, doubtless, S TA N D B Y Y O U R C O N V I C T I O N S . I T ' S P O S S I B L E says. “But for him some will see Hacksaw Ridge as a relativishe keeps bump- tic defense of “to each their own” morality, T O H AV E T H AT K I N D O F C O U R A G E A N D T H AT ing up against the while others will see it as a defense of resame thing. It’s ligious conscience—for example, a defense K I N D O F FA I T H . – M E L G I B S O N not a choice; it’s a of those whose faith prevents them from physical incapac- affirming LGBT sexual ideals. ity. He has a physIt’s unclear whether Garfield, himself an ical incapability outspoken advocate for LGBT rights who a Native American kindergartner in Texas of picking up a machine of death. He has once said Spider-Man could be gay or panis told to cut his hair because it violates an a physical incapability of taking another sexual, would apply this “live and let live” elementary school’s hygiene policies? Or person’s life.” approach to the religious who believe in a when a Christian cake-baker’s conscience Despite his unorthodox approach to traditional sexual ethic. In a 2013 interprevents her from participating as a vendor warfare, Doss finds a way to coexist with view with The Times about the gay-themed in a same-sex wedding? his fellow soldiers and his actions earn play Beautiful Thing, Garfield said, “There These are real conflicts that have really their respect. By the film’s climax he has is no argument against [marriage] equality. arisen in recent years, as sincerely held befriended his platoon’s most efficient kill- How can anyone argue against compassion faith convictions conflict with the rights ing machine, Smitty (played by Luke Brac- and understanding?” and beliefs of others. ey), and some of the film’s most moving During the past two years, this tenHacksaw Ridge doesn’t engage in the scenes explore their unlikely connection. sion between civil rights and freedom of
10/6/16 10:41 AM
Published on Oct 26, 2016