BySean Gallen, writer at
The pen is mightier than the sword but is ultimately useless in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Filmmaker, filmlover, MP staff writer.
Sean Gallen

Hacksaw Ridge premiered at this year's Venice film festival and surprised many as a triumphant return to form for the king of controversy Mel Gibson. The Australian actor/director and his cast, Andrew Garfield and Vince Vaughn, received a warm, standing ovation when the curtains were drawn on his premiere. Hacksaw Ridge is based on the true story of Desmond T. Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist who enlisted to fight with the US Army in the Pacific during WWII.

Check out the scintillating trailer below:

The film will be released in theaters on November 6th and has already received a Rotten Tomatoes score of 93%. But how historically accurate is this violent tale of faith and war?

As a conscientious objector, Doss refused to bear arms and served as a medic instead. He was awarded the Medal of Honor by Harry S. Truman for saving 75 of his comrades during the ferocious battle of Okinawa in Japan on the 29th of April, 1945. The legend of the late Desmond T. Doss is well known but Gibson has made it his own and has elevated it as a parable for the power of faith in the modern world. We take a look at how Hacksaw Ridge merges its multiple historical sources with Gibson's style without sacrificing its historical accuracy.

See also:

How Much Of Hacksaw Ridge Is Hollywood Spin?

The real Desmond T. Doss next to Andrew Garfield
The real Desmond T. Doss next to Andrew Garfield

Although based on a true story, as we can glean from the trailer, Hacksaw Ridge seems to be a Hollywood film that glamorizes the truth with a well-tailored script. However, the scriptwriters, Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan, had many literary sources to base their retelling on and crafted a story that manages to combine epic heroism with an intimate, humanist character study. Big battles and handsome Hollywood actors aside, the writers aimed to deliver a faithful depiction of the hero and the man.

One of the most important sources for the writers was The Medic: Miracle on Hacksaw Ridge by Adam Palmer. Palmer's historical account presents Doss' story from its humble origins in Lynchburg, VA to his finest hour on the plains of Okinawa. Palmer focuses on Doss's difficult time in boot camp where his religious beliefs and his refusal to bear arms infuriated the rest of the battalion and his superiors. However, these same stubborn beliefs gave him the strength to save as many men as he could in the heat of battle.

Watch Doss tell his harrowing story in his own words below:

Mel Gibson is a fan of showing his characters enduring great suffering and violence as a test of faith (just watch the 10-minute whipping scene in Passion of the Christ) and this film definitely fulfills that pattern. In fact, in a recent interview with the Observer, the actor/director voiced his preference for directing because of the control it allows him:

“I enjoy directing more… maybe I’m a megalomanic, I just love telling the story and I love to see the story the way I see it.”

However, Doss' story fits so neatly into Gibson's comfort zone that it seems to be made for him. He has remained true to the core character of Doss and has synthesized several accounts of the story to produce the most faithful depiction. Now, we'll take a look at some of the other titles Gibson & co. delved into to pay respects to all aspects of Doss: the hero, the husband, the Christian.

1. Desmond Doss: The Conscientious Objector

  • Author: Frances M. Doss
  • Synopsis: Written by Desmond's second wife, Frances, The Conscientious Objector is an intimate character study that captures the spirit of the simple man who became the hero. The book focuses on his commitment to his faith and how it dictated everything Desmond did in life. Frances Doss shows the human side of the man behind the medal and provided a valuable trove of details for Andrew Garfield to base his performance on.

2. The Ultimate Battle

  • Author: Bill Sloan
  • Synopsis: Historian and writer Bill Sloan focuses on the epic battle of Okinawa that was so ferocious the Japanese troops nicknamed the epicenter of the conflict "rain of steel." The author provides a "grunt's-eye" view of the firefight that claimed the lives of 115,000 soldiers on each side as well as 150,000 who were caught in the crossfire. Gibson used the anecdotes from this source to add historical detail to the dialogue and set design.

3. Red Platoon

  • Author: Clinton Romesha
  • Synopsis: Sgt. Clinton Romesha earned the Medal of Honor for his act of heroism during the siege of Keating in Pakistan. His memoir, Red Platoon, focuses on the siege of the remote US base that was pivotal in the fight against the Taliban in 2009. The 14-hour battle is captured in intricate detail and Gibson may have been inspired by the Red Platoon in orchestrating his exhilarating and brutal fire fights.

Are you looking forward to Hacksaw Ridge?

(Source: The Observer)


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