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Film / Hacksaw Ridge

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"Please, Lord, help me get one more."
Private Desmond Doss

Hacksaw Ridge is a 2016 Australian-American biographical war film directed by Mel Gibson and starring Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Hugo Weaving, Ryan Corr, Teresa Palmer, Richard Pyros and Rachel Griffiths.

The film is set during World War II and Based on a True Story, that of Private Desmond Thomas Doss (Garfield), a Seventh-day Adventist conscientious objector who refused to bear arms and became a combat medic. He ended up awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman for single-handedly saving the lives of over 75 of his comrades while under constant enemy fire during the Battle of Okinawa.

The trailer can be seen here.

Hacksaw Ridge contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Desmond's father, a veteran of the first World War, is a physically abusive alcoholic, though the movie goes to lengths to humanize him despite his faults. It is shown quite plainly that he does love his sons and wife, but his experiences in the horror that was the Great War and his subsequent alcoholism have turned him into the person he is. It also helps that he saves Desmond from being court-martialed by presenting a letter from the Brigadier General.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The second half of the movie focuses on the brutality of war, but also includes a quiet night when Doss and Smitty bond.
  • Actor Allusion: Hugo Weaving's character is a bitter person traumatized by his past that prompts him takes it out on his wife and kids, however, is still a decent person enough to genuinely loves his family and even comes to his child's rescue when he's in trouble somewhere, sounds a lot like Weaving's early voice-over role as the sheepdog Rex from Babe.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: When Smitty and Doss are talking in the bombed-out crater and developing a lot of respect for each other, Smitty admits that he can be an asshole sometimes. Doss replies "sometimes?" Smitty can't help but laugh.
  • The Alcoholic: Desmond's father is a slave to the bottle.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • In real life, Desmond's wife Dorothy Schutte was not a nurse when they met and in fact did not become one until after the war, mainly to help support the family and take care of her husband due to his disability from war wounds. Also, they married shortly before he joined the army, not in the timeframe depicted in the film.
    • Although Desmond was threatened with a court martial by an officer because he refused to touch a weapon, he was never actually court martialed as depicted in the film.
    • While Doss' father did make calls on his son's behalf to help him get better treatment from the army, he never personally showed up in his old WWI uniform to plead on his behalf.
    • The film depicts Doss' actions in Okinawa as if it was his first time in combat and his first chance to prove himself to his fellow soldiers. In real life, Doss had already earned two bronze stars before then in previous battles on Guam and the Phillippines.
    • The film shows Japanese soldiers doing a fake surrender, then arming mortar shells and throwing them at the Marines. By this time in the island-hopping campaign, the unfortunate tendency of Japanese soldiers to commit perfidy (a war crime) in order to lure US troops in was well-known, and therefore surrenders were usually not accepted due to overwhelming caution on the part of US troops (however, refusing to accept a surrender is itself a war crime, so there's blame to go around). In all likelihood, the Japanese soldiers would have been shot on sight.
  • The Atoner:
    • The real reason for Desmond refusing to hold a gun was because he nearly killed his father with his own gun after having enough of his abuse to his mother and himself and despite having all the hate in the world for his father, he doesn't kill him and this incident shames him from ever holding a gun.
    • And while it may not have completely cleaned him of his sins, Doss' father coming to his defense with a letter exonerating Doss from the court-martial.
  • Badass Pacifist: Doss, a conscientious objector who ends up saving 75 of his comrades during one of the most ferocious battles of the Pacific War as a combat medic. Without firing a single bullet.
  • Batman Grabs a Gun: Towards the end, Doss is seen picking up a M1 rifle. It's ultimately subverted as he still stays true to his "Thou Shalt Not Kill" belief and is instead using the rifle as a grip for a makeshift stretcher to evacuate Sergeant Howell.
  • Bayonet Ya: The Japanese soldiers use their bayonets to make sure their enemies are really dead.
  • BFG: Smitty Ryker wields a M1918A2 BAR with lethal effect, mowing down dozens of Japanese soldiers.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Desmond of course saves the lives of his fellows as a medic. More surprising is when earlier in the film, during Desmond's trial, his father arrives with a letter from the Brigadier General that exonerates Desmond, saving Desmond from being court-martialed.
  • Biopic: Of Badass Pacifist Desmond T. Doss.
  • Blind Alley: Hiding behind a dead corner in the tunnel, Desmond successfully evades capture by the Japanese.
  • Boom, Headshot!: A lot of people take this, and we see the results that aren't Pretty Little Headshots.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: The army is not inherently wrong for being anxious about having a soldier who doesn't want to kill anyone, or even touch a weapon. But Doss, who believes that it would be wrong for him to not be a medic on the battlefield, feels that doing so would violate his religious beliefs, and it's noted that forcing him to do so would violate the same constitutional rights they are fighting for.
    • From a practical perspective, Doss' refusal to carry a weapon does nothing to impede him in carrying out his duty as The Medic, and several scenes make it abundantly clear that if it weren't for his armed comrades he would have died on Hacksaw Ridge. His rescue of Sergeant Howell is the clearest example of this: Howell kills a sniper that nearly blew Doss' head off and kept him from getting to the sergeant, then provides essential covering fire while Doss hauls him to the cliff, killing several Japanese soldiers that would otherwise have shot Doss in the back.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Some scenes have soldiers firing their guns a lot longer than typical. Most notably with Smitty and his BAR and Sergeant Howell with his M3 "Grease Gun".
  • Break the Haughty: The cocky Milt "Hollywood" Zane shows off his physique by exercising nude in front of everyone. When Sergeant Howell shows up for an inspection, Zane has no time to put clothes on so stands in line as he is, dripping with sweat and whimpering in fear and embarrassment. He is further humiliated when Howell decrees that as he enjoys being naked so much, he can stay that way for the rest of the day's training.
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: Smitty uses a rather gruesomely mangled corpse of an American soldier as a shield while charging the enemy.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Captain Glover engages in some of this while calling for artillery support while in the middle of a Japanese counter-attack.
    Captain Glover: [on the radio] Yes, I know that's where the hell we are, but I don't expect to be here much longer!
  • Catapult Nightmare: Desmond has two. In the first, he relives a memory of his fight with his father (see The Atoner above), waking up abruptly when the gun goes off during the struggle. The second one is during the night on the ridge as he and Smitty are resting in a foxhole. Desmond sees a flare go up overhead and lifts his head to look out of the hole, only to find himself face-to-face with a squad of Japanese soldiers, who then proceed to storm the hole, killing Smitty while one of the soldiers is about to kill Desmond with a bayonet. Desmond wakes up right as he's about to be killed.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Sergeant Howell makes fun of Doss's double-loop knot, but Doss later uses this knot to help lower wounded soldiers off Hacksaw Ridge... including Sergeant Howell.
  • Combat Medic: Doss joined the army for this, as despite his religious convictions in regards to killing he did believe the war was justified. However, the army's job description and his personal belief eventually clashed and led to his court-martial. He eventually fits more in the role as The Medic.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Howell, Ryker and Glover were initially critical of Desmond's refusal to bear arms and tried to either force him to either give in or quit, but in their viewpoint, any serviceman in their right mind would have the common sense to use a firearm in general and thought Desmond was being unpractical with his beliefs. They eventual warm over and respect Doss for standing by his beliefs. While Smitty and Doss are bonding in a foxhole while on night patrol, Smitty tells Doss "any sane man would be screaming for a weapon" to defend himself from the enemy after the latter's Catapult Nightmare.
  • Compressed Adaptation: Some events have been time-compressed.
    • Desmond was not actually wounded and evacuated in a daylight assault at Hacksaw Ridge. He was wounded a couple of weeks later in the Okinawa Campaign.
    • In reality, Desmond's bible went missing as he dragged himself to safety. Months after he was shipped home, he found it in the mail; his entire company, who once mocked him for his convictions, searched up and down Hacksaw until they found it.
  • Cool Boat: The Iowa-class battleship supporting the troops offshore counts, as it saves Doss from getting assaulted by the Japanese at a critical point in the battle.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Doss not only refuses to name the men in his unit who beat him during the night, but he goes a step further by denying he was even beaten at all, saying to an astonished Howell, "I sleep pretty hard".
  • Daydream Surprise: Desmond has one where he and Smitty are killed by Japanese soldiers. It's only after his Catapult Nightmare that the scene is revealed to be a dream.
  • Deadpan Snarker: When he isn't shouting, Howell is very fond of directing stinging insults at his men. Captain Glover is similarly dry and witty.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • After Doss' first date with Dorothy, he kisses her without consent, resulting in a smack. While it does show that even she found it creepy and unsettling and was ultimately quick to dismiss it, his actions do show how differently they treated things like this back in the 1940s.
    • Given the time period, the racial slur for Japanese people, "Japs", is used quite frequently.
  • Determined Doctor: Doss was resolved to save as many lives as he could, even if there's just a remote chance of helping them, until he either collapsed or died trying.
  • Dies Wide Open: Smitty. Doss closes them while in tears.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Desmond's become basically allergic to guns as a result of his traumatic confrontation with his dad when trying to protect his mom.
  • Domestic Abuse: Desmond's father would sometimes be physically abusive to Desmond's mother.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Stated in-film by Tom Doss, Desmond's father, when he lectures his son about how everyone wanted to do the cool thing, and then die from it.invoked
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Naturally, Sergeant Howell mocks Doss for his pacifist convictions during training. He also ends up turning the rest of his squad against Doss for claiming he doesn't want to pick up a gun because he's a coward. However, after Doss gets beaten up by his squad members, Howell takes pity on Doss and shows greater respect for his principles. But he still believes Doss doesn't belong in the army and should quit.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: A defining characteristic of Desmond's father.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After going through absolute hell to rescue the 75 men, Doss earns the respect and admiration of his comrades and superiors and eventually gets back to the US where he lives a long happy life with Dorothy and their son Tommy on a small farm in northwestern Georgia, despite his injuries and the lingering effect of tuberculosis he contracted during the war. Desmond and Dorothy were together for just shy of 50 years, until her death in 1991. Desmond remarried Frances Duman in 1993, and remained with her until his death in 2006 at the age of 87.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Desmond suffers a moment of this when even Dorothy calls him prideful for being unwilling to at least hold a gun. She quickly takes it back though, realizing that she loves him because his principles make him different.
  • Everybody Has Standards: Smitty and Howell, two of Desmond's most vocal critics, aren't particularly impressed when Desmond's squadmates start beating on him, and Smitty actually sticks up for him. Howell even seems genuinely (but subtly) aghast when he sees Desmond's face in the morning, and sympathetically tries to convince Desmond to quit and go home for his own safety, telling him there's no shame in not being suited to life as a soldier.
  • Expy: Smitty Ryker resembles Richard Reiben from Saving Private Ryan. Both are athletically built BAR gunners with generally abrasive personalities and initially butt heads with the protagonist of the film until finally resolving their differences during the concluding battle of their respective films. Unlike Reiben however, Ryker does not survive the story.
  • Fallen Hero: Thomas Doss was a decorated WWI veteran who fought in Lys and Belleau Wood, but by the time of the film, he's reduced to an abusive Lower-Class Lout drunkard of a father and husband. However, Tom is still a sympathetic character as his trauma from his service is what turned him into the way he is and hates himself for his abusive behavior.
  • A Father to His Men: While they initially had doubts about Desmond joining, Drill Sergeant Nasty Howell and Glover are both caring towards their men under their command whilst on the battlefield and they were worried that Desmond's refusal to bear arms could mean the deaths of brothers-in-arms around him if he's not armed to defend himself and others in need, something that both of them brought up when Howell orders his platoon not to rely on Desmond to help them and Glover also telling him what would happen if Desmond on the battlefield had no weapon to protect himself and a wounded comrade. However, both superiors eventually warmed over and respected Desmond for being a Badass Pacifist and how he did managed to save many of his brothers-in-arms despite being unarmed himself.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Doss and Smitty Ryker start off very antagonistic, even before Doss's status as a conscientious objector was revealed, but they end up being close to another to the point Doss refuses to abandon his dead body even when in imminent danger of getting killed by the Japanese.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Those aware of Doss' achievements know that he'll survive the horror of Okinawa.
  • Geek Physiques: Doss' skinny frame is mocked extensively by Sergeant Howell. Not that it slows him down at all. Footage of the real Doss at the end shows it wasn't just due to Andrew Garfield's casting.
  • Get It Over With: In his Troubled Backstory Flashback, we see Desmond pointing a gun at his drunk father who begs him to pull the trigger.
  • Gorn:
    • It's a film about World War II directed by Mel Gibson; this is to be expected. The battle sequences are drenched in horrific, bloody, realistic violence. People have their limbs blown off, intestines spilling out of their bodies, bodies exploding in bloody fashions, exposed nerves and bones and a decapitation. The camera does not look away from any of this.
    • Also invoked by Thomas Doss when Desmond's brother, who has just enlisted, wears his uniform to the dinner table. Their father is quite disturbed, then tells his older son that he should hope to be shot in the chest, "A nice, clean entry wound," before telling them of one of the friends he lost in the last war, a handsome fellow who attracted plenty of girls in his Army greens, only to be killed by shrapnel that entered his back and exited the front, "Spilled his insides everywhere, ruined his uniform!" The elder Doss, now sobbing uncontrollably, tells his sons to get out of his sight.
  • Grave-Marking Scene: After Desmond enlists, he confronts his father about his decision at the cemetery where his father's three best friends are buried, all killed in the battlefields in France during the Great War. Thomas revels over the anguish he's faced in the wake of their deaths, and does not wish to face the same with his sons.
  • Grenade Hot Potato: During the Japanese fake surrender scene, Doss sees two Japanese hand grenades coming and smacks one away with his palm and kicks the other away, but one ends up wounding him.
  • Heroic BSoD: Doss has one after Smitty's death. He asks God what he should do and finds his answer in saving as many injured as he can.
  • Hidden Depths: Captain Glover comes across, in his own words, as a "hardass who only cares about rules and regulations" but reveals to Desmond that he is also a devout Christian who struggles to reconcile his faith with his duty as a soldier. He even seems to respect Desmond's beliefs and his sincere devotion to them, just feeling they're not compatible with being a soldier.
  • Historical Beauty Update: While certainly not bad looking, the real Doss wasn't quite as boyishly handsome as Andrew Garfield.
  • Honour Before Reason: Doss refuses to hold a weapon, even for training purposes at the threat of court martial.
  • Hospital Hottie: Dorthy is a nurse played by the gorgeous Teresa Palmer.
  • How We Got Here: The film begins with Desmond being carried on a gurney. Then, the scene cuts to him as a child.
  • Humble Hero: Doss never thinks of himself as anything more than a regular soldier and medic just trying to do his duty. As the epilogue shows, this was very much truth in television as the real Doss would dismiss any claims that he was a hero by saying the real heroes were the ones who didn't make it back and claiming the feeling of helping a soldier who thought he'd been blinded would've been more than enough.
  • I Have a Family: A wounded soldier frantically says he has kids when another medic soldier tells Desmond to give the solider some morphine and leave him. Desmond gives the wounded soldier some morphine but doesn't leave him.
  • Improvised Weapon:
    • During the Japanese counter-attack, a few soldiers take mortar shells, clang the primer on their helmets, and throw them at the incoming Japanese troops.
    • Inverted when Doss uses an M1 Garand as a grip for a makeshift stretcher for Sergeant Howell, never using it to fire at his enemies.
  • Insistent Terminology: Doss is not a conscientious objector. He's a conscientious cooperator.
  • Irony: A pacifist soldier ends up saving the lives of over 75 soldiers, even after being branded as a coward and even beaten by many of them.
    Sergeant Howell: Private Doss does not believe in violence. Do not look to him to save you on the battlefield.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: A group of Japanese soldiers emerges waving a white flag, but then toss grenades at the Americans.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Jerks they may be, the men in the army are right that a battlefield isn't the best place for a pacifist.
    Captain Glover: If one of them attacks you and some wounded soldier, what are you gonna do? Hit him with your Bible?
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Smitty. He acts quite assholish to Desmond because of the latter's nonviolent beliefs, even smacking him with his bible. He was also against another group of men for beating up Doss for the reason. And later on, he proves to be quite brave and selfless in battle and opens up to Doss and comes to respect him, and even admits that he can be an asshole.
    • Howell is just a guy doing his job who doesn't think a guy who doesn't want to even touch a gun should be allowed into a combat zone where other soldiers will be forced to rely on him. He comes to respect Doss after he takes a vicious beating from his squadmates but still refuses to quit and later during their time in combat together.
    • Thomas Doss is an alcoholic Abusive Dad and a Domestic Abuser, but sincerely loves his sons and wife and hates himself for his horrible treatment of them.
    • Captain Glover works with Howell to try and force Desmond out, but he has a moment of private connection with him where he speaks about his own faith and his difficulty in reconciling it with his duty as a soldier and pleads with Doss to simply leave before he is dishonorably discharged, ruining his life. He also cares deeply for the men under his watch and tells Desmond he was wrong and asks his forgiveness after he sees how bravely he served in rescuing other soldiers.
  • Jumped at the Call: Desmond Doss does this and enlists in the Army despite his pacifist beliefs. He states that he could've just stayed home working at a plant, but felt it was his duty to go out and that it wasn't right to sit at home peacefully while boys go out and fight and those who couldn't waste away at home.
  • Jungle Warfare: Averted. The US Navy and Army have ensured that any thick vegetation that was on the ridge was destroyed. It doesn't mean that taking the ridge is any easier though, as the Japanese simply dug fortifications underground.
  • Jumping on a Grenade: One American soldier contains a grenade's blast by forcing an enemy soldier to jump on one. Another protects his company by trapping a grenade between the enemy and himself, though he doesn't die and is recovered by Doss later.
  • Kiss-Kiss-Slap: Desmond kissing Dorothy without her consent—yet also without much resistance—lands him a slap afterwards.
  • The Lady's Favour: Before heading off to Basic Training, Dorothy gives Desmond a compact Bible with a picture of her inside. He loses it after he gets hit by a grenade, but his comrades manage to recover it from the battlefield and give it to him before he is shipped to a hospital.
  • Large Ham: Howell as any self-respecting military hardass needs to be.
  • Libation for the Dead: Opens with Tom Doss pouring out some whiskey at the gravesite of his fallen comrades from World War I.
  • Love at First Sight: Desmond falls for Dorothy the first moment he sees her.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: As covered under Gorn, and being in a battle as bloody as the one from Saving Private Ryan, both the struggles and post-struggle battlefields are a messy shower of dismembered bodies.
  • Made of Iron: Andy "Ghoul" Walker. In the first assault on Hacksaw, he gets blown away by a mortar round and comes off with a head bump. Later, he gets wounded again in the Japanese counter-attack. Despite that, he still is present in the final assault on Hacksaw at the end of the film.
  • Man on Fire: The Americans use flamethrowers, and there are several shots of men in flames running about as well as scenes showing still-burning corpses.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The American reaction to the Japanese launching a massive counterattack.
  • Meaningful Echo: When Doss makes a double-loop knot at basic training, Howell mocks it by saying he's supposed to be "tying a bowline, not building a bra". Doss jokingly repeats it back to Howell as he uses the same loop to lower Howell down the ridge to safety.
  • Messianic Archetype: Doss's dedication to saving people comes from his religious belief, so the movie frames him as a Christ figure. This is a favorite trope of Mel Gibson's, and he employs a lot of Christological imagery.
    • Doss is initially persecuted by those he later saves.
    • Doss' shower after his long night on Hacksaw Ridge looks like a bucket of water baptizing him, as water and blood flow down, the same as flowed out of Jesus on the cross.
    • After his second day at Hacksaw Ridge when he is med-evac'ed, Doss' trip down on a gurney is shot as though he was ascending into heaven.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: After the How We Got Here scene, Desmond (with his brother, Hal) is seen as a child a scene later.
  • Missing Mom: Smitty tells Desmond that his mother left him at an orphanage as a child and he's never seen her since.
  • Momma's Boy: Desmond gets his strong faith from his mother. The reason he starts his belief on never holding a gun is because of his actions trying to protect her mother from his father.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: There are no mountains visible from Fort Jackson, S.C.
  • Mr. Fanservice: The only reason to have Milt 'Hollywood' in the picture.
  • Multiple Demographic Appeal: The first act centers around the love story between Desmond and Dorothy which clearly caters to the female audience while the second and third act are depicting the brutal reality of war which is more appealing to the male audience.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Doss' skinny frame, which earns him the nickname "private cornstock" from Howell, doesn't stop him from lifting and hoisting grown men and running them across the battlefield. The footage at the end shows the real Doss was similarly built.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Sergeant Howell is clearly shocked when seeing the beating Doss received from the other men in his unit, and knows a lot of the blame is on him since he'd been repeatedly telling the men they couldn't rely on Doss to help them in combat, and punishing the entire unit for Doss refusing to pick up a rifle or work on Saturdays. Situations like this are the very reason why it is now strictly forbidden to punish an entire unit for the actions of one member.
    • In flashback, Desmond has a genuine look of horror on his face when he points a gun at his father and Thomas Doss breaks down in self-loathing tears.
  • Naked on Arrival: Milt 'Hollywood' Zane, for no reason other than to show off his physique to everyone. The trope initially serves to show how much of a Jerkass the character is, as well as being blatant fanservice. After a dose of comeuppance at the hands of Sergeant Howell, the trope morphs into Naked People Are Funny as Zane is forced to complete training in the nude.
  • Narrating the Obvious: Just so the audience knows what going on, Desmond says out loud "We just lost our cover." when the Navy ends its bombardment of the battlefield.
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: Played literally when a private calls Captain Glover to make him aware of 'Hollywood' and other injured having returned from the battlefield via Doss' hands.
    Private: Captain. There's something you gotta see.
  • Nice Guy: Desmond is a sweet-natured, humble and sincere young man who even hardass soldiers like Smitty come to like.
  • The Nicknamer: Sergeant Howell during the start of boot camp assigns several nicknames, a few stick like 'Ghoul' and 'Hollywood'. Desmond also earns the name 'Cornstalk'.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Several draftees of Doss' unit beat him to a pulp at the training camp for his refusal to fight as it caused them to suffer as well.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: This is Doss's raison d'être after the first battle. Resolved to save as many lives as he can before either collapsing from exhaustion or dying, he continuously pushes on regardless of his own safety. When he's finally forced to flee, he takes Smitty's body with him.
  • Not Afraid to Die: Even before setting foot anywhere near Hacksaw Ridge, Desmond is fully prepared to give his life for his country and the men he served alongside with, exemplified by the fact that he was willing and daring to die unarmed.
  • Oh, Crap!: Doss has this moment while he's pulling wounded off the battlefield after the other troops have pulled back. The Navy ends its bombardment because there are still soldiers on the ridge, but for Doss, the explosions were the primary things forcing the Japanese soldiers to keep their heads down and the dust and smoke raised by them kept him from being seen.
    Doss: We just lost our cover!
  • One-Man Army: Several of Desmond's fellow soldiers, as the battle rages on, but Sergeant Howell and Smitty stand out. Desmond also qualifies in his own way, rescuing dozens of soldiers on his own.
  • Orbital Kiss: Downplayed. When Desmond and Dorothy kiss on the mountain top, the camera does a 180° turn around them.
  • Papa Wolf: Desmond's father fought his way into the military proceedings to deliver a letter to the judge that would keep Desmond from getting court-martialed.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Desmond's Oh, Crap! moment when bumping into a hanged Japanese in the tunnel system underneath the battlefield.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Sergeant Howell, whose has been one of the many military personnel to give Desmond a hard time because of his nonviolent beliefs, is visibly disturbed at the beating Desmond took by some of the other men. And, for the first time, he gently tries to persuade Desmond to just pick up a gun.
    • As much of a Jerkass Smitty was during boot camp, even he felt that some of the other men attacking Doss in the middle of the night while he was sleeping was taking things too far.
    • Smitty offers one of his cigarettes to one of the soldiers who has been at Hacksaw Ridge longer and is traumatized by it. He also opens up to Doss when they share a hole together and comes to respect him.
  • Playing Possum: Desmond plays dead on the battlefield in order to avoid being detected and killed by the enemy forces.
    • Many of the other soldiers on the battlefield are also doing this, although some are caught and killed before Desmond can reach them.
  • Pocket Protector: Surprisingly averted. The attention given to Dorothy's bible opened up the possibility for it to play a larger role in saving Desmond's life but it didn't come to be.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: Captain Glover delivers one for his company in the final assault attempt at Hacksaw.
    Glover: Let's go to work.
  • Punch a Wall: While incarcerated at Fort Jackson, Desmond finds himself backed into a corner, being treated like a coward, a traitor and now a criminal just because he WON'T kill, pushing him close enough to the breaking point that he dukes it out with a brick wall.
  • Reactive Continuous Scream: The first day on the ridge, the unit's cover is blown when a "corpse" sits up and screams, causing the soldier facing him to scream as well. This goes on for a couple of seconds until both are killed by enemy gunfire.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Mel Gibson decided not to include some of the more unbelievable aspects to the story.
    • After being injured and taken off the battlefield, Doss actually rolled off the stretcher when he noticed a man more injured than him and demanded they take him instead. While they were gone, he was shot by a sniper, shattering his left arm, and he crawled 300 yards by himself in the hellfire of battle to safety. This was omitted because Gibson feared that nobody would believe that had happened.
    • While lowering men down the ridge, a Japanese soldier had Doss in his sights several times, and every time he did, his gun jammed, preventing him from shooting him. This was also omitted amidst fears of unbelievability.
  • Real Men Eat Meat: Averted. Doss is a vegetarian. Smitty only responds that "of course he is".
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Doss does his very best to avert this.
  • Real-Person Epilogue: The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue starts off with black & white footage of the real war hero Desmond Thomas Doss as he receives the Medal of Honor. We also get to see his wife Dorothy.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Smitty dies in battle not long after he and Doss bond and move past their initial antagonism.
  • Right Under Their Noses:
    • Doss has the idea to cover an injured comrade and himself with dirt to hide from incoming Japanese soldiers.
    • The Japanese are revealed to have the entire ridge tunneled, allowing them to show up anywhere, and overrun the American lines at an extremely close range.
    • While dodging enemy fire, Doss hides inside a Japanese tunnel, where he must dodge more enemy soldiers. In one corridor, patrols miss him because he uses the darkness to his advantage by standing in a corner facing the wall and possibly because the Japanese never expected an American inside said tunnel.
  • Runaway Groom: Discussed. The priest at Desmond's and Dorothy's wedding mentions this trope as a possible reason for Desmond's no show.
  • Satchel Charge: US M37 Satchel charges are used to clear out Japanese bunkers, tunnels, and surface defenses during the fight to take the titular ridge. When used alongside flamethrowers, they prove to be very efficient at wiping out huge swathes of hiding Japanese soldiers.
  • Save the Villain: During his excursion in the Japanese tunnel system, Doss ends up face to face with a wounded Japanese soldier. After a moment of registration, Doss simply applies first-aid onto the enemy soldier despite knowing full well what the Japanese could do if they found him. Also noted is that the Americans picking up the wounded that were lowered down from Hacksaw Ridge mentioned that Doss not only lowered down their fellow soldiers, but wounded Japanese as well.
  • Say Your Prayers: Desmond draws strength and courage from his faith through prayer through the ordeal he faced at Hacksaw Ridge. The second attack is held up for 10 minutes because Desmond was still busy praying.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: What snaps Desmond out of his Heroic BSoD after Smitty's death is hearing wounded men left behind calling out for help, at which point Desmond dusts himself off, dons his helmet and charges back into the fire and smoke to save as many as he can.
  • Seppuku: The closing scenes of the battle on the ridge show the Japanese commanders going through this to show that, this time, they really have been defeated.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: During the Japanese counter-attack, Doss encounters an injured medic from the unit that merged with Doss'. He attempts to administer aid, but the medic insists that the plasma infusion should go to someone who needs it more than he does. Doss then finds a wounded Andy "Ghoul" Walker and administers aid with the plasma, but a stray bullet shatters the container. In the aftermath of the battle back at the wound station, it was revealed that the medic who refused the plasma didn't make it because he ended up going into shock due to lack of plasma.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Desmond's father is this, having witnessed horrors during the Great War.
    • The soldiers who Desmond's unit is sent to reinforce, who've already spent a while trying to take Hacksaw Ridge, tend to have Thousand-Yard Stare's and display a good deal of cynicism.
  • Shell-Shock Silence: Desmond has such a moment at his first visit to the hospital when all voices around him drown out as he is looking around the busy emergency room.
  • Shoot the Medic First: As per the environment of the Pacific War, a fellow combat medic points out to Doss that the Japanese put a premium on medics, and he advises Doss to remove all medic markings while giving Doss a helmet without a cross.
  • Survival Mantra: Doss carries on through the night seeking out surviving wounded men and carrying them to the ridge by repeating "Please Lord, help me get one more."
  • Survivor Guilt: Desmond's father is hinted to have this, as he lost his three closest childhood friends on the battlefields in France during the First World War.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Desmond's father may be a physically abusive alcoholic, but one can't help but feel sorry for him as more of his past is seen. He served in the Great War, in which he bore witness to seeing his best friends killed and now feels he's the only one who seems to bother remembering them. He's not abusive towards his family just for the sake of it and he clearly does love them, it's just that he's in so much pain inside that he can't help being what he is.
  • The Bus Came Back: Ghoul is thought to be dead after he's found unmoving after his abortive assault on the Japanese bunker, and then after he's revealed to have survived that and gets wounded during the Japanese counterattack. He shows up alive and well in the background when Desmond is being thanked by the soldiers after rescuing Sergeant Howell.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Some of the fellow soldiers Desmond and his troop encounter during their arrival at Hacksaw Ridge have this blank look on their faces due to the horrors they have witnessed. Eventually, Desmond's unit starts to sport it too.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Doss's conviction through and through. He is even a vegetarian because of it.
  • Title Drop: "That's our objective! Hacksaw Ridge!"
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: The traumatic incident where Desmond points a gun at his father is explored in two flashback scenes.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: A number of events were changed or left out of the movie:
    • The event of Desmond almost shooting his father after a fight with his mother. In real life the fight was between Desmond's father and his uncle, and his mother stepped in to take away the gun, getting Desmond to hide it. Desmond also had an older sister, Audrey, who was not portrayed in the film.
    • Desmond didn't meet Dorothy while she was a nurse at a hospital. In fact, she didn't become a nurse until after the war. They met when she came to his church selling Adventist books. He also didn't miss their wedding by being put in a holding cell, as they were already married by that point.
    • Desmond's prior combat at the Battle of Guam and the Battle of Leyte is skipped over, making it seem as if the Battle of Okinawa was his first combat experience.
    • The assault on Hacksaw Ridge seems to only last a few days, although Desmond's Medal of Honor citation covers events over about 3 weeks, and the Battle of Okinawa itself lasted 82 days.
    • There are also the events covered above under Reality Is Unrealistic which were left out as Mel Gibson felt the audience wouldn't believe them as part of a true story.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: One American soldier pukes on-screen.
  • War Is Hell:
    • The film does not shy away from any of the gore and savagery that happens between the Japanese and the Americans in the fight for Hacksaw Ridge.
    • Doss's father invokes this when both his sons sign up for active service, as Desmond's younger brother Harold enlisted in the Navy. Having survived the Great War, he naturally doesn't want them to go into battle only to suffer as he did, and tells them that whatever they might think of war, it's infinitely worse than they can possibly imagine.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The film ends with video and photos explaining what happened to Desmond after Hacksaw, along with clips from interviews with the real-life Desmond, his brother Hal, and Captain Jack Glover. Desmond was later awarded the Medal of Honor by Harry S. Truman for his courageous actions at Hacksaw Ridge, was married to Dorothy until her death in 1991, and passed away in 2006 at the age of 87.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Sergeant Howell's reaction twice to Doss using a M1 rifle to make a makeshift stretcher and to Doss using a double-loop knot (which Howell had mocked during training) to lower him from the top of the ridge.
  • Zerg Rush: True to Imperial Japan, the Japanese soldiers attempt a banzai charge. Due to their overwhelming numbers, it works very well on the outnumbered Americans. The attack only ends up being stopped by the US navy performing shore bombardment, saturating the ridge with shells.


Video Example(s):


Hacksaw Ridge- Seppuku

The Japanese general at the Battle of Okinawa commits seppuku as his army faces defeat.

How well does it match the trope?

4.8 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / Seppuku

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