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Hacksaw Ridge is a 2016 biographical war film about the World War II was directed by Mel Gibson and written by Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan, based on a earlier documentary about Doss. The film stars Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths and Vince Vaughn. It was released in the United States on November 4, 2016.

It is about the experiences of Desmond Doss, an American pacificist combat medic who was a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, refusing to carry or use a firearm or weapons of any kind.

Plot summary

The extraordinary true story of conscientious objector Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield) who saved 75 men in Okinawa, during the bloodiest battle of WWII, without firing a single shot. Believing that the war was just but killing was nevertheless wrong, he was the only American soldier in WWII to fight on the front lines without a weapon. As an army medic Doss single-handedly evacuated the wounded near enemy lines - braving enemy fire and putting his own life on the line. He was the first conscientious objector to ever win the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Plot synopsis


Two young brothers, Desmond and Hal, are running playfully through the woods. They live with their placid mother, Bertha, and their gruff father, Tom. Tom is still haunted by his service in World War I, and now drinks heavily and regularly beats his sons. The boys run back to the family home and begin an energetic playfight in front of the house. In the tussle, Desmond picks up a brick and hits Hal over the head, instantly knocking him unconcious. As their parents frantically try to aid Hal, Desmond is overcome with remorse.  The family are strict Seventh-Day Adventists, and a large illustration of the Ten Commandments hangs in the house. Desmond sees the commandments "Thou Shalt Not Kill" and, convinced that he has murdered his brother, feels nothing but intense guilt. Tom goes to whip Desmond with his belt, but Bertha stops him by explaining that it won't teach their son anything. Although Hal recovers, Desmond is haunted by the experience.

Before the war

15 years later, Desmond is working in the church while his mother sings in the choir. The practice is interrupted by a loud noise from outside: a large car part has fallen onto the leg of a young man who was working on it, severing an artery.  Desmond stops the bleeding using his belt as a torniquet, and then accompanies the man to the hospital. There, he meets a young nurse named Dorothy Schutte, who tells Desmond that his quick thinking probably saved the man's leg. Dorothy is helping with a blood drive at the hospital, and Desmond offers to donate so that he can continue to talk to her.

Later, Desmond and Dorothy go to the movies on a date. As they walk through town after the show, Dorothy is almost hit by a car. Desmond pulls her to safety and stuns her by kissing her. She slaps him in surprise, then walks away. She asks Desmond to follow her, causing him to almost get hit by a car, too.

Meanwhile, Desmond's younger brother Hal has decided to enlist to fight in World War II. Tom and Bertha are displeased and try to talk him out of it, but Hal stands his ground and assures them that he has signed up for the right reasons.

Desmond and Dorothy go for a hike together. This time she lets him kiss her, and the two quickly fall in love. They spend increasing amounts of time together, and she teaches him a few things about medicine. Desmond informs her that he has decided to enlist in the Army, and she becomes upset. She asks him if he is ever going to propose to her, and he does so on the spot. She accepts.

Desmond finds his father in the cemetery, standing by the graves of the friends he lost in the First World War. Tom worries that the same fate will befall his sons.

Beginning training

Desmond bids farewell to Dorothy and his family, and sets off to begin his training. At the barracks, Desmond meets the other soldiers in the squad, and initially pals up with 'Smitty' Riker, who is amusing himself by throwing knives at other soldiers' feet. He encounters the self-assured and cocky Milt "Hollywood" Zane, who is showing off his looks and physique by exercising stark naked in front of everyone. The commanding officer, Sergeant Howell, shows up for an inspection, and in the race to line up Smitty gets one of his own knives stuck in his foot. Howell berates each man in turn, assigning them nicknames. He notices the knife in Smitty's foot and dubs him "Private Idiot". He names one man "Private Ghoul" due to his height and ugliness, and calls another "Private Indian" because he just "looks foreign". Even "Hollywood" Zane is subdued as he stands, still naked, sweating profusely and whimpering in fear and embarrassment. Howell remarks on Desmond's slender build, instructing the Corporal to "keep him away from strong winds".

With the inspection complete, Howell orders the men out to the training field. Zane goes to put his clothes on but Howell stops him, stating that if he enjoys being naked so much, he can stay that way for the rest of the day's training - including the obstacle course. Howell labels the dripping Zane "Private Private Parts" and sends him to join the others.

Desmond completes the obstacle course in good time, impressing Howell. Just as the men are to begin their rifle training, however, Desmond states that he does not wish to handle a weapon: he simply wants to be a medic. He also chooses not to train on a Saturday, as that day is his Sabbath. An angered Howell marches Desmond to Captain Jack Glover, who orders Desmond to follow orders as long as he is on the field.

Howell decides to make Desmond's life a living hell. He attempts to have Desmond discharged, but this fails as religious beliefs do not constitute mental illness. Howell therefore decides to force Desmond to leave of his own accord and systematically turns the other soldiers against him, making him look like a coward for being a conscientious objector. Smitty tries to provoke Desmond by stealing his Bible and a picture of Dorothy, but Desmond never budges. One night, several of the soldiers beat Desmond in his bed. Howell asks him to point out his attackers, but Desmond refuses - saying that he fell out of bed - and carries on with training.

Incarceration and trial

The day of Desmond's wedding to Dorothy arrives. The squad is due to be released from training on furlough, but Desmond is informed that he cannot be awarded a pass because he has not completed rifle training. Desmond continues to stand by his beliefs and as a result is detained and incarcerated for insubordination. He spends his wedding day locked in a cell. Dorothy visits him and questions whether he is mistaking his own will for God's will. Desmond is put on trial for insubordination. Tom puts on his old uniform and visits his former captain, who is now a general, and talks about his son's predicament. Tom arrives at the courthouse with a letter from the general that states Desmond's right to follow his beliefs (and refuse to carry a weapon) is protected by the constitution. Desmond is released and awarded a pass, therefore enabling him to continue his work in the field. He immediately marries Dorothy, and they later consummate.

The Battle of Okinawa

Desmond rejoins his squad as they head on to the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. As they approach the battlefield, they ominously pass a convoy of exhausted and badly injured soldiers coming the other way. They arrive at the base of the Maeda Escarpment, a Japanese stronghold which is better known as Hacksaw Ridge.

The company climbs the cliff face and, once at the top, begin to move quietly move forward over a field of dead and dying soldiers. The Japanese  soldiers begin firing, leading to a brutal and bloody battle in which countless men are killed. In the midst of the chaos Desmond tends to the wounded, administering morphine and trying to transport them back down the cliff to safety.

As night falls, the squad sets up camp. Desmond and Smitty share a foxhole, and the two get to know each other better. Smitty admits that he has treated Desmond poorly. Desmond recounts the abuse he and his brother suffered at the hands of their father. One time, Tom went after Bertha and Desmond tried to intervene, wrestling his father's gun out of his hands and pointing it at him. He was ready to shoot until his mother stopped him. Desmond talks about how close he came to killing his father and, at the time, how willing he was to do it. Smitty fully realizes Desmond's aversion to weapons, and apologies to him for how he was before.

The next morning, the Japanese begin a heavy assault. Bullets and grenades are fired everywhere, and the American squad is forced to retreat back down the cliff. Desmond tries to save who he can but, despite his efforts, Smitty dies in front of him. Desmond remains hidden on the escarpment as the Japanese soliders walk around killing survivors. Desmond tends to the wounded, and rigs up a pulley system to lower casualties to the camp at the base of the cliff. The other men cannot believe that anyone is left alive up there, let alone is able to lower wounded soldiers down. At one point, Desmond must enter an underground defensive post to evade the Japanese. Inside, he tends to a wounded Japanese solider. Eventually, Desmond encounters Howell and brings him back to the base.

Captain Glover apologies to Desmond for doubting him. He informs him that the next attack falls on the Sabbath, but they will not proceed without him because they see him as a miracle, and they all agree that they need a miracle. After praying for the men, Desmond joins them.

Back on the ridge, the squad runs into a group of Japanese soldiers that have falsely surrendered. Battle ensues again, but the Americans begin to turn the tide. One Japanese soldiers commits ritual suicide when he realizes the battle is lost. Desmond helps Glover by kicking away grenades and continuing to bring men to safety, but is injured. After being carried to safety, Desmond is informed that he is going home. He asks for his Bible and another solider runs to get it for him. Desmond is flown away for treatment.


The real Desmond Doss, Hal Doss and Jack Glover recount their experiences of the battle and Desmond's heroics. It is revealed that that Desmond was the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor. He rescued over 75 men in the battlefield. He and Dorothy Schutte were married until her death in 1991. Desmond passed away at the age of 87 in 2006.


  • Andrew Garfield as Desmond T. Doss
  • Vince Vaughn as Sergeant Howell
  • Sam Worthington as Captain Glover
  • Luke Bracey as Smitty Riker
  • Hugo Weaving as Tom Doss
  • Ryan Corr as Lieutenant Manville
  • Teresa Palmer as Dorothy Schutte, his first wife
  • Rachel Griffiths as Bertha Doss, his mother
  • Richard Roxburgh as Colonel Stelzer
  • Luke Pegler as Milt "Hollywood" Zane
  • Richard Pyros as Randall "Teach" Fuller
  • Ben Mingay as Grease Nolan
  • Firass Dirani as Vito Rinnelli
  • Jacob Warner as James Pinnick
  • Goran D. Kleut as Andy 'Ghoul' Walker
  • Harry Greenwood as Henry Brown
  • Damien Thomlinson as Ralph Morgan
  • Robert Morgan as Colonel Sangston
  • Nathaniel Buzolic as Harold "Hal" Doss
  • Ori Pfeffer as Irv Schecter
  • Milo Gibson as Lucky Ford
  • John Batziolas as Private Schulenburg
  • John Cannon as Corporal Cannon
  • Mikael Koski as Private Giles
  • Charles Jacobs as Private Webb
  • Ulyses Medina as "Are you alive" boy

Critical response

Hacksaw Ridge received critical acclaim. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 87%, based on 172 reviews, with an average rating of 7.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Hacksaw Ridge uses a real-life pacifist's legacy to lay the groundwork for a gripping wartime tribute to faith, valor, and the courage of remaining true to one's convictions." On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average out of 100 to reviews, the film has a score of 71 out of 100, based on 45 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". CinemaScore reported that audiences gave the film an average "A" grade on an A+ to F scale.