Mel Gibson’s first film in ten years, Hacksaw Ridge, delivers an emotionally captivating and compelling argument about standing true to one’s convictions. As “Private Beanstalk”, Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) stands out amongst his fellow soldiers in the U.S. Army—not only physically (Main Character Throughline of Situation) but in the way their different ways of thinking challenge their relationship with one another (Relationship Story Throughline of Manner of Thinking). Steadfast in their belief that war requires a man to kill (Influence Character Throughline of Fixed Attitude), the collective Influence Characters of Pvt. Smitty (Luke Bracey), Sgt. Howell (Vince Vaughn), and Captain Glover (Sam Worthington) dismiss Doss as a joke in their attempts to defeat the Japanese empire by securing Hacksaw Ridge—a deadly and doomed battlefield on the island of Okinawa (Overall Story Throughline of Activity).
Driven to save lives instead of take lives, Doss finds it a challenge to complete basic training and get married to his beloved while at the same time staying true to his beliefs (Main Character Problem of Help, Main Character Issue of Preconception). When challenged to reconsider that killing in war is not murder, Doss only widens the gap between he and his compatriots by acting the conscientious objector (Influence Character Response of Reconsider & Relationship Story Problem of Conscience). War is Hell and the relentless pursuit of victory is all that matters (Overall Story Problem of Pursuit).
Unfortunately, the Japanese army consists of unconventional soldiers who retaliate with a complete lack of self-preservation, matching the U.S. aggression without quarter (Overall Story Issue of Self Interest). The two fight over a small stretch of sand in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the victor rising when the last man of the opposing side falls (Overall Story Symptom of Control & Story Limit of Optionlock).
In the end, the US finds victory with inspiration from Doss and his dogged approach of surviving throughout the night without firing a shot (Story Outcome of Success & Overall Story Solution of Avoidance). On the morning of their victory, Captain Glover reveals his meaningful change of character by delaying their assault through respecting Doss’ religious beliefs (Influence Character Resolve of Changed & Influence Character Solution of Avoidance). In return and in recognition of the newfound respect between them, Doss agrees to rescind his refusal to go into combat on Saturday—the day of his Sabbath (Relationship Story Solution of Temptation)
Doss survives the war with his life and sense of humanity intact. The news footage and interviews of his life post-war reveal how he and everyone he touched lived greater because of his strength of character (Story Judgment of Good & Main Character Resolve of Steadfast).
While covering familiar thematic ground in its exploration of the horrors of war, Hacksaw Ridge maintains a consistency of narrative purpose that both moves and convinces us of its message of strength through conviction.