November 10, 2016
In Hacksaw Ridge, the flaying of flesh is presented as a pathway to salvation.
I enjoy your articles very much, but please note you don't "win" the medal of honor, it is earned.
In Reply to Scott (comment #29478)
Yes, earned is a better word Scott. thanks
One wonders Sir, if you have actually studied in detail the actual accounts of the history this movie is based upon...
For this reader, it would appear that you have never even heard of 'War', and what all it entails.
Men and women DIE. Men and Women suffered horribly. To shirk from that reality, AND of the horrific abuse that Christ went through, would be akin to carrying Political Correctness to a self-imposed bubble of not even wanting to know of the reality of 'Suffering'.
I would propose that you should first seek out actual War Veterans, listen to their stories, and then realize your Rose colored glasses are on much too tightly, and should be removed forthwith.
After all, as I write this, we are on Remembrance/Veterans Day, were most of us DO pause, reflect, and acknowledge, War has robbed so many, of so much, and for that we are to be ever grateful.
Perhaps for future, you would be better equipped to review movies such as "Finding Nemo", or "Up"; as, hopefully, you will not have to endure such realities as to what Hacksaw Ridge portrays.
Heaven forbid you should have to endure any semblance of 'Reality' ever again.
Mel's gruesome portrayal woke up the Church for a season to what Christ suffered on our behalf. He blessed us with a valid picture of Is. 52:14 in particular and other verses from Is. 53. We better understood emotionally what Jesus meant to take up our cross.
In this movie, his vivid portrayal of the carnage serves another important purpose...to show us the sacrifices of many for the freedoms we so take for granted that were bought and paid for by their shed blood.
The horrors of war affect all combatants forever, and we need to grow in our sensitivity for why so many come home deeply affected by Moral Injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Injuries.
Every day should be Veterans' Day, not just today!
This film and its director should be praised for this perspective, not chastised.
Hi Consider This and Rick,
Thanks for taking the time to comment. I think it’s important that we separate the actual experiences of war from the movie itself. It is entirely possible to acknowledge and honor the real-world sacrifice that veterans have made—at the Battle of Okinawa and throughout history—while also questioning how this particular film treats that reality (and, more to the point for this piece, how it lends spiritual implications to that reality). I happened to see Hacksaw Ridge with my 92-year-old grandfather, who was in the Pacific theater as a Navy man during World War II, so you can be certain the reality of the conflict was on my mind as I watched, and while I wrote this. For what it’s worth, he liked the movie better than I did.
Certainly enjoy your description of the movie, but don't agree at all with you summary at the end of it.
I'm looking forward to seeing the movie.
Thanks again, Josh, for your reviews. I have been mulling over about whether or not I want to see this movie. I say this as a veteran of the US Army, as nephew of a captain in WW2 and as nephew of another uncle terribly wounded in WW1. I did see "The Last Passion of the Christ," but more than once considered leaving the theatre precisely b/c of the endless physical violence that went, literally, deeper than skin-deep--right to the bones. But that was where any educative, revelatory purpose of the violence ended. It never broke through to a significant meaning except, "Geez, this was awful for Jesus, but I'm kind of grateful he did this."
The violence in that movie was simply needlessly excessive and never provoked thought so much as revulsion with no further response. In that sense I thought that "The Passion" was pornographic, considering the etymological literal meaning of "dirty pictures," though having nothing to do with sexual perversion. From what you write, it seems that Gibson has continued on that path, which you rightly call "fetishizing," but even that may be too mild a word for it. Isn't it perhaps closer to idolizing violence, given that you suggest he sees physical violence as the way to salvation?
In understand from my uncles’ stories (and they were many, told with tears, ambivalence, anger at what they had to do) and even from my time in the US Army in a supporting ordnance group during the Viet Nam War something of war’s horrors and (for the “winners”) some things it accomplishes. But I continue to wonder as I have for years, what good graphic portrayal of violence for a supposedly noble cause really does. I wonder how patronizing such serious art resonates with or is informed deeply by St. Paul’s admonitions about “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Thanks again and keep reviewing. And, by the way, I think I know (knew) your 92 year old grandfather.
In Reply to Jim Dekker (comment #29487)
Thanks for sharing, Jim. If you do decide to see Hacksaw Ridge, please do let us know what you thought.
It is hard to tell a story of war without brutality. Just like it is hard to tell the story of Christ without the brutality that was crucial to the sacrifice made. You focus on the wrong things in this story. I say this as a former journalist but mostly as a Christian. I hate war but I thought this movie was sobering but so very moving. It is a true story and the man behind it searched for a producer who would tell the truth. Mel Gibson happened to be that man. Thank him and God for the unearthing of a story that gives him so much glory unlike the crap we see so often in action movies and horror and the like.
In Reply to Janine Davidge (comment #29490)
I would agree with you on the relevance of brutality in telling a war story, Janine. It would have been absurd not to include some level of violence in Hacksaw Ridge. My concern is with the extreme focus on that brutality - at the expense of the notion of pacifism that seemed to be the guiding principle of Doss' faith and life.
I disagree with C.S. Lewis, and with you, on the point you are attempting to make regarding the physical suffering of Christ. To give Christ's physical suffering any less consideration than His spiritual, mental, and emotional suffering is denying the experience that Christ had from Gethsemane to grave.
The Scriptures, particularly the New Testament writings, are rife with the teaching of giving our bodies over, either to sin or to Christ. That we worship God any less with our bodies than we do with our hearts, souls, and minds, is faulty logic, and faulty theology.
War, as they say, is hell. Our 20th century war films, devoid of the blood and carnage that actual soldiers experienced, made war glamorous for far too long in the U.S. It was only when Vietnam appeared in our living rooms every night throughout the late 60s and 70s did people get a first-hand look at the "nobility" of war.
Does Gibson go further than he need in his depiction of the crucifixion, or in his depiction of war? Perhaps. But does he do so because he believes our Western society has become immune to the horrors of either. I think so.
Thanks for weighing in, Joe. To your point, Luke's account of Gethsemane notes that Jesus' "sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground." That passage also references, however, his anguish and earnestness (emotional states), while Matthew and Mark focus on his sorrow and feelings of being overwhelmed. Based on what we've seen of his cinema, the Mel Gibson version of this story would be all about those drops of blood - an emphasis that would be as skewed as what we get in Hacksaw Ridge.
It's funny you never, ever hear anyone complaining about the aggregions nature of violence in today's movies except when that movie is produced by a Christian man. If I may say so I don't think it is Gibson's portrayal of brutality that is skewed. I think it is your perspective on the man himself that is skewed.
Sir,My family has members who have provided service to others both in the military and as missionaries.
We have lost members to war.
I have long known.the incredibly story od Pte fc Desmond Doss (watch the 2003 documentary film on utube).
No one in our family has any illusions of war being a glorious or noble enterprise.
But I have now seen the film twice and Sir, from my perspective, you have failed to see what it so beautifully depicted
That in the middle of a literal man made hell on earth, God, through someone of resolute faith and love, can shine His light out in the darkness. One person, prepared to sacrifice everything for what he believed, out of love not ego, offered up his life to serve those who had not understood him and rejected him and even to, where he could, serve the soldiers truing to kill him.
If the director did not depict the battlefield (and battlefield injuries)as realistically as was shown, then the viewer who had (fortunately) never experienced a war would not be able to even begin to grasp the levelof faith,love and courage displayed bt Pte Doss.
God Bless you.
And hasten the day when all swords are beaten into plowshares and all of us treat each other as the sacred acts of creation we are (each made in the Imago Dei).
In Reply to Janine Davidge
I can only speak for myself, Janine, and I have wrestled with the use of violence in many different types of films, including, recently, Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight: https://thinkchristian.reframemedia.com/the-hateful-eights-missing-man-of-sorrows
(Interestingly, there is also cross imagery at play there.)
I've not seen the movie but it has been widely praised by many people whose judgment I trust. The point they made was that there is someone historical who was willing to stand behind his principles. This must be a shock to the easily offended snowflakes that populate our campuses.
Movies reach people we professional theologians cannot, but they reach in different ways. Perhaps someone who has no clue which bathroom to use will see that there are others who have examined their lives and made a decision to live differently. Or perhaps that there are issues greater than the Benighted Self worth living for? I can see this being used with teenagers to elicit a response about how life is lived. But as for some self flagellation message, that seems obscure to the max.
Man's disobedience to God as exemplified by war is not desecration of the body as shown in the Hacksaw Ridge. In fact, it magnified the reason why Jesus Christ happened to be. The old testament is talking about Him and finally fulfilled in the new testament. Most of us still did get the real message of why Jesus Christ came to this world not to condemn mankind but to save it.
You haven't seen men give their lives for their comrades. You haven't picked up body parts where the biggest part was a foot in a boot. Until you have, I don't think your comments are relevant. When you have watched you friends die and you can't help them, maybe you won't disrespect men who have.
At last someone has raised a similar issue to the one I struggled with on the inarguably amazing cinematic achievement that is Hacksaw Ridge. The performances were stellar. The battle scenes were handled with a certainty that rivals Spielberg. And of course the true story is so pure and inspiring almost to be unbelievable.
But I found myself looking for something more profound in the tension between Doss' two powerful commitments: to serve in a war and not to take a life. I didn't so much have a problem with depicting the brutality ('m conflicted about it, but that's a post for another time), but that a movie about a pacifist is also a full-on, no-holds-barred war movie. The guns are blazing, the tanks booming, the blades thrusting. I wanted Gibson and the screenwriters, Schenkkan and Knight, to have something to say about that nexus. There was one scene in that final battle (I won't spoil) where they really nailed that paradox, and it was thrilling. But given that the filmmakers did choose to tell the story of a non-violent Christian in such a violent way, I was hoping for a more layered illustration of the conflict that all Christians face (few as resolutely and valiantly as Desmond Doss): striving for perfect faith in this so-imperfect world.
P.S. On this Veteran's Day, thank you to all soldiers past and present for your service.
In Reply to Ronnie
To accuse me of disrespecting veterans with this piece is misleading. As I said above to Consider This and Rick, I think it’s important that we separate the actual experiences of war from the movie itself. It is entirely possible to acknowledge and honor the real-world sacrifice that veterans have made—at the Battle of Okinawa and throughout history—while also questioning how this particular film treats that reality (and, more to the point for this post, how it lends spiritual implications to that reality). Veterans and Hacksaw Ridge are not one and the same.
Thanks for your analysis, Josh. Spot on, despite the critiques. I have felt the same about all of Gibson's gory films... always a bit gratuitous. The C.S. Lewis passage is so instructive (he almost always is). I appreciate his viewpoint as someone who initially was outside the church-- he's less "used to" churchy approaches and so with humility I always hear him out.
I prefer to follow the approach of the Gospel accounts, which allude to, rather than spell out, the agony of the torture Jesus suffered. Leaves room for my imagination to put myself in His shoes, from which (with Lewis) I otherwise recoil.
Neither pacicifism, sacrifice, or the true horror of modern war can be appreciated without accurate depictions.
As a veteran, a minister, and a counselor myself, I am constantly appalled a people's quickness to advocate and justify war, and at the opposite extreme that some cliam to be spritually superior... That nothing justifies the violent dismemberment or wounding of another human being.
I find little or no scriptural justification for either position.
I think games, outside of Trining games, and "entertainment" products that feature fictional violence meet a reasonable definition of obscenity.
But, in telling the true story of heroic sacrifice and courage in the face of injustice and extreme horror and violence, whether your telling of the passion of the Christ or the deeds of those who have been awards the MoH, one diminishes their valor and the impact of the deeds by looking away from the horrors they faced.
The reality of the wages of sin and of war must be fully confronted to understand the need for a saviour and the need for courageous warriors.
I could not disagree with you more. It was important to show everything that way because that is what happened. When you read any memoirs from guys who were there, they describe it the same way it was depicted on screen. Why would you want that to be shown differently?
This was an incredible piece of filmmaking in just the way that he was able to capture the confusion and the chaos, while always giving the viewer a grasp of what was going on. Also, in showing that the way he did you get more of an understanding of the courage it took for Doss to keep going. I was interested to see what Christian reviewers thought of this.
I agree with your reviews probably 70% of the time, and Focus on the Family I look at for what my kid should watch. They came to a similar conclusion that you did. I think it's a shame that you (for the most part) missed out on such a powerful message that got across loud and clear here to most who have seen it.
I've been to combat in Fallujah and I'm sure that is part of how I look at movies like this too. I understand your point in your response to many on here that the movie and the message are different. I just think that it wouldn't have been as incredible to watch what he did, without actually getting as much of a feleling of what that would be like as a director could get across.
In Reply to Justin
Thanks for sharing, Justin. I appreciate your tone, and your perspective. It's safe to say I got the message of Hacksaw Ridge; I think we just differ on the value of how that message was delivered.
In Reply to Jim Dekker (comment #29487)
Check your etymology. Pornography does not come from the Greek word meaning "dirty pictures". It literally translates "writings about prostitutes", and often bears a connotation of homosexual prostitution.
I remember seeing Saving Private Ryan and understanding that film about WWII had finally come to the point past the "glorification of combat" stage. My attitude about war was formed during my teens by a historical documentary about the Battle of Culloden where there was a pile of bodies, some of them still twitching. As a son of a WWII vet who used to say that "War never solves anything" I have to say that the more realistic war is portrayed the better. Those who slaver over gore and blood will find that in other horror films anyways, but It is important to understand that the blood and gore of war is NOT fiction but a part of life that needs to be confronted and dealt with as the social evil it is. Surely the spiritual aspect of "Hacksaw Ridge" is that such horror actually occured and someone brought salvation into it by their actions in saving others.
A critique of a movie about war by someone who has never experienced the horrors of war is illegitimate. This man walked through hell and held his convictions, even to receiving bodily injury, being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. To minimize the effects of war, especially when the most popular video games seem to be filled with violence and killing where one can just hit "reset" if they "die" and can start over, is a reminder that death is final and war should be a last resort. As a V-vet, I disagree with your article. Your perspective seemed to be somewhat skewed.
I love how people can accuse Josh of disrespect or not being able to fully honor those who served unless he witnessed firsthand the horrors of war. There's a concept called a priori knowledge. This knowledge accepts the concepts of valor, horror and pain are independent from experience.
If people needed to experience the horrors of war to know the horrors of war, by that same logic, we would have to experience the speed of a motorcycle to know that it is going fast.
Why can't people just stick to the topic that he is questioning which is the fetishizing of violence, rather than accuse him of disrespecting servicemen?
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