Image: Cross Creek Pictures
This is not a movie. This is a retelling. A recount of the events that occurred during the World War II Battle of Okinawa, and of the service of one man in particular.
Virginian boy, Desmond T. Doss, like many other young men at the time, enlisted in the American Army to serve during the second war to end all wars. The reason Doss was different from those he served alone side, was his refusal to bear arms. Due to Doss’ beliefs, he did not carry a weapon for the duration of his time in the army. Instead, he served as a medic.
To begin with, Doss’ (Andrew Garfield) decision and belief is not welcomed by the other men he served with; their belief being that he would not be able to protect his comrades on the battle field. When his mettle is tested, Doss rises to the challenge.
While the filming and acting though out this cinematic re-enactment are wonderfully done, I’m going to focus on some other aspect that stood out.
The change in character that men experience at different times in their service of the military is displayed by different people. Early on, Desmond’s father, Tom Doss (Hugo Weaving), shows the effects of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) on a World War I veteran. Years on, Doss senior still remembers those he fought alongside and lost. His alcoholism and violence stand to show what service men (and women) often find themselves dealing with in the absence of proper care and support.
Once Desmond arrives in Okinawa, a smaller timeframe is shown in regards to the effects of war on these men. His fresh-off-the-boat company are joined by men who have already fought in this area. Seeing the haunted and closed off expressions is evidence enough of what they’ve been through.
The horror that is fighting on the front line can never truly be reproduced to the screen, but Mel Gibson does his best. The violence and blood shed are front and centre; along with the deaths of men who have each been individually named not half an hour earlier.
Because that’s just it. The men who lost their lives were not extras on a movie set. They were living, breathing people with lives, families and futures cut short. And while it may not be possible to get to know each of them intimately in the space of two and a half hours, it is still acknowledged that they were not nobodies.
Desmond Doss’ tale is one of many amazing feats accomplished during times of conflict. And he is one of many ordinary men, turned hero.