There is a lot to appreciate about this movie and a little to dislike.
Dislike: The first twenty minutes. Its corny. There is no getting around it. Others reviewers have said the same. Maybe it was necessary for getting to know Doss’ character, but I found it a little rough to get through.
Likes: First, Mel Gibson obviously knows how to direct a war movie, (Braveheart, Apocalypto). This one is no exception. The war scenes are well crafted and intense.
Second and primarily, this movie is about giving life and taking life. This theme runs through the whole movie. Doss’ character comments that while everyone else is going to be taking life, he is going to be saving it. This is demonstrated over and over again as Doss saves the lives of 75 men without carrying a weapon. Each time he saves one and has the chance to escape himself, he prays instead “Please Lord, help me save one more.” Back into the battle he goes. By the time Doss is finally done and rejoins the rest of the soldiers at camp, you can feel his exhaustion.
The theme of giving and taking life is also demonstrated very well near the end of the movie when Gibson shows the Japanese Generals committing suicide. He contrasts this with Doss’ saving lives. A Japanese General would rather commit suicide than surrender. Its the difference between cultures of life and cultures of death. In the west we have a history of promoting life. In various eastern cultures certain forms of suicide can be considered honorable. There are strong similarities here to all of the suicide bombings we are all witnesses to on the News everyday. Cultures of life and cultures of death. Doss’ character is there to remind us that all life is sacred and worth protecting.
Some of the mot unbelievable parts of this movie are the most accurate. Like when the whole unit waits for Doss to be done praying before they go into battle. I also liked that Gibson chose to end the movie with interviews from the real Desmond Doss. The feats this man accomplished are almost too unbelievable were it not for being able to hear about it from the people who were there.