By Bradi Murphy | Arts & Life Editor
The recently released movie “Hacksaw Ridge” tells an emotional love story about a brotherhood and one man’s endurance in persuing a conviction. Independent production company and financier Cross Creek Pictures backed the movie because of the moving story that was put to life by director Mel Gibson.
“Hacksaw Ridge” is based on the true story of U.S. Army corporal and combat medic Desmond Doss, played by Andrew Garfield, who saved 75 men in Okinawa during World War II without firing or carrying a gun.
Doss believed that while war was justifiable, killing others was not. Doss saved wounded soldiers from behind enemy lines while they were firing. He was also wounded by a grenade and shot at by snipers. Doss was the first conscientious objector awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Baylor alumnus Jason Seagraves is the vice president of production and development at Cross Creek Pictures and co-producer of “Hacksaw Ridge.”
“First and foremost, we were moved by the incredible story,” Seagraves said. “There’s a lot that we actually didn’t put in the film because it was almost too unbelievable. This guy obviously had some higher power that was looking out for him in order to accomplish what he was able to do. If you’re familiar with Cross Creek’s movies, we tend to look for the elevated material that is pretty impactful and has the opportunity for some sort of awards consideration.”
Cross Creek Pictures had seen many versions of the film and loved the storyline, but it wasn’t until Gibson came on as director that the film really took shape and Cross Creek Pictures knew they wanted to produce and finance it, Seagraves said.
Gibson reached out to fans by making short clips such as one that began, ‘Hi, I’m Mel Gibson, and I’m happy to join you all here at Baylor University,’ and showing invite-only screenings with a Q&A.
“It was really interesting and in some ways moving to hear [Gibson] talk about why he made this film, because it had been bouncing around I think for maybe 10 years.” said Brian J. Elliott, senior lecturer for the film & digital media department, faculty in residence for Heritage House and Seagraves’ previous professor. “As someone who’s involved in making films, its always interesting to me to hear the heart behind why somebody [directs a movie] because its a really, really hard thing to do.”
During the exclusive clip, Gibson discusses Doss’ journey and his reasoning for directing the film.
“Desmond Doss was an ordinary man who held on to his convictions and faith in the midst of persecution, execution, ridicule and great danger. He tapped into something way bigger than himself, which I believe was the strength and power of God,” Gibson said in the exclusive video. “My hope in making this film is that we can tell the story of a true American hero, bring awareness to the struggles of our veterans and honor and support the brave men and women who sacrifice so much for this country.”
While the film highlights the journey of Doss through WWII, there was a lot of Doss’ story that had to be cut out due to budget allocations.
“The story of Desmond Doss is incredible. We only tell the story of him saving over 75 lives in 12 hours from the battle of Okinawa, but it was something that he did countless times throughout that whole year of war,” Seagraves said.
While it is a very graphic portrayal of war, Gibson describes “Hacksaw Ridge” as more of a love story than a war movie.
It is apparent that the release date was also well planned in the light of Veterans Day and the controversial 2016 presidential election.
“Especially during everything that’s happening today with the election and how everybody is so nervous about what’s to come in the near future, I just think it’s an important time to be reminded of the consequences of war and what that cost could actually mean,” Seagraves said.
At a few of the private showings, veterans in the audience who said the film’s portrayal of WWII was as gruesome as it was in real life.
“Mel said in our press day that ‘history regurgitates itself, and I think this can serve as a good reminder of that consequence. The cost of human life and what our troops actually go through on the battlefield. It’s not necessarily baggage that [they] don’t take home with [them],” Seagraves said.
The film depicts WWII from a different perspective and allows audiences to see for themselves the obstacles Doss overcame and the spiritual guidance he had throughout the war.
“It allows us to experience in some way what they experienced in a very small form, but also to gain an appreciation of those people so that when I see … a World War II veteran. My opinion of them changes because I have a better appreciation of what they went through.” Elliott said.