World War II Visual Project
Saving Private Ryan and Hacksaw Ridge
Context in Saving Private Ryan and Hacksaw Ridge
Perspective and Attitudes in Saving Private Ryan and Hacksaw Ridge
There is really good scene in Saving Private Ryan where Spielberg gets close. It is when Captain Miller and his men capture a German machine gun post. Only one German soldier survives and instead of executing him, Miller decides to let him go with the instructions to turn himself in to the first allied unit he comes across. This scene is great for multiple reasons. It shows the panic and hysteria felt by soldiers under pressure, much like the opening scene at Omaha Beach. It also shows the lengths to which one will go to save themselves as the German soldier speaks of his appreciation for American culture and condemns the actions of Hitler. However, the soldier is clearly speaking only to save himself as we later see him fighting alongside his fellow German soldiers in the final battle.
Hacksaw Ridge is much different. Our main character Desmond Doss, a pacifist at heart, enlists in the army, while refusing to bear arms of any kind. He is deployed in the Pacific Theater fighting the Japanese. In an act of compassion and heroism, he saves more than seventy-five wounded soldiers after his unit retreats from the bloody and hopeless Hacksaw Ridge. This is a great film, but I think it misses the mark in the anti-war film category. This is because it, like Saving Private Ryan, feels like a battle of good and evil. Good and evil are too black and white of terms to describe such a complicated conflict as war. The Japanese soldiers are depicted in an almost alien fashion. I understand that the Japanese style of war was barbaric, but these soldiers, like the Germans in Saving Private Ryan are portrayed with about as much depth as stormtroopers. I thoroughly enjoyed both films, but do not believe either film could be categorized as truly anti-war.