In a clip debuted exclusively with PEOPLE, the director offers a heartfelt thank you to our soldiers for their sacrifice. “With every generation, I am struck by the indelible marks left on the minds, hearts and souls of our service men and women. And by the deep sacrifice of their families too,” he says in the clip.
Hacksaw Ridge tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a pacifist and conscientious objector who enlisted in WWII as a medic and refused to carry a rifle. One night during the Battle of Okinawa, Doss saved the lives of 75 injured soldiers stranded on the treacherous clifftop battleground known as Hacksaw Ridge. He was the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor.
Doss’s religious beliefs — he was a devout Seventh Day Adventist — played a strong role in his pacifism, as well as his unwavering courage in the face of battle. “He tapped into something way bigger than himself, which I believe was the strength and power of God,” Gibson says in the clip, adding, “So did he, by the way.”
Doss’s son, Desmond Jr., spoke to PEOPLE about his father’s religious convictions, and praised Gibson for portraying them accurately, while striking a secular tone in the film. “He didn’t come at it from a doctrinal point of view, he came from a place of wanting to love and care for everybody. That’s what he was about,” he said, adding, “I cant over empathize how happy I am that at long last the story is being presented in a secular venue for all people to see.”
The film also touches on the sacrifice soldiers often make after the war, specifically in the form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Both in the film and in real life, Doss’s father suffered from PTSD and alcoholism brought on by his experiences in WWI. Desmond Jr. acknowledged that his father also dealt with the longterm psychological impact of the war.
“The war is never over. It’s just never over,” he explained. “The same thing with my dad. It went on and on and on. It also effects the families [of soldiers]. How can the war be over for you when you’re missing an arm, or missing an eye? How does your family relate when they send you off and you come back in a wheelchair? It’s just never over.”
The film has been praised by Veterans for its depiction of war and its effect on soldiers. “I thought it was great,” Joe Clapper, a 95-year-old Okinawa veteran told PEOPLE of the film. “It brings back some memories,” he added. “Mostly I think of those that didn’t come back.”
Hacksaw Ridge is in theaters now.