Conscientious Objector (The)
R1 - America - Cinequest Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Cory Max (18th March 2008).
The Film

Most film lovers know the story of Alvin York, the World War I soldier who was drafted, yet requested deferment as a conscientious objector due to his religious beliefs. In the film Sergeant York, he was stoically and humbly portrayed by Gary Cooper as a man who must choose between his religious beliefs and fighting for his country. In the end, York comes to understand that the evils of the world must be vanquished, and the only way is to carry arms and fight and kill the oppressive enemies of the United States. He rescinded his application for exemption and was shipped to France in 1918. After capturing an entire company of German soldiers single handedly, York is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest medal for valor. Sadly, for York, he also had to kill many men in his attempt at capturing the soldiers, and this haunted him in his later years.

In World War II, another religious man wrestled with the same choices as York, his name was
Desmond T. Doss. Doss was also a southerner with a deep theological aversion to war, a man who took the commandments, especially the sixth; Thou Shalt not Kill as sacred law. But where York acquiesced when shown the greater picture before him, Doss held fast to his beliefs and joined the Army as a medic. He refused to brandish any kind of weapon, and as a Seventh-day Adventist, held fast to his duty to remember the Sabbath every Saturday. This would bring him into conflict not only with his fellow soldiers, but with his superior officers, who viewed him as a slacker and a coward unwilling to fight.

After enduring an endless assault of scorn and ridicule in boot camp, Doss and his company were shipped out to the Pacific theater of operations. It was on an escarpment on Okinawa that the legendary heroics of Desmond Doss would come to life. When the 307th Infantry Division assaulted the Maeda Escarpment on May 5, 1945, heavy ground and artillery fire pinned them to their position. The unit was suffering heavy casualties under the relentless barrage being thrust upon them by the Japanese. Over the course of 12 hours, Doss rescued 75 men by lowering each man by rope from the top of the escarpment, all under enemy fire. This course of action would result in his receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor on Nov. 1, 1945. When President Harry Truman was pinning the medal on Doss, he told the soldier, “I consider this a greater honor than being President.” Another incident, two weeks after the escarpment battle would speak volumes as to the character and bravery of this most amazing man. On May 21, 1945, Doss was once again out on the battlefield attempting to rescue his wounded comrades when he himself was wounded by a grenade. He was stuck out in no man’s land for five hours before litter bearers reached him. On the way back to the American front lines, he noticed a more seriously injured man, and slipped off the stretcher, instructing the bearers to take the other man first.

While Sergeant York is considered a classic of Hollywood’s Golden Age, the 2004 documentary by
Terry Benedict about Desmond Doss has been seen by too few people in this country, and that is truly a shame. It wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award, and played in very few theaters across the country. In a time when the term ‘Hero’ has been cheapened and degraded by its bestowment upon people in almost any critical situation that arises, the story of this brave little man from Georgia needs to be known. His is the story of what it truly takes to be a human being, and that maybe we could all learn a lesson from the convictions upon which he lived his life. It is a film that should be shown in every school in America, and probably the world. For maybe we would all see the futility of war and the damage that it inflicts upon our species. Of all the DVD’s in my collection, I am most proud to own this one. It would have been an honor to have known this man.

Video

Cinequest Entertainment is a small independent distributor that cannot compete with the major studio’s when it comes to DVD releases, but their presentation of this magnificent documentary is first rate. Colors are stable and the picture is very clear. The only time that grain is noticed is when stock war footage is used to enhance the story. The documentary is presented in an anamorphic, 1.85:1 transfer which looked quite good on my Samsung DLP.

Audio

Not much for the satellites of a home theater to do in this documentary. The only time they are used is when Benedict shows us Doss at home, mostly for bird or crickets in the background. It is recorded in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and is relatively clear and resonant.

No subtitles are included.

Extras

Not much here but a trailer for the film and trailers for two other documentaries;
Amargosa and The Loss of Nameless Things, the latter, which appears to be rather interesting, may become a blind buy for me when it is released.

Packaging

Packaged in a standard keep case.

Overall

The Film: A+ Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: E Overall: B+

 


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