The Conscientious Objector (2004)
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Critic Reviews for The Conscientious Objector
Illustrates how truth can often outdo fiction.
A proficient piece of work with a hugely pertinent message.
Audience Reviews for The Conscientious Objector
"The Conscientious Objector" is an inspiring documentary about Desmond Doss who was given a Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during the horrific Battle of Okinawa in 1945. What's especially exceptional in his case is that Desmond, taking the Ten Commandments to heart, vowed never to kill another human being. That did not stop him from wanting to serve in the military during World War II, even refusing a deferment for working in the shipyards at Norfolk.(I'm wondering how much truth there is to the statement about some draftees committing suicide because they were refused due to health reasons.) As a Seventh Day Adventist, he strictly observed the Sabbath in the army while declaring his intention to serve as a medic. He still did not want to carry a gun like other medics, even though the Japanese soldiers were ordered to shoot medics to destroy morale.(Desmond's preferred term for himself is "conscientious cooperator," by the way.) Despite harassment from other soldiers(With no small irony, the documentary points out these were the same soldiers whose lives he would later go on to save.) and almost being kicked out on a Section 8, he persevered to serve his country with pride and extreme courage, as recounted by him and some of his fellow soldiers on an emotional journey of remembrance.
Hero-worship is all too common, and this film sadly overindulges to the point of making an otherwise worthy subject instead a 2-Dimensional poster-boy for politically-correct heroism. However praiseworthy Desmond Doss's story, convictions, and actions may have been, the documentary does little to explore any emotion other than diamond-in-the-rough praise, with a requisite prelude of ingratitude and hardship. In the end, little is explored beyond a simple narrative that reads a bit too much like a propaganda film or comic-book reimagining (indeed, the film-maker cites his boyhood facination with a comic-book about Doss.) Doss himself is a bit too vague to provide much insight beyond that of a strange form of directors-commentary... and we are left with a sadly isolated view of an otherwise remarkable story, unable to connect any strings or make any inferences other than a big, blaring neon light leading down a path to hero-worship with as much substance as a Hollywood script-writer could manufacture in a weekend. Truly, the substance must have been there... but its direction and cinematic narrative structure have far too many stars in their eyes to unearth more than a few heartstrings to tug at.
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