FILM REVIEW: Flight

Whip is an alcoholic, and a drug user. He’s also, heaven help us, an airline pilot, and a very good one. When things go wrong at 30,000 feet, over a densely populated area, he performs an exceptional manoeuvre and keeps the plane aloft long enough to crash land into an empty field. He’s a hero. But as the investigation digs deeper, it threatens to uncover the truth: that Whip was both drunk, and high, (medically as well as literally) at the time of the crash. With six fatalities, if they can prove that his condition, not structural failure, caused the crash, he will go to prison for the rest of his life.

Firstly, I should note that this should not be a 15, but an 18. The first ten minutes contain considerable—and wholly unnecessary—female full frontal nudity. The film as a whole contains several scenes of detailed drug use. Viewers will therefore need to exercise their discretion as to whether they watch it or not.

It’s a slightly frustrating film because the overall plot structure and message are very good. The ending is somewhat unexpected, and both positive and uplifting—which comes as something of a surprise at the end of a film which is in all other ways like watching a slow motion human train crash. (Or perhaps I should say plane crash.) But the ending redeems much about the film, not least—if you’re paying attention—the previous anti-Christian attitude. There’s a bit of a Paradise Lost thing going on with this film. For most of the film, you’re looking through Whip’s eyes, and the eyes of people like Whip—just as at the beginning of Paradise Lost, you’re seeing everything from Satan’s perspective. At the end of the film, Whip is finally seeing clearly—just as, once Paradise Lost ‘pans out’, we see from the heavenly perspective.

However, there are some serious flaws. For one thing, you have to be watching quite closely to pick up on the shift at the end, so there’s a serious possibility of coming away from the film with only the irreligious attitudes having registered. Secondly, despite the overall positive message about the fight against addiction, some of the drug use scenes—and one in particular—present drug use in such a ‘cool’ way that the film shoots its own foot off, metaphorically. Thirdly, the early nudity in particular, and detailed shots of drug use just aren’t necessary for the story or the point the film is trying to tell/make, and mar the overall effect quite badly.

So, is it worth watching? The plane crash itself is exceptionally gripping and well done. But, if I had realised how bad some of the issues were, I might not have exposed myself to the film. I watched it to the end on the grounds that it’s sometimes good to see other people’s realities—both the reality of drug users and alcoholics, which is depicted so graphically in the film, and the reality of the filmmakers, who think that such detail is acceptable to screen. BUT, I don’t think it’s necessary to ‘see other people’s realities’ in this way very often. At all. So if you’re due your once in a blue moon dose of grounding gritty graphicness, do ahead and watch it. Otherwise, you’d probably be best to give it a miss.

Shame. With better editing, it could have been a very strong morality/conversion tale.

CONTAINS: Nudity, premarital sex, drug use, some gore, intense scenes.

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REVIEW: God’s Not Dead

God's_Not_DeadRelease Date: 2014

Director: Harold Cronk

Genre: Christian, drama, apologetics

Starring:   Kevin SorboShane HarperDavid A. R. White and Dean Cain

Well, I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected to. I’d read a decidedly mediocre review of the film when it came out, so wasn’t hoping for much. One thing the review had right was that this is not, regardless of what the filmmakers may or may not have intended, a film that is likely to convert many non-Christians. Certainly it’s unlikely to have much impact on committed Atheists. Instead, it’s wholesome feed for faithful Christians.

It’s not that such arguments for the existence of God as are included are bad. It’s more the rest of the set-up. All the Christian characters (with the exception of a girlfriend whom it’s never made clear is actually Christian) are extremely nice, brave and good. All the non-Christians are in various degrees of dire straits, in terms of both their lives and their characters. The main atheist ‘bad guy’ is really quite unpleasant. Christian viewers, able to identify thoroughly with the ‘good’ characters, will enjoy it. But the characters offered up for non-Christians to identify with just aren’t appealing, and will act as a turn-off.

As you may have gathered from my previous paragraph, subtlety is not the film’s strong point. Although the film does a reasonable job of displaying the various gut-wrenching predicaments of life which are hard enough to get through with God, and even harder without him, everything is presented in nice, clear extremes. It’s all ever so nice and clear, in fact, enjoyable to watch if you’re already convinced of the film’s central message (which is that ‘God’s not Dead’, in case you were in any doubt) but probably rather off-putting—and liable to provoke a dismissive stance—in anyone who isn’t.

One of things I enjoyed was the way the lives of all the various characters interlink and intersect. It showcases the way God works through a web of subtle influence (okay, not so very subtle in this film, but anyway) to bring about good from evil. But non-Christian viewers in particular may be frustrated by the fact that virtually every non-Christian character has had some kind of conversion by the end. That’s just so in-credible, I can hear them moaning.

I can see why they might feel that way, though the argument doesn’t entirely hold up. After all, filmmakers tell stories about the people something actually happens to. A film about someone nothing happened to would be extremely dull. A faith-based film is therefore going to follow the people something faith-related actually happened to, not the several thousand characters seen moving around in the background, to whom, presumably, nothing happened. But to really satisfy a non-faith audience, the film should probably have left a bit more irresolution with regard to some of the non-Christian characters, rather than giving in to the temptation to wrap up the ending ever so pristinely, with scarcely a messy loose end in sight.

The film clearly takes the Evangelical stance—which may well seem extreme to Catholics and more moderate Protestants—that if you haven’t absolutely 100% explicitly acknowledged Jesus as Lord and Saviour, you’re going straight to hell, but the attitude is not obtrusive enough to seriously mar viewing enjoyment. I think I was supposed to have heard of/recognise some of those famous Evangelical figures & pop groups who made cameos, but I’m afraid it was lost on me!

One thing that struck me was right at the end. After the end credits, the film states that it was inspired by and based on all the cases where individuals and college groups have had to go to court to defend their right to their beliefs. And then there’s a list. And it’s a long list. Quite sobering.

Overall: I did enjoy this film much more than I expected, and may well watch it again, however, I think even I, as a committed Christian, would have much preferred it—and enjoyed it more—if characters and events had been more balanced, and less ‘cardboard’.

Sex/Violence/Profanity: None at all, that I can recall.

REVIEW: Wind River (2017)

Wind RiverUK Rating: 15

Release Date: 8th September 2017

Running Time: 107 mins

Director: Taylor Sheridan

Genre: Thriller, drama, crime

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Kelsey Asbille, Apesanahkwat, Graham Greene

Finally, another film review! Sorry it’s been so long. Just a quick one:

Haunting and beautifully filmed, I thought Wind River was just a fairly normal (albeit very good and unusually interesting) sort of crime thriller until this pre-credit information flashed up on screen at the end: ‘The US keeps records of missing women for all groups—except Native Americans. No one knows how many Native American women are missing.’ Coming after the film I had just watched, that struck hard. For this reason alone, I hope people will see the film.

From a non-social justice point of view, it’s also well worth watching. Although there are a few caveats. Firstly, it’s not for sensitive viewers. Despite what I’ve just said, there is one scene during which a group of supposedly respectable men act like a pack of animals that I could happily delete from my memory, if such a thing were only possible.

Secondly, though riveting and far from predictable, the film ultimately left this Christian viewer feeling like something was missing. As it was. Without meaning to give too much away, certain events, although feeling more like rigid ‘an eye for an eye’ justice than revenge, were completely lacking in any notion of forgiveness or redemption, or even the possibility of such. As for the need for such? That gets no look in at all.

Overall: A powerful indictment of the lack of interest in the fate of Native American women, and a gripping crime thriller, well worth watching both by those wishing to broaden their awareness of this issue and by those simply wanting a cracking good film. But it is flawed in crucial ways that leave this Christian viewer unlikely to be buying it for her shelf.

 

Sex/Violence/Profanity/etc: Premarital sex/sexual activity implied. Rape (on screen). Considerable violence, with both gunfights and fistfights, with injury detail. Plenty of profanity.

Have you seen this film? What did you think?

 

via faithfullfilms.wordpress.com

REVIEW: Amish Grace (2010)

amish_grace_posterUK Rating: None

Release Date: 28th March 2010

Running Time: 88 minutes

Director: Gregg Champion

Genre:  Biography, Drama

Starring: Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Tammy Blanchard, Matt Letscher

SYNOPSIS: A grieving Amish mother struggles to forgive the woman whose husband killed her daughter and four other schoolchildren in this movie inspired by the true-life events that unfolded in a Nickel Mines schoolhouse on October 2, 2006.

This is the first of a pair of linked reviews about ‘Amish Grace’ and ‘Hacksaw Ridge’. If you happen to know of both of the films, you’ll think it an odd pairing indeed, but read on!

First, in this review, ‘Amish Grace’. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting that much from this film. I feared it would either be appallingly sentimental and/or unbearable to watch because of the central tragedy that occurs. I was very favourably surprised.

There is plenty of hugging and praying (as one can well imagine) but it doesn’t tip over into cloying sentimentalism. But I was particularly impressed by the way they handled the shooting itself, which I was dreading. It is portrayed with extraordinary discretion and sensitivity. There is no Hollywood-style blow-by-blow recreation of the events inside the school. In fact, once the killer has entered the schoolhouse, the camera never goes inside again. There is no blood. There is nothing graphic at all. Everything is shown entirely through the reactions of those outside, the 991 call, the frightened—then grief-stricken—parents. It is very well done, and extremely moving, but totally non-graphic. Considering that the only real fictional aspect of this film is the insertion of an invented family as the main characters, this can only be a good thing.

This film is a compelling look at the consequences—and difficulties—of forgiveness and of not-forgiving. My main criticism would be that the main Amish character, the bereaved mother, Ida, reacts too consistently in the way a non-Amish person would be likely to react. This is somewhat ‘explained away’ in the film by the fact that her sister has left the faith and is living in the modern world, and that she has been coming somewhat under her influence.

But it’s clear enough that Ida’s attitude really has a more practical explanation: the film makers felt it necessary for her to react in such a way in order for the (exclusively non-Amish) viewers to identify with her plight and thus be invested in her spiritual and emotional journey. So although the inaccuracy chafes slightly, it’s a justifiable inaccuracy. After all, even many Christians may find the Amish’s ability to react so instantly to the tragedy with such forgiveness awe-inspiring—and perhaps even hard to comprehend.

Overall: A surprisingly uplifting story about an outstanding real life example of grace, forgiveness, and the authentic living out of the Christian faith, suitable for all but the youngest and/or most sensitive of viewers. One for the shelf.

This has not been classified for UK release and can be bought on Amazon. In terms of on-screen violence, this could be a U. However, due to the subject matter, obviously it would really classify as a PG (or higher depending on your children’s sensitivity).

Sex/Violence/Profanity: Pretty much none of any of the three. Subject matter deals with a vicious shooting attack that caused the deaths of five girls and injured five others.

REVIEW: Silence

silence_2016_filmUK Rating: 15

Release Date: 1st January 2017

Running Time: 161 minutes

Director: Martin Scorsese

Genre:  Period

Starring:  Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson

(This review contains Spoilers)

Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ is a ‘Marmite movie’. You love it or you hate it. Tim Hanley, writing for the Catholic Herald, describes it as, “the most profound piece of Catholic art produced in recent years”, whilst Monica Miller in Crisis magazine considers that although, “This movie seriously examines Christian themes and ideas” it is not in fact a Christian film. I would have to agree with the latter statement. ‘Silence’ is that most dangerous of things, a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

It is not the main character’s apostasy itself that is so problematic. None of us know if we would stand or fall. This beautifully filmed and acted piece could easily have been a sensitive portrayal of human weakness. But it’s not. Rodrigues isn’t shown as apostatising from simple weakness, unable to bear the emotional torment or to withstand the voice of the devil (so loud and clear through the coaxing authorities). Instead, he hears—or thinks he hears—the voice of Jesus telling him that apostasy is okay. Clearly Our Lord forgot to mention that in the Bible.

Rodrigues lives out his life spiritually dead, only, the film hints, it’s all okay really, because deep, deep down, he still believes—even though he obediently writes books ‘disproving’ the Christian faith. Even though he never again gives even the tiniest public sign of his faith. Even though he apostatises over and over again. Even though he appears to refuse absolution to someone begging on their knees. This is all okay, because he’s doing it to save the lives of the Japanese believers. Their lives, note. He—and the film—seem to have forgotten the existence of souls.

So what is the final message of ‘Silence’? That staying alive and avoiding suffering are far more important than keeping the faith. That the importance of our mortal life here far outweighs that of our eternal destiny.

This film is poison. Beautiful, well-acted, compelling… and spiritual cyanide.

Overall: I suggest you avoid. With a barge pole. Preferably a blessed one.

Sex/Violence/Nudity: No sexual content. Scenes of torture and execution, quite graphic. No graphic nudity.

RISEN: Out Now in the UK

This is not actually a review since I haven’t seen RISEN yet, but I wanted to make people in the UK aware that this new film about the Resurrection is coming out tomorrow. It looks quite promising, as far as one can judge from a trailer!

It is only showing once a day at my local cinema which means it will probably only be on for one single week–so everyone who wants to see it needs to go at once!

The US have loads of Christian films but most of them never come out here due to lack of market, so it would be great if everyone supported this one. Hopefully it would encourage future releases.

Fun fact: The cast met Pope Francis during a General Audience at the Vatican.

More information below. Do share this to your friends.

Risen

  • Release date: 18/03/2016
  • Rating: 12A
  • Running time: 107 mins

Synopsis: Peter Firth stars as Pontius Pilate in this unofficial follow-up to The Passion of the Christ.


In 33AD, Christ has already resurrected from his death on the crucifix. Now, in order to quell an imminent uprising, a member of the Roman army, Clavius, is charged by Roman prefect Pontius Pilate to locate the missing body of Jesus. It is Pilate’s job to not only locate the corpse of Christ but to arrest those disciples who snatched his body. The mission becomes a learning experience for Pilate as his discovers who Jesus really was… Kevin Reynolds (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Waterworld) returns to the director’s chair after an absence of ten years with this unique take on the Greatest Story Ever Told.

Spooks star Peter Firth takes on the role of Pontius Pilate, with Tom Felton (Harry Potter) as Lucius and Joseph Fiennes as Clavius.

REVIEW: The Revenant (2016)

The_Revenant_2015_film_posterUK Rating: 15

Release Date: 15th January 2016

Running Time: 156 minutes

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Genre: Thriller, drama, action

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy

 

So this one was a big disappointment, I’m afraid. Of the most frustrating kind: the ‘could have been so good’ kind. When I first saw the trailer I thought it looked so utterly miserable I had no intention to see it, but I kept hearing good reviews and always the reviews seemed to hint that actually there was redemption at the end, rather than it being about straight up revenge, the way the trailer suggested. Well, I’m a sucker for a redemption plotline, and so is my friend, so we decided to give it a chance.

Most of the film is excellent, with a great soundtrack. It’s a gritty survival tale with great performances. Probably a little too graphic for some people’s taste, but realistic rather than gratuitous in its portrayal of wounds and violence. It is also a hugely more realistic portrayal of the ‘wild west’ than most westerns. There was a time when the Native Americans were always the villains in westerns, now for a long time, they’ve almost always been portrayed as the good guys, or at least the oppressed. Which is fair enough and an improvement on the former representation, but still rather incomplete. ‘Revenant’ tells it much more true to life. Some Native American tribes are peaceful, others are busy slaughtering every other tribe or white person they can lay their hands on. Some of the white people are peaceful, some are quite happy to kill a Native American simply for being a Native American. It all makes for grim viewing, but it’s definitely more accurate than most westerns.

The film falls apart at the end, at least for the Christian viewer who’s been promised redemption. (I can’t completely avoid spoilers, so stop reading if you definitely plan to see it, regardless of what I say.)

There is, at the end, a tiny shred of redemption. But it’s just that. A tiny, feeble shred. In practical terms, it comes too late to make any difference whatsoever to the physical outcome. It’s probably fractionally better for one character’s soul than the alternative, but just barely. It’s a huge damp squib, and makes one feel like reporting the film to the Office of Fair Trading for false advertising (that’s a joke, but you get the idea!).

If this isn’t bad enough, the very, very final moments are hugely unsatisfactory as an ending. My friend and I both felt while watching the film (despite what the trailer implied) that we were really watching a film about the strength of the human spirit, and the human will to survive. It felt more like this was driving the main character than the need for revenge. This is perhaps a failure on the film’s part, though I’d be interested to know how it came across other people. At the close of the film, however, it takes great delight in making it abundantly clear that despite what it felt like throughout, the protagonist’s struggle really was just about revenge, not about the triumph of the human spirit. And so it ends. I can’t be more specific without huge spoilers.

There is also an ambiguity raised during the final encounter between the two main characters relating to a pivotal moment earlier in the film, and the lack of clarity one is left with is an additional annoying niggle.

Overall: So close: but no cigar. It could have been a great film, but the ending ruins it, ironically, beyond all redemption.

 

Sex/Violence/Profanity/etc: A sexual assault followed by an implied castration. Brief nudity. Frequent strong violence. Violence realistic rather than gratuitous, but graphic at times. Some disturbing images. Frequent rough, crude and profane language.

Have you seen this film? What did you think?