Category Archives: Forgiveness

The Magnificent Seven – Review

mag7_926x1460The 21st century has seen a serious lack of westerns in theaters as they have gone out of style in favor of superhero films. So, who better to bring back the swagger than Antoine Fuqua, director of films like Training Day. This remake of the 1960’s movie stars Denzel Washington as Sam Chisolm, Chris Pratt as Josh Faraday, Ethan Hawke as Goodnight Robicheaux, Vincent D’Onofrio as Jack Horne, Byung-hun Lee as Billy Rocks, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Vasquez, a Mexican, Martin Sensmeier as Red Harvest, Haley Bennett as Emma Cullen and Peter Sarsgaard as Bartholomew Bogue, the film’s villain. What follows is a tale of good vs. evil in a western that’s more progressive and just down right fun.

Bad Religion

The movie begins with Bartholomew Bogue terrorizing Rose City in the town church as the city had gathered to discuss what to do about his threats. He marches into the meeting, flanked by gunmen, and proceeds to preach his twisted version of religion. To him, America, capitalism and God go together, and to oppose him is to oppose all three of those things. It’s a distorted corruption of religion for the benefit of one man. It’s nothing new.

What makes the movie different than most is the way in which it counters the perversion of religion by showing true faith at work. In the center of Rose City stands the church, and because the pastor there is a man who firmly stands with the people of that city, the church is a beacon of hope. The pastor is willing to lay down his life for the people in the town, to help buy back their freedom. It’s a beautiful picture of faith in action.

There is one more nice dichotomy at work between these two world views. As Bartholomew Bogue makes his speech in the church, he talks about how the gold he is mining outside the town is the true meaning of life. In fact, it’s the thing that the townspeople will live for as well as their children. Yet, midway though the film, after the first wave of Bogue’s men have been driven from the town, there are a few nights of normalcy. The preacher talks to Sam Chisolm and thanks him for bringing back this simple pleasure to the people, if only for a moment. Life is so much more than gold in the bank–the true riches are the small moments between people that happen every day. Lastly, Vincent D’Onofrio’s Jack Horne lives out John 15:13 as he mentions to the rest of the seven that there is no place he would rather be than in the service of others with men he respects.

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Phoenix Rising

Sam Chisolm and Goodnight Robicheaux have one of the most interesting relationships in the movie. Sam, a black man, saved Goodnight, a Rebel soldier from a group of Yankees who were going to beat him to death. Sam explains his reason to Goodnight by saying, “The war is over for us”. By the time of the movie, Sam and Goodnight are fast friends and they have this saying between then, “What we lost in the fire, we find in the ashes”. It is a timely reminder that after the wars we fight, we have to move on, learn the lessons of the past and work to rebuild, together, something better out of those ashes. There can be beauty from ashes, but it always takes work to make it so.

Conclusion

The Magnificent Seven is fun, but it also has some interesting things to say along the way. While not perfect, it’s a reminder that the western still has a place today and here’s to hoping that we get more. The movie is rated 4 out of 5 stars.

Unbroken – Movie Review

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In 2o1o Laura Hillenbrand brought us the story of Louie Zamperini and his incredible tale of survival and courage. Spending 15 weeks as number one on the New York Times bestsellers list and over four years on the list for hardcover nonfiction, Unbroken has captivated people in a way rarely seen. Now Angelina Jolie has brought the beloved book to film and the question for everyone who has read the book seems to be, “Can this possibly live up?”. The answer; in some ways yes and in others no. The movie does a good job of setting the stage, telling the story non-linearly and working in the backstory of Zamperini’s life as his trials during WWII play out. It’s an effective way of breaking up the time spent lost at sea, giving us a fuller look at who this man is and how he was able to make it through the torture and dehumanization of a prisoner-of-war camp.

Lost and Drifting

One of the strengths of the film is the way it mirrors Zamperini’s time drifting aimlessly in a raft longing for rescue and his early childhood full of petty theft and purposelessness. It’s a perfect picture of the innate depravity of man. Louie’s father even asks him after a whipping why he does these things and Louie has to reply, “I don’t know”. He shows no belief in himself or sense of direction until his older brother Pete challenges him to try out for the track team, helping train him and reminding him that he is loved and believed in.

We all need this in our lives. Left to our own devices we often drift listlessly along the waves of life. We long to have a purpose and know we are loved and believed in, in spite of the sin that enslaves us and leads us, much like Louie, to do things for reasons we don’t even understand. We need someone to step in and remind us who we are and show us a better way. For Louie that was his brother Pete and later in his life it would be his wife Cynthia.

Conclusion

This is a good movie. The acting is superb and Jolie does a fine job in her big budget directorial debut. Sadly it could have been even stronger. Zamperini comes home and is far from unbroken, he’s been shattered. Unable to find a way past his anger and rage, he turns to alcohol and descends deeper into hopelessness. It is not until his wife encourages him to attend a Billy Graham Crusade that Louie finds the relief he is looking for. He finds salvation from the anger and pain in the forgiveness of Jesus. Through an understanding of how much he has been forgiven, Louie can offer that same forgiveness to his former captors. He is free. Unfortunately this momentous event is not portrayed in the movie. The main crux of the story is not his surviving the torture and war, it is the salvation he finds in brokenness. See Unbroken, it’s a good movie, but do yourself a favor and read the book beforehand. As the old saying goes, “The more you know…”, and here the more, is everything.


Last year saw the release of a movie much like Unbroken called The Railway Man. I encourage everyone to see it. It is the most powerful movie of grace and forgiveness I’ve seen in years.