Archive for January, 2012

Jerry MaGuire is, by far, my favorite Cameron Crowe film and one of my all-time favorite films. Now, I must give the common disclaimer up front, Jerry MaGuire will not be a film everyone will enjoy. It has adult content and language that will be offensive to many, so approach this film with discernment if you plan to watch it.

Jerry MaGuire (Tom Cruise) follows the story of a sports agent who has an epiphany and decides to invest more time in fewer athletes. What this ultimately means is fewer clients and less money. More time for each individual athlete, but this would mean more clients going to other firms, which is why Jerry gets fired…oops, spoiler.

People applaud Jerry for his courage and honesty, yet all his co-workers and clients end up leaving him, except one Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding, Jr.). Tidwell ends up being Jerry’s only client, and one that is very very demanding. One who wants Jerry to show him the cash (did you think I was going to say something else?). Tidwell is your stereotypical NFL player that is completely arrogant and self-focused, which forces Jerry to ask the question was my epiphany correct? Were his thoughts of investing more time in individuals worth it, especially when one of those individuals is Rod Tidwell?

Don’t get me wrong, Tidwell is charming and funny, but he is, nonetheless, annoying. And I would venture to say each of us have people in our lives like this. People that make us feel like we’re Jerry MaGuire. There are those people who are difficult to love and we feel that we sacrifice so much for them. Friends, co-workers, children, spouse, etc.

At one point during the film, Jerry reaches his limit and exclaims what it is like to serve the almighty Tidwell:

I am out here for you. You don’t know what it’s like to be ME out here for YOU. It is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about, ok?

Jerry has been constantly serving Tidwell, feeding his ego, telling him he’s the best, fighting for him to stay on teams, to get more money, and Tidwell has been fairly ungrateful about it. Not only that, but Jerry isn’t even getting paid to serve in this capacity. He is hardly able to provide for himself while he is constantly listening to his only client’s constant bickering.

The truth is, Jerry MaGuire gives us a small glimpse at our Almighty God, except God does it with love and patience. God is constantly serving, always providing, long-suffering, displaying limitless love and sustaining us on this earth. Yet, we are Rod Tidwell. We feel entitlement. We feel that God owes us more. We complain, we worry, we show discontentment, we are unsatisfied, which all show that we are unappreciative of God and we doubt his provision.

I think of Paul’s charge to do all things without grumbling or disputing (Phil. 2:14) and because Paul doesn’t just state imperatives without indicatives, this command comes on the heels of one of the greatest displays of humility in Scripture (vs. 5-11). Those verses describe, in excellent beauty, what Christ did for those he loved. He left his throne, took on flesh, and in all humility died for an ungrateful bunch of arrogant, unappreciative, complaining Rod Tidwells; i.e., you and me.

You see, God’s job is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that he will never fully disclose and we will never fully grasp, because he loves us. Jerry MaGuire’s love and patience ran out on Rod Tidwell (who can blame him). But our God is a long-suffering God whose love has no limit.

I am not saying that God just overlooks our whining, complaining, arrogant, ungrateful, discontent lives that we live – he doesn’t like that. The reason he can love us is because His beautiful Son lived a life that was absent of whining, complaining and arrogance, so that we are now seen as living that same life. Not because WE did it, but because HE did it and credits that to us by faith.

So the next time you start to whine, complain, worry, etc. be humbled by the example of our Savior that Paul points us to in Philippians. Jesus Christ, who had every reason to whine and complain, refrained because he loved to do the will of his Father and he joyfully offered his life to redeem an arrogant Rod Tidwell, like you and me.

Snapshots

Posted: January 30, 2012 by jperritt in Snapshots
Tags: , , ,

snap·shot – a brief appraisal, summary, or profile.

Every Monday we hope to provide our readers with snapshots of films being released for the upcoming weekend. This will be a brief summary of films that will assist our readers in the area of discernment. Instead of searching other sites and reading lengthy articles, it’s our hope to provide a concise list of all the films of the weekend in one consolidated post. If you wonder why we don’t list the MPAA ratings, please click here.

  • Woman in Black – A young lawyer’s travels lead him to a small village where a vengeful woman’s ghost attacks the inhabitants.  Genre – Horror, drama, thriller; content –  violent/disturbing images, terror.
  • Chronicle – Three high school friends receive super-powers, but are challenged when faced with the darker side of these powers.  Genre – action, thriller, drama, horror, sci-fi; content – intense action, violence, teen drinking, language and sexuality.
  • The Innkeepers – Two employees, working at a haunted inn, begin to experience disturbing things when old guests begin checking in for a stay.
  • Big Miracle – Some people save some whales.  Starring: The little girl from E.T. & that guy from The Office. (If you plan on watching any of the above three movies, you really need to watch this cute movie to purge the demonic forces you experienced in the others.)  Genre – family, cute, safe, not-demonic; content – mild language & thematic elements, cuteness, ice, no demons.

My high school friend, Turner Crumbley, held a role in Mark Wahlberg’s recent film Contraband. The film follows a rather rough storyline, which can raise questions among Christians.  Turner was gracious enough to wrestle with, and reflect upon, various questions we thought Christians may have for believers acting in Hollywood films.

As mentioned yesterday, we do not expect to arrive at definitive answers to some of these tough questions. We hope to merely wade through some of the grey of Christianity & film, and assist Christians in reflecting upon these difficulties. Please note that the below answers do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of the contributors of this site. I’m thankful to Turner for his vulnerability and willingness to answer these questions.
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How were you contacted about being a part of Contraband?

In late 2010, my agent informs me that I have an opportunity to audition for the movie. The process is very typical: I receive a plot synopsis, a list breaking down the movie’s roles, instructions to read for a specific role, and the appropriate sides (a few pages of the script with which to audition).

The role for which I’m instructed to audition appears in one scene and, if hired, I’m likely to only work for one day. But that doesn’t matter because, (a) like the vast majority of actors, I’m seldom afforded the opportunity to choose my work. And (b), as the old saying goes, “There are no small parts, just small actors.”

So I take the opportunity and start learning the role.

Since I’m appearing in a play at the time, I’m allowed to record a video audition. My (now) wife reads the off-screen dialogue, we tape the audition scene, and the video is sent to the movie’s casting director.

A couple of months later, I receive another call from Agent: I’m being offered a role in the movie, but it’s not the one for which I read. Instead, it’s a choice little part in several scenes. I end up working two weeks on location in New Orleans with some really talented storytellers. Ultimately, I learn a ton of lessons, which I’ve since used on subsequent jobs.

Is this your first major film role? Do you have any big roles on the horizon?

That depends on what you mean by “first major film role.” Since it’s made by a Hollywood studio and audiences are steadily going to see it, the movie feels pretty major. But I’m only on camera for a couple of minutes, tops. It’s by no means a major role.

As far as other work is concerned, I recently appeared in an episode of TNT’s Memphis Beat. And I also worked on a comedy that’s due to be released this spring.

It’s not likely anyone would qualify these above roles as “big”, either. But they’re speaking roles and I worked hard to get them. So they feel pretty big to me.

What was it like working with Mark Wahlberg?

It was a really good experience. He was polite, funny, and well prepared.

What are some of the themes surrounding the film?

The first ones that come to mind are family, betrayal, and the consequences of betrayal.

Do you recommend that Christians see this film?

According to the MPAA, the film is Rated R for violence, pervasive language, and brief drug use, which means those individuals that are 17 and over and can provide photo identification are allowed to purchase tickets and experience the movie. If the content for which the movie received its rating is acceptable to adults, I recommend they go see it.

Were there other Christians working on the film?

Yes. While I was on location, I had a short lunch conversation with an actor regarding Christianity and our similar career paths.

Also, Mr. Wahlberg has publicly stated that he is Catholic and attends mass.

Why do you think Christians are so absent from filmmaking in general; i.e., acting, producing, directing, etc.?

Christians are not absent from filmmaking. My experiences have proven otherwise.

Is it difficult for you, as a Christian, to be associated with a film like Contraband? Explain.

No. I’ve seen the movie and I enjoyed it. There’s nothing in Contraband that Shakespeare wasn’t dishing out in his day. Actually, if you see a production of, say, Titus Andronicus, you’ll find that Contraband is pretty mild by comparison.

Is your conscience bothered at all by portraying a rough character? Explain.

If by “rough character”, you’re referring to a villain, then I don’t play a rough character in the film.

I have played villains and generally unsavory characters on television and in theatre and enjoyed doing so immensely. There are so many great opportunities when playing a villain. Heroes are bound by moral codes. When playing bad guys, there’s much less moral consideration. Under those circumstances, the choices available to me as an actor increase by leaps and bounds.

It’s also important to remember that (a) good stories thrive on conflict, and someone has to create that conflict. If not for the antagonist, most stories would be pretty boring. And there’s also the fact that (b) most villains don’t consider themselves villains. The best ones think that they’re making the right choices by doing whatever dastardly thing they happen to be doing, which is an interesting point of view with which to play.

I think there probably are rough characters that I wouldn’t want to play, but I’ve never been offered such a role.

Is it truly biblical for a Christian to use rough language, etc. in a film, yet dismiss it as ‘just acting’?

I honestly have no idea. I have no problem admitting –like it or not- that I’ve used profanity on camera, onstage, and in my everyday circumstances.

Regardless, I hope I’d never dismiss it as “just acting”. If it’s a well written story and there’s adult language, it can be very effective. For example:

In The Shawshank Redemption, there’s a beloved old prisoner named Brooks, memorably played by James Whitmore. The role of Brooks was written with more profanity than Whitmore uses in the finished film. This is because Whitmore convinced the film’s screenwriter and director, Frank Darabont, to cut the majority of the obscenities out of his dialogue.

But Whitmore didn’t have Darabont rewrite his dialogue simply because he, the actor, didn’t want to use offensive language. Instead, he requested that his character –a man so accustomed to prison life that he’s terrified to live in any other way- only curses when he discovers he’s about to be paroled. In fact, Brooks becomes so frightened that he threatens to kill a fellow prisoner and shouts obscenities while doing so.

Beyond his physical threats, the language choice really illustrates the degree to which he fears the outside world. Because we’ve never before heard Brooks talk in such a way, it further cements our understanding of his fragility. It’s a shocking moment, and it carries dramatic weight. So that’s a character-appropriate moment of obscenity.

Are you at all concerned with tarnishing your Christian witness through various roles?

No. There are a couple of roles I’d rather not play and have turned down, though none of them were film roles. And I didn’t necessarily turn them down for religious reasons. Most roles that would give me pause have never been made available anyway.

How do you try to portray a Christian witness on various film sets?

Most of my time on film sets has been limited to checking in with an assistant director or production assistant, putting on the wardrobe, having make-up applied, going to set, and filming. It can be a fast moving, intense work environment. The only subject that’s usually discussed is the movie.

I try to be as professional and positive an employee as possible. I try to treat people the way I’d like to be treated. If the subject comes up, I don’t hide my religion, but it doesn’t come up often.

Do you have any messages or comments you would like to add for Christian movie-goers and actors?

I hope people like the movie!

TURNER CRUMBLEY has appeared in feature films, on television, and in theatres across the United States. His recent stage credits include Dracula, The 39 Steps, The SantaLand Diaries (New Stage Theatre), Big River, A Simple Gift (Mill Mountain Theatre), Sweet Charity (Sierra Repertory Theatre), Louis L’Amour’s ‘One for the Mohave Kid’, The Minute Men (Great American Melodrama), Blood Wedding (Warehouse Theatre), The Diary of Anne Frank (Stage One), and Disney’s Beauty & the Beast (Jefferson Performing Arts). Film credits include Contraband, the forthcoming 21 Jump Street, and the award-winning, independent feature Glorious Mail. As a director, Turner’s credits include the plays The Good Thief by Conor McPherson, John Patrick Shanley’s Welcome to the Moon (both New Stage Theatre) and the short film A Mile of Wolves. Turner is a Laurel, Mississippi native and a University of Southern Mississippi graduate.

Usually our Thursday and Friday posts consist of theological parallel’s to movies being released for the weekend, but tomorrow we have something very unique for our readers. A high school friend of mine played a role in Mark Wahlberg’s Contraband and we will be posting an interview from him. Some of you may be aware that Contraband is a rather rough film (even if you don’t know anything about the film, the title should tell you a lot).

Well, my friend is a believer and he acts in this film – a film with drugs, cursing, and violence. Can a Christian act in a film like this? Should Christians watch these types of films? I believe these are questions many Christians have and they do not have easy answers. While we do not plan to get definitive answers to these questions through tomorrow’s interview, we hope to get a dialogue started among Christians. This site hopes to cultivate discernment among Christians who view film as a gift from God, and interviews like the one tomorrow should assist with that. Again, everyone who reads the post tomorrow will not agree, but these discussions are important for us to engage in.

Therefore, come back tomorrow and read through the interview, think through the questions, engage on our site, and engage with other believers to better steward your mind and the gift of film.

Wednesday’s Weekend Poll

Posted: January 25, 2012 by jperritt in Wednesday's Weekend Poll
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The Oscar nominations were announced yesterday. You can check out the list here. Which movies got robbed? Who will win? What’s your vote for best pic? Etc. Let us hear your thoughts on the Oscars in our comment section below.

Shutter Island: Life or Lobotomy?

Posted: January 24, 2012 by Josh Kwasny in Drama, Thriller

Remember the trailer for Shutter Island? I am sure if you think about it, you remember being creeped out by that old woman holding her finger up to her lips…yep, that was enough for me. I was scared already. Check out the trailer below – you will see what I mean.

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Horror movies are not my thing. When I saw the trailer for this film, I wrote it off as a horror movie. While Shutter Island is scary and disturbing at times, it is better categorized as a “psychological thriller.” And oh how it lives up to that label! So…I give fair warning to all who have yet to see the film. Shutter Island is dark, disturbing, and includes scenes that are difficult to watch – but, remember…this is a story about the psychologically insane.

Spoilers ahead! Let the reader beware! You will enjoy the film so much more if you watch before reading the rest of this post – I promise!

IMDb.com describes Shutter Island like this: “Drama set in 1954, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels is investigating the disappearance of a murderess who escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane and is presumed to be hiding nearby.” For those of you who have seen the movie, however, you know that this synopsis is a mere teaser for the real plot line of this film.

As the story unfolds, Teddy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the viewers begin to see that something fishy is happening on Shutter Island – home of Ashecliffe Prison for the criminally insane. Depending on individual perceptive skills or just plain guessing ability, viewers sooner or later learn that Teddy is actually an inmate at Ashecliffe and that everything that has been happening around him has been an elaborate role-play exercise!!

Teddy’s real name is Andrew Laeddis. Although previously a US Marshal, Andrew is now imprisoned for killing his wife after he discovers that she drowned their children while he was away from home. This traumatic event triggered his delusions – which often include violent attacks on others. His actions have made him “the most dangerous patient at Ashecliffe.”

The director of Ashecliffe, Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), constructed this role-play with the intention of helping Laeddis to acknowledge his delusions and return to the reality of life. Cawley’s willingness to engage the entire island in this “therapy” is quite remarkable. He truly believes that Laeddis has hope to return to normal life if he would just accept the painful reality of his past. Cawley pleads with Laeddis to accept reality. If he continues to regress into his delusional state, the directors of the facility have decided that he must be lobotomized.

I wish that I could tell you that all ends well for Laeddis. The truth is that the end of this film leaves viewers with little hope of change. Despite the incredible work of Dr. Cawley and his staff, Andrew Laeddis is last seen being led away by the Warden followed by two orderlies holding surgical instruments. Although some debate the ending, all points to…Lobotomy.

So what are we to do with a story like this? Is there anything to learn from such a dark film? I think so. In fact, the Christian worldview is the only one that can bring hope to such a sad and disturbing tale.

The final scene of Shutter Island includes these words from the mouth of Laeddis, “Which would be worse: to live as a monster or to die as a good man?” The film’s answer seems to be that it is better to die a good man. For Laeddis, a lobotomy is more tolerable than living with the pain and guilt of his past. He simply cannot accept reality – there is no future hope in this life. “Death by lobotomy” is the only way forward.

This may seem like an extreme reaction. Surely a lobotomy cannot be the preferred remedy to the pain of living with the past – even a past as horrible as that of Andrew Laeddis!

Let’s be honest for a moment. Sure, we don’t opt for an ice pick to the brain, but don’t we prefer the same result when faced with the difficult realities of life. When we see our sin and its effect on others, it is often too much to bear. In response we choose our form of “death by lobotomy” – alcohol, sex, substance abuse, too much TV, romance novels, food, friendships, blogging…anything to help us forget reality and numb the pain.

Shutter Island offers no hope in dealing with sin and its effects. Without the good news of the gospel – there is no hope to be sure! The only hope for life is through Jesus Christ. When we come to grips with the promise of forgiveness and new life that is offered in the gospel, we have every reason to hope – to chose life instead of lobotomy!!

In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul reminds the Corinthian Christians of their sins by penning a laundry list of offenses. He then delivers these beautiful words of hope, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11-12). This is not a wishful “hope so,” but rather a sure foundation to rest our hope upon.

Dr. Cawley believed that change was possible for Andrew Laeddis. He desired that Laeddis would come to his senses and live. Dr. Cawley was willing to go to great risk to help this troubled man return to sanity. The Christian gospel promises that we have an even better advocate for our troubled, sin-filled lives. Jesus Christ went to the cross to pay the penalty for sin – past, present, and future. Although we face the daily temptation to “lobotomize” ourselves, let us choose rather to look to Christ and his work on our behalf. We can face the reality of our sin because Christ has taken our penalty and opened up the way to new life.

Snapshots

Posted: January 23, 2012 by jperritt in Snapshots
Tags: , ,

snap·shot – a brief appraisal, summary, or profile.

Every Monday we hope to provide our readers with snapshots of films being released for the upcoming weekend. This will be a brief summary of films that will assist our readers in the area of discernment. Instead of searching other sites and reading lengthy articles, it’s our hope to provide a concise list of all the films of the weekend in one consolidated post. If you wonder why we don’t list the MPAA ratings, please click here.

  • The Grey – An Alaskan oil drilling team fights for survival from a pack of wolves after their plane crashes.  Genre – drama, action, thriller; content – bloody violence, disturbing images, language.
  • One for the Money – A newly divorced woman goes to work at her cousin’s bail-bond office and is assigned to a wanted cop from her romantic past.  Genre – romance, comedy; content – sexuality, partial nudity, violence and language.
  • Man on a Ledge – A police psychologist attempts to talk an ex-con off a ledge, while the biggest diamond heist is in progress.  Genre – action, thriller, drama; content – violence, language and sexuality.

A man’s man’s movie. Gritty, authentic and real. It’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ good. These are just a few of the comments critics used to describe Liam Neeson’s newest film, The Grey. Yesterday we looked at the idea of survival and how it is a foreign notion to mankind. We were all created to endure forever, therefore, survival was an alien thought to our psyche. This is what makes a film about a bunch of oil drillers fighting against the elements and wolves, resonate among viewers.

However, this got me to thinking, what should a Christian’s response to this scenario be? If I were an oil driller whose plane crashed, should I fight to live? Or should I accept the providence given to me and die? That may not be the easiest question to answer, because what lies on the other side of wolves and ice for me, is a perfect existence with the Father. A place where there are no plane crashes, wolves trying to eat me, or frostbite. Just perfect peace.

Should Christians Long for Death?

Since there are many places in Scripture affirming that the next life for the Christian is infinitely better than our current state, should we be longing to die? We also are told that this life is not our home. Therefore, our home is in another place. Our true life begins at our death, so why not want to experience true life and rest in our true home?

It seems that the apostle Paul was also faced with this dilemma:

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. (Phil. 1:21-23)

Paul knew that being with Christ was far better than any earthly joy or treasure. Believers and unbelievers, there are great things to be enjoyed on this earth, and Christians can actually enjoy those things more fully, however, they are laughable pleasures compared to an eternity with Jesus Christ. For one reason, every earthly joy has an end. The joys of heaven are forever.

Life is joyful but as The Grey illustrates, it has an end and is filled with dangers. So there is a sense in which every Christian should long for death, as Paul even did, but also affirm his words in the verses which followed the above quotation:

But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (vs.24-26)

This too, should be our focus. Longing for a perfect eternity, but fulfilling the call God has placed on every Christian while on this earth – making his name glorious! This is our driving force. Just as Ottway’s (Liam Neeson) driving force is to see the love of his life again, a Christians ultimate love is the Lord.

Therefore, the Christian life should not be lived fearing death or longing for death, but using the time we’ve been given for the sake of the Kingdom. If you think about it, death is somewhat of a non-factor for the Christian. Jesus has killed death and, in so doing, has neutralized its effects on us. We should not fear death, it has no mastery over us, and it cannot take anything from us.

Because of the righteous life, death, and resurrection of Christ, death can be mocked. As Paul said, death is gain. Basically, I’m going to preach Christ through my life, and if you kill me, I’ll be with Christ. Praise be to God that we don’t merely survive life but get to enjoy this life and, one day, experience true life.

Liam Neeson has always seemed to be a crowd favorite at the box office. Even though he has played the villain (Batman Begins) and taken some not-so-great-rolls (Clash of the Titans 1 & 2), he still seems to be a leading man we love to watch on the silver screen. In conversations with other movie-lovers about his most recent work in The Grey, it seems that audiences are willing to line up and purchase tickets for this gritty survival adventure as well.

When I first read the premise to The Grey and saw the trailer, I didn’t think much of it. “Maybe I’ll rent that one,” was my passing thought. However, the more previews I’ve seen and the more I’ve thought about the film, it seems to be one that would resonate with audiences. Not simply because Neeson seems to be an actor that audiences like and identify with, but mainly because the premise of survival is the central theme to the film. Sure, you take Neeson out of the film and put a lesser-known in his place and the film might be a flop, but the combo of Neeson and the theme make this film resonate.

The story follows a group of oil drillers whose plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness. Not only do they have to fight for survival in a cold climate, they also must fight against a pack of wolves that are hunting them down. Scott Free Productions is associated with the film and the tone (at least from the trailers) seems to be on par with some of their other works (Man on Fire). The tone this film seems to carry is one of gritty realism that might be difficult for some viewers (including myself). However, the tone should add a level of intensity and realism to the film, which should increase the desire for survival the audience will feel.

We can see that studios employ actors and certain techniques in filmmaking that cause a film to resonate among viewers, and while those techniques can be useful and good, it is the deeper Scriptural truths I want to focus on.

If you think about it, the entire human race was created with the idea of survival as a foreign notion to them. Survival was something so absent from the human mind because the idea of survival did not come about until the fall. We were created as perfect beings who would not die. We know that sin ushered death into creation (Gen. 3:19), therefore, prior to sin, there was no death. If there was no death, there was no need to survive. Survival from what?

Survival is a fearful thing because it is an unnatural thing. It is an unnatural thing, because death isn’t natural. You’ve heard people make the statement, ‘He died of natural causes.’ Death isn’t natural. It is so unnatural that God had to take on flesh to kill it (1 Cor. 15).

While interest in The Grey somewhat puzzled me at first, I can see why the idea of survival strikes such a chord among viewers. Live or die on this day is a tagline from the film, which is the driving force behind these characters. Life is what was graciously given to us by our Creator and Satan deceived us promising a fuller life, but gave us death.

Because the human race has such a desire to live and fight for survival, is what makes a film like The Grey one that viewers can identify with. They get to watch a group of oil drillers fight for something that was graciously given to the entire human race. It is about the ultimate battle of good vs. evil, life vs. death, God vs. the devil.

Tomorrow we are beginning our two-part post on The Grey (we know the film doesn’t release until next Friday).  The film follows a group of oil drillers whose plane crash-lands in the snowy wilderness of Alaska.  These men must choose to live or die on this day by fighting the elements.  The theme of this film is survival, life verses death, which led us to the below question.