Archive for the ‘True Story’ Category

12_Years_A_Slave_PosterArtI’m very hesitant to write about such a sensitive historical event.  Prior to watching this film, I had told myself that I wouldn’t be doing a post on this.  In many ways, writing eloquently about a topic such as slavery is something outside of my gifting.  However, instead of writing in-depth about the film, I thought I would simply highlight a few themes that struck me while watching.  12 Years a Slave falls into the category of movies everyone should watch.  Below are a few reasons why:

Depravity

If this movie teaches us anything, it is the depravity of mankind.  My wife and I couldn’t help but ask, Were people really that wicked?  We both know our theology and we believe in the the doctrine of original sin, but how could people be that cruel?  How could people treat fellow image bearers in such a wicked way?  This movie displays the depths of wickedness we are all capable of.  It shows the dark, evil that lurks in all of our hearts.  It should humble us all to know that we are capable of those same sins.

Freedom

In a conversation between Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Bass (Brad Pitt), I was reminded about the gift of my freedom.  Bass makes the statement that his freedom is “everything to him” and remarks of his taking for granted being able to walk off the plantation at any time.  This too, made me realize how often I take my freedom for granted.  To be honest, I rarely give a passing thought to the cost of my freedom and the luxuries my freedom offers me.  This film gave me a small glimpse into the blessings I’m afforded every day.

Hatred

If this movie doesn’t move you towards hatred, I don’t know what will.  Of course Scripture commands us to be angry (Eph. 4:26), but we are to guard towards sinful anger.  This movie caused me to feel anger towards racism, slavery, wickedness, but I had to be cautious not to hate white people, in general.  Movies like this – if we’re not careful – can stir up feelings of hatred over past sins.  While I’m baffled by the blind racial hatred by our previous culture, I was reminded to guard myself against hating those responsible.  Rather, I’m forced to think about the blind-spots of our current culture?  What sins will the next generation hate us for?  How are similar sins currently being manifested?

Enslavement

This film also helped me to grasp a deep theological truth.  Towards the end of the film, the proper authorities show up presenting Solomon’s freedom papers to his slave master – Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender – btw, phenomenal performance by Fassbender!).  As Epps views these authorities taking his “property”, he becomes furious.  He screams, he threatens, his rage spews through his words and actions, but he can do nothing to Solomon.  In fact, Solomon is told, Pay no attention to that man.

As Christians, we too were enslaved.  We had a hard master who still screams at us, mistreats us, and makes us live in constant misery.  However, the truth is, we have One who calls us out of slavery and tells us to pay no attention to that man.  All the devil can do is threaten and disrupt our peace.  While that causes us misery each and every day, we no longer belong to that master.  We have a master whose yoke is easy and burden is light. (Matt. 11:30).

While I don’t think it was my best picture, it was deserving of the Best Picture – well acted and executed by the filmmakers.  As I said, this is a film every Christian needs to watch.  Some may protest that due to the rough content, but I find movies like this helpful to watch.  Helpful for the reasons listed above, but also helpful to assault the idols of comfort and ease in my heart.  So, rent 12 Years a Slave and be thankful for your freedom, and think of ways in which you can stand against injustice in our current culture.

Facing The Impossible

Posted: September 29, 2014 by jperritt in Drama, True Story
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impossible-posterI avoided watching this movie for a while, because a few people told me it was terrible.  However, they did not mean it was terrible artistically, or stylistically.  They would affirm that the acting was good, the story was good (it is based on a true story…even though we know how those often go).  They informed me that the movie was terrible, because of the pain that was depicted on-screen.

The Impossible follows the story of a family traveling to Thailand.  While the family is in Thailand, they become one of the thousands of people afflicted by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.  The film’s depiction of this disaster is remarkable.  The acting and special effects marry in such a way that will be deeply moving for most movie-goers.

At many times this movie is very hard to watch, but I would say it’s a necessary movie for Christians to watch.  Why would I say it’s necessary?  At least two reasons:

We Hate Pain

Now, this is an understandable reality.  No one in their right mind enjoys pain.  Pain is a result of the Fall, so mankind understands that something abnormal is happening when we experience pain.  However, pain is now a common part of life that is unavoidable until the return of King Jesus.  Even though Christians will hate pain, we must expect it, prepare for it, and know that God uses pain to grow us into the image of His Son.

Even though Christians understand that God uses pain to grow us, most Christians do everything in their power to avoid it.  Often times this is seen through our idolatry of comfort and pleasure.  Without a doubt, we are commanded to have joy, because of Christ’s finished work.  But, we must know that any comfort or pleasure we have is fleeting.  That is why I say this is a necessary film to watch – it assaults our idol of comfort.

Sharing in Suffering

Secondly, I think a film like The Impossible teaches us what it means to bear each other’s burdens.  As Christians we are called to share in Christ’s sufferings as we also share in his comfort (2 Cor. 1:5).  Instead of simply sharing an apathetic, I’m sorry to hear that, I’ll pray for you.  We must share one another’s burdens and seek to feel the pain they feel – true empathy.

You know, when the Tsunami of 2004 hit, I’m pretty sure I didn’t pray once…maybe it was just once.  But, I can almost guarantee you it wasn’t heartfelt.  Watching The Impossible was deeply convicting.  It was a movie that exposed the selfishness of my own heart.  Why didn’t I pay more attention to those suffering from the tsunami?  Why wasn’t my heart moved to consider families that lost loved ones?  I was too fixated on my little kingdom and my little concerns to stop and consider what people around the world were going through.

The Impossible, however, grabbed my heart and mind and wouldn’t allow my mind to trivially consider the pain these people experienced – it brutally depicted it on-screen.  It was this brutality that convicted me of my prayer life.  Why didn’t I stop to consider what these people were going through?  What else was vying for my attention?  If I went through this, I would want others praying for me.

Something else struck me as I watched this movie on a Saturday night.  We typically don’t watch movies on Saturday, because they can sometimes distract us the following morning during worship.  However, it occurred to me that most people are watching/attending football on Saturdays.  I had watched some football earlier that day and football is often a great time of fun and fellowship.  But, I couldn’t escape the excessive indulgence often surrounded by football with the contrast of what I was watching.  At football there’s so much food at tailgating it’s often tossed in the garbage.  At football we gather to pour so much time, money, and energy into a game.

Please don’t misunderstand me, we don’t need to feel guilty about enjoying something like football – I enjoy football.  However, I couldn’t ignore the suffering in the film, just like I couldn’t ignore how much of our life we spend on trivialities in the midst of so much suffering.

So, I do think The Impossible is a film Christians would do well to watch.  It will assault your comfort, it will assault the pain-free life we often seek, it will convict, but it will encourage at the same time.  You see, the film gets its name because of the joy one family experiences in the midst of such tragedy.  However, when great tragedy strikes any of us we can often think, Why me?  I can’t believe this is happening.  In other words, this is impossible!  Frequently reminding ourselves that we don’t live in a pain-free world can assist us whenever we face the impossible.

 

Trailer Tuesday: The Homesman

Posted: September 23, 2014 by Blaine Grimes in Action, Drama, True Story
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Trailer Tuesday: Big Hero 6

Posted: September 9, 2014 by Blaine Grimes in Action, Drama, True Story
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Coming November 7th: 

Trailer Tuesday: Unbroken

Posted: August 26, 2014 by jperritt in Action, Drama, True Story
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[There were no new or notable trailers I was interested in, so I wanted to post one I’m really excited about.]

“There is something coming that is out of my control.”

Trailer Tuesdays – Noah

Posted: November 19, 2013 by jperritt in Action, Adventure, Biblical, Drama, True Story
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“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of  his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5

In honor of the release of The Great Gatsby, this is the second of two posts on the theme of GREATNESS in the movies.  Today, I will use two popular Mel Gibson movies (yes, I love that crazy man) to illustrate how great warriors fight for freedom: Braveheart and The Patriot.  Braveheart is a classic epic and The Patriot pales a bit in comparison–yet they are equally compelling in their stories of personal sacrifice and great tragedy for the cause of freedom. 

braveheartBraveheart (1995) tells the story of the legendary William Wallace, a Scottish rebel who leads an uprising against the cruel English ruler Edward the Longshanks, who wishes to inherit the crown of Scotland for himself. When he was a young boy, William Wallace’s father and brother, along with many others, lost their lives trying to free Scotland. Once he loses another of his loved ones (his secret wife), William Wallace begins his long quest to make Scotland free once and for all.

As a lover of Scotland (spent a wonderful few weeks there in 1985) and Scottish history, this truly an amazing story of the leadership of one man in the quest for freedom.  This film, as well as the classic Sherlock Holmes stories. actually prompted me to write my Scottish Sleuth VBS series for churches (yes, a shameless plug: click here for more).  Even if you somehow missed this film, or are just afraid of men in kilts, you probably have heard someone speak a portion of this classic quote with a poor Scottish accent:

Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live… at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin’ to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!

 These words of Wallace truly sum up the natural human longing for freedom from tyranny and oppression!

PatriotIn the same vein,  The Patriot (2000) is centered on peaceful farmer Benjamin Martin who is driven to lead the Colonial Militia during the American Revolutionary War.  Martin was a supporter of the King and was against revolution, until a sadistic British officer murdered his son.  Unlike William Wallace, Martin is a fictional character loosely based on Frances Marion, also known as the Swamp Fox, who led a rag-tag group of men in ghost-like attacks against the British during the war.  His victories had a big impact on the U.S. gaining its freedom.

As I said, there are many similar themes in these two movies, prompting some critics to call the The Patriot  just a poor-man’s American version of Braveheart.  Both men experienced extreme tragedy in the deaths of a wife for one and a son for the other.  Both men were reluctant to engage in the fight until these tragedies literally dragged them in.  Both men fought with all of their heart and soul for freedom.  Both men inspired others to take up the cause of freedom alongside of them.  In their own ways, William Wallace and Benjamin Martin represent the greatest warriors of all time who almost single-handedly change the course of history.

I know, you regular readers of Reel Thinking already know where I’m heading.  Wallace and Martin are just pale representations of the greatest warrior who ever lived (and still lives), Jesus Christ.  While these men were reluctant participants in their battles for freedom, Jesus willingly came to earth to die for our sins.  While these men helped to bring freedom to their respective nations, Jesus brought spiritual freedom to every nation, tongue, and tribe.  While Wallace and Martin defeated some pretty formidable armies, Jesus alone conquered the armies of the kingdom of darkness that enslave men’s souls.  Jesus is the ultimate freedom-fighter!

When you watch these films, you can’t help but cherish your own freedom.  But as you consider what Jesus did for you on the cross, always grab hold of your true freedom in Christ!  As the Apostle Paul wrote: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore and do not submit to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1).  Our slaveholders are not the British, Longshanks, King George, or any other human–it is our own sin from which we need to be freed.  And when we are free in Christ, we are free indeed!

This weekend, the new and much heralded adaptation of The Great Gatsby will hit the theaters.  Even though I have read hundreds of novels over my lifetime, somehow I missed one that is well-known to be the “great American novel.”  I blame my literature teachers in high school!  Thus, with this embarrassing hole in my literary knowledge, I will leave it to someone else to review this novel-based film.  But in honor of The Great Gatsby, I will present two posts that focus on GREATNESS in the movies.  Today, I will use three movies that illustrate the greatness of our sports athletes in the breaking down of the sinful barrier of racism.

42

42 is the most recent film that chronicles the story of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era.  Robinson broke the baseball color barrier when the Brooklyn Dodgers started him at first base on April 15, 1947.  As the first major league team to play an African-American man since the 1880’s, the Dodgers virtually ended racial segregation that had relegated black players to the Negro leagues for six decades.  The example of Robinson’s character and incredible talent challenged the whole basis of segregation, which then marked many other aspects of American life as well.  Enduring much persecution, he truly broke down the barrier that now enables countless African-American men to play professional baseball.

Glory RoadGlory Road is a 2006 sports drama which is based on the true story of Texas Western College’s remarkable men’s basketball season leading to the winning the 1966 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship.  First year coach Don Haskins led a team with an all-black starting lineup–a first in NCAA history.  What was even more incredible was that the team beat Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky Wildcats, also known as college basketball royalty.  It was truly a David vs. Goliath.  This majority African-American team had to endure the racism and hatred of the 1960’s, as well as the belief that black players were not intelligent enough to play championship level basketball.  After the historic victory, even the great University of Kentucky recruited its first African-American player, changing the entire face of the sport.

Remember the TitansFinally, Remember the Titans (2000) was another fine sports film based on the true story of African-American high school football coach Harold Boone as he tries to integrate a racially divided team in Alexandria, Virginia in the early 1970’s.  He replaced a long-time hall of fame white coach, as the area high schools were being desegregated.  Conflict broke out repeatedly among the black and white football players until they finally unified under the leadership of two defensive linebackers.  Not surprisingly, this story also includes racial hatred from the board and the community, until the team wins the state championship.

So we have three movies illustrating similar themes in the three major American sports–baseball, basketball, and football.  And, in three separate decades (40’s, 60’s, and 70’s) we have great athletes who in their own ways break down a racial barrier, thereby changing their respective sports and leagues forever.  And, even though the racism of white Americans is clearly on display, all three movies have a white man who also sacrifices for the cause of racial reconciliation: Branch Rickey (GM of the Dodgers), Don Haskins (Head Coach of the Miners) and Bill Yoast (Defensive Head Coach of the Titans).  It can be argued that without these “mediators” and “advocates”, the athletes could not have broken down the racial barriers.

Now before I make the connection to the greatest BARRIER-BREAKER of all time, I’d like to make just one slightly cynical observation.  As much as I love sports, and nearly all sports movies ever made, it’s kind of sad that it takes a winning sports team to make people “less” racist.  In all three situations, many of the white people relaxed their racist sentiments only when the athletes brought them victories.  I guess that’s human nature–the idolatry of racial segregation was just overwhelmed by the idolatry of sports championships.  So, if we are honest, these barriers weren’t broken out of a love for God and for other people of all races, but because of sheer idolatrous pragmatism.

Thankfully, Jesus Christ, the greatest barrier-breaker of all time, broke down the barrier between God and us, and between Jew and Gentile out of perfect love, not to win a meaningless game.  As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:13-14, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and BROKEN down in His flesh the DIVIDING WALL of HOSTILITY…”  As great as it is to see racial barriers come down, how much greater for believers of all tribes and tongues to be unified in Christ Jesus our Lord!