Showing posts with label Movie Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Movie Reviews. Show all posts

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Addendum to Taken review

A conversation with a friend has suggested to me that I need to add the following addendum to my review of Taken:

My problem was not the violence, per se, or the fact that it dealt with the sexuality, per se. It was the fact that it, in my view, didn't bother to deal seriously with what is one of the absolute most serious issues that exists in the world today. Regarding the violence, it wasn't the fact that it was violent, it was the way the violence was treated - as something purely cool, instead of something necessary, and (in my opinion) as a point of vengeance, instead of as a point of justice. I think one can reasonably hold the (good) alternative view that his killing was necessary - but the movie didn't seem to do that, at least from my perspective.

Overall, my great frustration with the movie is that people don't take sexual slavery seriously. The problem I had with the sexuality here was not that it was overly gratuitous - there has certainly been far worse in Hollywood and even in movies that I've seen - but that instead of dealing with it to show the horror, it was just there. It read exploitatively to me. I wanted the subject to be treated with the horror and the revulsion and the anger - no, rage - that it deserves. I wanted Brian Mills to care - at all - about all the other girls there, and there wasn't even a hint of that in the movie. Even had he decided it wasn't something he could handle all by himself, even had he decided that he simply had to save his daughter and go, it would have played far better. But we weren't even told that he felt this way - much less shown it. The movie itself quietly highlights this in that we never find out the fate of the girl he rescues along the way. She's left in a hotel room by Brian Mills - and the movie leaves here there, too. I think my reaction would have been much less strong had that not been so, had it been clear that he cared about her as a person rather than as a means to an end.

I think my problem can be ultimately summed up by saying that while I don't have a problem with the movie as a father-saves-his-daughter-from-a-terrible-fate movie, I have huge problem with it as a dealing-with-the-issue-of-sexual-slavery movie, because no one's eyes are going to be opened by this.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Taken review

Jaimie and I saw Taken last night, as part of our celebration of our one-year dating anniversary. We both rather wished we hadn't. It wasn't what we were hoping for, and it certainly didn't meet the expectations we had based on the feedback of others who had seen it. In fact, I'm hard pressed to think of much about the movie that I ultimately like.

A brief summary (in which I will thoroughly spoil the plot): Brian Mills is a retired CIA officer - a "preventer," as he tells it - who has moved to California to be close to his turning-17-at-the-beginning-of-the-movie daughter and make up for lost time with her. He shows at her birthday party, feels overshadowed, and is finally browbeaten into letting his daughter go to Paris by his pushy and bitter ex-wife. Kim arrives in Paris, talks to an apparently friendly French guy, who gets their location and then promptly sends the rest of his kidnapping gang their way. Kim calls her dad just in time to see her travel buddy get kidnapped, and is on the phone with him when they take her. Thus, Brian has enough information to track down her kidnappers - a group of sexual slavers - to their location in Paris, where he goes in short order, hunting for Kim. The next hour of the hour-and-a-half long movie consisted almost entirely of briefly interludes of information gathering or quiet thought, punctuating long sequences of killing violence. Because Brian Mills kills everyone he can that's been involved with his daughter's kidnapping. He finds her at the end, after working his way through the boat she's being held on, and kills her purchaser even as the man holds a knife to her throat. Cue crying in dad's arms and a joyful return to America.

I can say this for the movie: it is a picture of the depth of emotion in a parent's heart, and the extremes to which a parent would go, if they could, for their children. The positives end there. For the negatives, I'll start at the least problematic and work upward.

The movie had been compared to the Bourne trilogy by various people we know. If the comparison is meant to indicate a certain similarity in the style in which the film is shot and a comparison of the levels of violence, it's an almost accurate assessment. Almost, because the violence here is at a significantly higher quotient and, where Jason Bourne kills only at the very last resort, Brian Mills has no compunctions about shooting and killing anyone involved with the crime syndicate he is hunting. While I can appreciate the desire for retribution, there is no sense in this that he is an agent of justice. This is hatred and revenge, and nothing more.

This is clear because Mills does nothing for any of the other sex slaves in the movie except one that he can get information from - who he promptly drops (as does the movie) when she's no longer relevant to getting information about Kim. He clearly has the skill set to be able to completely destroy this organization and liberate dozens, if not hundreds, of women subject to sexual slavery and drug abuse, whose lives are being destroyed by men callously taking advantage of them. And he doesn't. The movie ends on an allegedly happy note, with Kim's safe return to the United States and a slight reconciliation between Mills and his ex-wife. Kim has a part of her dream come true in meeting a famous singer and getting voice lessons. And we're supposed to cheer.

Meanwhile, hundreds of women still suffer exactly what Brian Mills killed dozens of people to keep Kim from - and he shows not a bit of concern.

It's at this point that things really start to get ugly. Sexual slavery is one of the greatest ongoing evils of our day. It's on par with genocide, and I don't say that lightly. Genocide may be larger in scale in the world as an ongoing evil - it's difficult to say, given the secrecy with which sexual slavery is practiced and the openness in which genocides must occur. But it is certain that slavery, especially sexual slavery, is at least as horrible an evil as genocide - for in a genocide, there is an end that comes in death. Sexual slavery is a living death that goes on and on, a continuing degradation, devaluation, depersonation. It doesn't get any worse.

And this movie takes it lightly. It takes it as an excuse for another shoot-em-up. It takes it as an excuse to feel good about revenge. And, worst of all, it takes it as an excuse to be sexy. The whole point of the movie is (allegedly) just how evil this sort of thing is. And yet, multiple times, women are shown on screen in very little - up to and including Kim. Admittedly, this isn't played for out and out titillation. But I have to ask: in a film supposedly addressing the issue of sexual slavery, isn't it a bit sick to show the girl kidnapped to be a sexual slave in a negligee, for any reason? And the movie does it twice, and again with other girls.

There is something horrifying in this. The movie had an opportunity to deal seriously with one of the great evils of our day. Instead, it played with it.

The problems with the movie can perhaps be summed up by the contradictions in the music. The movie alternates between quiet contemplations on piano, with occasional strings mixed in, and screaming rock music - with nothing in between and no continuity in between the two. The movie ends with a tender moment on piano between Kim and Brian... and switches immediately to a screaming rock band. And Taken can't make up its mind whether it wants to be just another movie for utter adolescents, with overwhelming violence, glorification of revenge, and overwhelming insensitivity to the actual issues raised, or a thoughtful examination of the trials of a parent's heart and the evils of sexual slavery. Had it gone with the latter, we might have had one of the most worthwhile movies of the year. Instead, we got one of the least - and I can say that confidently in a year that will no doubt be filled with dreck, because most of that dreck never had the potential to do what this could have.

A final point of irony: I find it somewhat horrifyingly ironic that the final preview before the movie began was for Miss March, another in the stream of movies glorifying Playboy. Has Hollywood no sense of decency at all? [I'm certain the answer is no.]

Monday, May 28, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Review

I've now seen Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End twice, and so am continuing with my promised set of movie reviews. Huzzah!

This third entry in the Pirates trilogy is by far the largest in scale, the broadest in scope, and the longest to watch (clocking in at about 2 hours and 40 minutes). The story sweeps the viewer along from the Far East locality of Singapore to the otherworldly Davy Jones' Locker to unnamed (but apparently Caribbean) locales. The film features returning stars Johnny Depp as the inimitable Captain Jack Sparrow, Orlando Bloom as Will Turner, Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swan, Geoffrey Rush as Captain (first name learned in the course of the movie) Barbossa, Bill Nighy as Captain Davy Jones, and Tom Hollander as Lord Cutler Beckett. Also along for the ride again were "Bootstrap" Bill Turner, Tia Dalma, and fan favorite pirates Pintel and Ragetti (and their bumbling Royal Navy counterparts from the first film). If that sounds like a lot of people to follow, it is... but it's not hard to keep track of them, thanks to their strong performances and vastly differing looks and personalities. I entered the movie expectant but prepared for it to be a failure, since so many critics had panned it - most noting the complexity of the plot.

As with Spiderman 3 before it, I was pleasantly surprised that, all the critics' comments notwithstanding, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. While I was very much a fan of the second film (as many of my friends were not), I found this one significantly more satisfying and more compelling. The plot is complex; there can be no doubt about that. At the same time, I had no difficulty following it. I'm not sure whether that's a function of my general appreciation for and enjoyment of complex scenarios and plots (for example, I had the end of Ocean's 11 figured out from about halfway through the movie), or whether it is simply not that difficult to follow. Of all those I've seen the movie with (9 people besides myself in total), only one person had difficulty following the plot, and he was tired and fighting not to fall asleep through the film. It seems to me that so long as one is already familiar with the characters and the background, following the movie isn't terribly difficult. (It should be noted that this sort of familiarity is necessary with almost any third movie in a tightly linked trilogy. Imagine, for example, trying to watch The Return of the King without first having watched The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers... it would be impossible to follow.)

The character development was satisfying if in some cases surprising. Having Barbossa as an active member of the plot again was thoroughly satisfying, and the fact that he served as a protagonist in most ways made for an interesting contrast with the first film, where he was primarily the villain. Will and Elizabeth's individual and mutual journeys were both excellent, and the resolution of the tension between them introduced in the second film is handled nicely (though I shan't say how). Jack is, of course, Jack, but he progresses nicely throughout the film while essentially remaining his narcissistic and thoroughly fey self. James Norrington's progression through the films is neatly tied up, as well, though he has a significantly smaller part here than in either The Curse of the Black Pearl or Dead Man's Chest. Tia Dalma, Davy Jones, and Cutler Beckett all also have their plots resolved in various ways - some expected, some less so. Of all the resolutions of character and plotlines, I found that for Tia Dalma the least satisfying: it was merely sufficient, rather than strongly compelling as with the others.

I feel compelled to actually take an entire paragraph to discuss the scoring for the film. Zimmer did a fantastic job concluding the trilogy with this score; in many ways this is already one of my favorite works of his (and that says something, when you consider that he has produced such massive and excellent scores as Gladiator and The Last Samurai in his career so far). He introduced two major new themes, one of which is essentially a love theme, though it functions otherwise throughout the movie at times; and the other of which is, in the context of the film, a pirate dirge, and outside the film, a compelling modal melody which makes a fitting backdrop for both melancholy moments and epic battle sequences. His use of both sweeping orchestrations and quieter moments (such as a striking use of the oboe as a solo instrument set against the orchestra as a whole) was stunning here. He skillfully brought back the main themes from each of the earlier films (specifically, "Will and Elizabeth" and "He's a Pirate" from The Curse of the Black Pearl and "Jack Sparrow," "Davy Jones," and "The Kracken" from Dead Man's Chest), integrating them mostly subtly into the sweeping and epic-feeling score for this third entry. The Cutler Beckett theme and the Jack Sparrow theme both return with some interesting changes and some interesting orchestrations. The final 45 minutes of music in the film includes some of my favorite moments in any piece of film music, and indeed some of my favorite musical moments. The soundtrack alone is worth buying.

The film itself concludes both itself and the trilogy satisfyingly in my opinion, rounding off all significant plot and character points. A short denouement follows the epic climax of the film, in a sort of falling action sequence rare for summer action movies but essential for any sense of completeness for a trilogy of this scale. And a gift of a short clip after the credits awaits those hardy enough to last through them - a list as epic as the creation of the film. That moment, too, was extremely satisfying in my opinion. (It should be noted that there's a certain amount of dissent on that point among those with whom I've seen it: my sisters were disgruntled at one particular aspect of the ending.) In any case, the movie ends "believably" - this being fantasy - in the sense that all of the characters continue on with their own journeys afterwards. The filmmakers left enough room that they could make another film if they chose to (though I hope they do not), but it is in no way required by the ending; to the contrary, the slight openness of the ending seemed more a necessary indicator that these characters keep on with their lives than a call for another sequel.

In terms of objectionable content, I recall little or no swearing. The violence quotient was of course extremely high, from the hangings that open the movie (including that of a young boy, which goes unseen) to the epic battles that fill it. Scary creatures propagate the film, of course, in typical Pirates of the Caribbean fashion; and one scene shows the crew of the Black Pearl passing by people who died at sea - some of whom are palely (and somewhat creepily) floating by under the surface of the ocean. A heathen god is discussed throughout the film and appears near the end, uttering unintelligible phrases. One character is shown in his own personal hell, complete with multiple copies of himself. Several main figures from the films die. In the course of the film (and the final moments of the previous entry), 3 people return from the dead by mystical means. None of these were a problem for me, as in context these are all simply a part of the fantastic setting in which the characters roam. Nevertheless, this is not a movie for small children.

Though less compelling at a thematic level than Spiderman 3, I thought Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End was a fantastic film, well worth seeing if you get the opportunity.

God bless!

- Chris

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Spiderman 3 review

I saw Spiderman 3 with friends tonight, and so I'm reviving a pattern I barely ever started, but one I long ago promised: a movie review. I've a feeling this summer may have a number of these, seeing as it promises to be filled with several blockbusters, from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End to Ocean's 13 to The Bourne Ultimatum to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. (That last I probably shan't be seeing, as I've yet to see any of the other movies or indeed to read past the first novel, which I confess I had far fewer problems with spiritually than I did from a literary standpoint. It was, well... rather "blah," for lack of a better description. But that is another post for another time.)

Again starring Tobey Maguire in the title role, with Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane, James Franco as Harry Osborn, and with Sam Raimi returning for a third time as a director, Spiderman 3 is both the first of the summer blockbusters and the first conclusion to a major motion picture trilogy since the premier of Revenge of the Sith two years ago; and it is the first of four such movies premiering this summer. I went in with fairly high hopes, having heard good things from those who had seen it (though it received mixed reviews from professional critics). In general, I make a point of entering a theater with as few preconceptions as possible, so as to be able to better evaluate it on its own merits, rather than on the hype (or lack thereof) surrounding it. There's a reason my favorite films range from blockbusters of the Lord of the Rings sort to the far more esoteric Stranger than Fiction. In this case, however, I needn't have worried: the movie more than surpassed my expectations on all number of levels.

The effects were superb - far better than in the previous installments, where computer generated elements were often easily distinguished as such. Here, even the prototypically comic book-ish character Venom was somehow believable, though by all rights he ought not to have been. Massive computerized set-pieces ranging from cranes smashing through buildings to immense sand structures were all realized at a level of quality far higher than that in Spiderman 2; indeed, I only found myself thinking, "Well, that's definitely CG" twice in the course of the film - and neither of those instances were character-driven, which is a pleasant change.

The movie is a superhero movie; there is no question of that. Superhuman feats populate the movie - and the fight scenes here are more intense (and more believable) than those in previous iterations of the Spiderman saga have been. However, unlike all but a few of the films in this genre, they do not dominate the movie: to the contrary, they are the icing on a very rich and very dense cake of rich characterization and plotting. The film tracks multiple plotlines, which ultimately converge in what has to be the single most satisfying finale to a superhero film I've seen. Raimi skillfully wove together the threads of Peter Parker's life, both as nerdy boyfriend and as acclaimed superhero; of Mary Jane's insecurities and her career struggles; of Flint Marko's passionate quest to do something for his daughter; of Harry Osborn's ongoing struggle with his father's death and his blaming Peter for it; of Eddie Brock, an antagonist for Peter in almost every way; of Peter's past and the way it continues to drive - and haunt - him; and of Aunt May and her gentle love for and belief in Peter. The number of ongoing plots in the movie sounds dizzying; yet Raimi skillfully integrated them and brought them successfully to resolution. There was a period of about ten minutes in the middle of the movie where I wondered if it was going to end up slowing down too much and dragging on, but Raimi successfully kept the plot moving forward; and it never plodded. The pacing was one of my primary concerns going in, having read other reviews, and I was pleasantly surprised that I only questioned once, and that only briefly, about the pacing of the film.

The acting was compelling, and from a variety of characters in a variety of ways. The inimitable J. Jonah Jameson was of course in good form as the humor character; and both Maguire and Dunst turned in fairly compelling performances that made the evolution of their characters believable. The supporting cast matched them well, particularly James Franco as Harry Osborn, who made for the film's most interesting character and development in many ways. The final "character," oft-forgotten but never unimportant, the score, was nicely handled by relative newcomer to the series Christopher Young, who took over from Danny Elfman. I actually found this score to be more emotionally compelling and richer thematically than those for Spiderman or Spiderman 2: enough so that I may invest in the soundtrack at some point (something I've not done for either of the first two Spiderman movies).

The movie impressed me on a number of levels. It's thematic development was top-notch, and though it flirted with heavy-handedness, it never actually got to that line. Unlike too many explicitly Christian movies I've seen, it never attempted to beat people over the head with its message - and this is, I think, why it succeeds so well in communicating some extremely important truths about vengeance, love, and forgiveness. Again, as in the previous movies in the trilogy, the notion of choice was emphasized, and strongly: that every day, we have the choice to do go or to do evil; and that choice has consequences... often significant consequences. By using these larger than life setpieces and superheroes/villains, the movie played out the reality of good and evil in a stark way that I believe our culture needs more and stronger doses of. When Peter Parker struggles with forces of external darkness that would control him, the film makes it very clear that he does so only because he is vulnerable because of his own decision to hold on to his anger and vengefulness. He experiences significant loss and suffering because of his choices, and we see played out in the extreme the consequences of embracing our sin nature. The power of forgiveness - and the need to not only repent but forgive ourselves - is clearly enunciated by Aunt May, who remains both Peter and the film's spiritual center, though she plays a relatively small part in the film. The motive of liberating truth makes a strong appearance, as well, in one of the most consequential scenes to appear in the series - which I'll not spoil for you here. The final moments of the film reinforce the power of love and forgiveness, as well as acknowledgment of our mistakes. That these themes were often woven into the context of explicitly spiritual settings (such as the church that is the setting for an important moment of choice, and even a nasty - but ultimately true - quip that Peter throws at an adversary) only emphasizes the underlying reality that this movie is hinting at - the metanarrative that we all recongize because it is the story of our existence: the story of the ultimate battle of good and evil.

There was little objectionable content, though several things are worth mentioning here. I recall only two uses of profanity, and those relatively mild. There was some light sexual innuendo, and some relatively sexualized dancing (though, it is worth noting, far less egregious in this sense than one might run into in most other films of this sort; it's also worth pointing out that this behavior is both mocked and condemned). If you find violence objectionable, you'll find this film objectionable: because there's a lot - though it is almost all bloodless. One moment that stood out to me was when, under the influence of a dark entity, Peter strikes Mary Jane in anger while in the midst of a larger brawl: it was hard to stomach (and I found myself angry when some wise guy in the theater thought it funny to clap at that moment: a sad commentary on the state of our culture that his rudeness got so many laughs in the theater). The film earned a PG-13 rating for all of the above, and it's not undeserved: the combat is intense and people do die, though far less than might be expected, thanks to Spiderman's heroics.

I have to recommend this film. It is one of my favorites. I'm not sure, but I honestly think it tops Spiderman 2 as my favorite in this series, and my first feeling is that it probably ties Batman Begins as my favorite superhero movie. It had a nearly perfect blend of drama, action, suspense, and character moments - not to mention an ending that made me want to literally cheer out loud at times. The development of Biblical themes throughout, combined with good acting, top-notch action and effects, and a score that I found significantly more compelling than previous musical entries, makes me add this not only to my list of favorite superhero movies, but indeed to my list of favorite movies.

In short: go see it! God bless, and good night.

- Chris

Friday, September 29, 2006

Review: Facing the Giants

Here we go on the first movie review on this blog!

Tonight (opening night, no less), a group of friends and I went to see a feature film called Facing the Giants. Produced, directed, funded, and acted by the members of Sherwood Baptist Church (the only "professionals" on the entire team were the camera crew), the film was distributed by a Christian music company and is now playing in over 400 theaters this weekend alone. That's a nearly unprecedented feat for an independent Christian film (the only comparable showing was that of End of the Spear last year). And to be quite honest, I think that Facing the Giants is probably the better movie of the two.

The movie is in some sense a typical football movie: football team has a bad record, coach is struggling personally both on the field and off, opposition arises both internally and externally; and in the end the team rises above the challenges to succeed against all odds, ultimately winning a state championship, even as the coach overcomes his own personal challenges. What sets this film apart is that the team really doesn't overcome the challenges for itself; nor does the coach deal with his personal difficulties on His own. Throughout, there is a very genuine look at faith and at choosing to praise God no matter what the circumstance. Moreover, the situation seems much more real than in almost any football movie I've seen - despite the fact that the others tend to be based on historical events, and this one is purely speculatory. More on that in the conclusion. The movie opens with the following situation: the team hasn't had a winning season in six years; the coach and his wife are unable to have children; their house smells (it turns out rather humorously to be the fault of a rotting rat); their car is so broken down it hardly runs; and they haven't the money to deal with any one of these problems. By the end of the movie, every one of these problems is resolved, as one would expect from any Hollywood production.

What wouldn't expect from a Hollywood production, though obviously would from a Biblical church, is that each of these victories is achieved only after the people surrender to God, and choose to prepare the fields they're responsible for rain, whenever God chooses to bring it, whatever it looks like - when they say that ultimately they will praise Him no matter what. He then moves mightily in their lives, because it is for His glory. Sound preachy? I was expecting it to be (this is a church presentation, after all!). I was pleasantly surprised to find that it never really came across that way, but rather as very genuine faith by very genuine people dealing with genuine struggles. It was a pleasant change from the outright irreverence with which Hollywood treats active, heartfelt, lived out, Biblical Christianity. I won't spoil the ending any more than I already have, but suffice it to say that there was a satisfactory ending to every line - and on more than just a visceral level; it honestly communicated well to my heart and spirit, not just my emotions.

There was no objectionable content in the least - no swearing, and no sexuality. The only moment I can think of in the film that anyone might find objectionable in the least was a shot of a flying cheerleader, and that was so modest compared to Hollywood that I probably only noticed it because everything else was so chaste. There was also one other extremely veiled reference to pornography - but in the context of noting that as people living for God, the team ought to be living for Him everywhere, including on what they did on the Internet while at home alone. In short, this film was thoroughly wholesome.

I feel here at the end I owe some explanation of how the film came to be. Sherwood Baptist Church's elders had been praying for some time about how to really reach out and touch culture, and had a certain vision for doing things in an unorthodox way with the church - their church is very solid Biblically; don't mistake me: they simply wanted to do outreach in a new way. Alex and Stephen Kendrick, associate pastors, had grown up doing film projects, and had a vision for making movies that would reach culture, after seeing a Barna study noting that, more than any other single medium or method, movies reach out and touch culture. With their senior pastor's accompanying vision for reaching - and changing - the world from Albany, Georgia, the church set out to make movies. Facing the Giants was made on what amounts to a shoestring budget of $90,000. The money was entirely raised by church members and private contributions. For filming, the church had a single camera; for acting they had the members of the church and a few outsiders; for feeding the cast and crew they had only the members of the church. The only professionals working on the film, the camera crew, were top-of-the-line, coming from having shot last year's successful and moving Friday Night Lights, and that quality makes a big difference in the production.

For distribution - often one of the most difficult (sometimes insurmountable) tasks for independent films) - the church was at a loss, until God stepped in. As in the movie itself, real life demonstrated the sovereignty of God in bringing together impossibilities to glorify His name. The church contacted Beach Street Records, the label responsible for Casting Crowns, Third Day, and several other well-known Christian bands, looking for permission to use music by the aforementioned bands in the course of the movie. BSR responded by asking to see the film in order to see if it fit with their vision - that is, their vision not only of publishing good Christian musicians, but also of distributing quality Christian films to general theaters across the county. That's not trivial, and hardly something attributable to circumstance. No, that is a direct consequence of the heart of prayer in the entire church during the production of the film.

What comes through strongest in the film is that the people who made it had a commitment both to honoring God completely - to be utterly true to His word and to good Biblical theology - and to excellence of artistry. Does the movie have its off moments? Yes. The acting is occasionally over the top. But then, to balance it out, the characters often have a genuineness about them that is alien from most Hollywood productions these days. I can't recall the last time a movie had me on the verge of tears so many times. Perhaps some of that is because I can so readily identify with the struggles of a football team, having been there and done that, but I was far from the only person so moved in the theater. There is a sense of truth to the struggles of these characters, a sense that, yes, people really do talk like this - no eloquent speeches when things fall apart, just that lost, angry questioning of God. Their faith is real; their struggles are real; their personalities ring true - and yes, their silly humor is exactly the way people really act. And that's not something I can say of many movies recently. I suspect that's the case for several reasons, not least that these are real people, not actors; and that they have such a passion and heart to please God in what they are doing. The issues they face are the issues faced by common people in America; the language is normal and natural because this is the language spoken by these people. Above all, the movie rang true because, in some sense, it is. The characters may be imagined, but as Tolkien noted, fiction can ultimately be True even in ways that reality may not, if it is in fact reflecting the ultimate truth of God's lordship and love for His children.

In the final analysis, Sherwood Baptist Church lived by what it was teaching: trust God with the results, and no matter what they end up looking like, praise Him. Like the team at the heart of its story, Facing the Giants seems with this to have found the ultimate winning strategy. But more importantly by far, they're doing it with the right heart. My recommendation: go see it, and more than once.

- Chris