Editor’s note: This column will be on temporary hiatus until later this month. The next film review will appear Monday, Oct. 28.
Often, movies that come out of Hollywood will allude to, touch upon, even explore the big issues and questions of life.
But rarely do they tackle them head on. And almost never would they dare to claim a definitive answer – especially to a question like, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”
Yet that’s exactly what Christian actor Kirk Cameron endeavored to do this past week with his film, “Unstoppable.”
In fact, for all the legitimate reasons to criticize “Christian” movies, this is one thing they do that Hollywood doesn’t: They seek to answer the kinds of questions that affect eternity – “Is there a God? Life after death? How can I believe in the face of evil and suffering?”
Look, Hollywood has the bigger budget, better acting and top-notch production values. There’s no doubt Hollywood can make a more spectacular and entertaining film.
And sometimes, a Hollywood movie transcends entertainment to bring the light of truth on an important topic, like the way the film “Warrior” gave us an unforgettable picture of forgiveness and unconditional love.
But as great as “Warrior” was (perhaps my favorite movie of all time), if you really want a picture of the depths of forgiveness, the Christian film “Amish Grace” takes it to a whole new level.
And give the Christian film industry some credit. Since the not-so-long-ago days of “Facing the Giants,” the filmmakers in Atlanta or Nashville – the two cities where the Christian film industry seems to call home – have been stepping up their game.
In “Unstoppable,” Cameron continues that upward trend. The dramatized scenes with Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel are gripping, a fresh look at old stories that breathes new life into them (yes, pun intended). The music in “Unstoppable” is likewise powerful and moving.
But the big test for “Unstoppable, of course, is does Kirk Cameron really answer the question, “Where is God in the midst of suffering?” Does he really make a satisfying case for faith in the face of tragedy?
Yes and no.
I talked with a fellow audience member who I knew was struggling with faith, suffering, tragedy and resulting bitterness toward God. I knew she was exactly the kind of person Cameron was targeting with his film.
As she walked out, she said to me, “He [Cameron] never really answered the question.”
And I understand why she said that. Cameron gives such a sweeping look at the question of suffering, offers such a variety of angles on the topic, that it seemed as though he never just said, “This is why God allows tragedies in our lives.”
But then we began to talk.
We talked about the different parts of the film that impressed or moved us. In a group of four people, we rehashed the various approaches Cameron took to the question. And in time, each of us found a grip, a handle on the topic that increased our understanding. In the days since, I’ve found myself thinking back and referring to the film, seeing life and suffering in a new light.
In the end, a 90-minute visit to the theater to watch “Unstoppable” couldn’t answer the question to my satisfaction. I don’t think any doubter is just going to watch this and be convinced.
But the discussions that “Unstoppable” began – and the God who uses films like this to open new doors in the heart toward faith – do have the power to influence minds, strengthen faith and change lives.
“Unstoppable” was originally a one-night-only event. It was extended to two. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’ve missed it in theaters. But it will be on DVD soon. And when it is, I recommend it highly – not that you watch it; but that you watch it and discuss it. Because that’s where the power of God comes in, whether through Hollywood or Christian film: not in the images on the screen, but in the body of Christ bringing the wisdom of Christ into discussions with fellow movie-goers.
- “Unstoppable” contains neither profanity nor obscenity.
- The scenes of Adam and Eve show a shirtless man, distant shots of naked Adam covered in mud, some skin from Eve and implied nudity, but utilize discrete camera angles and coverings.
- There is some significant gore, including a brief shot of Adam’s chest cut open for the removing of a rib, blood splatters from the brutal murder of Abel and Abel’s blood seeping and sluicing into the ground. The murder of Abel is depicted with realism, and despite discretion in now showing the actual wounds, it could still be disturbing for some audiences.
- There is no occult content, save for the depiction of a skin-shedding serpent-man in the Garden of Eden, but the film is a constant discussion of God and the Christian faith.