Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Given the heavy duty theological overtones of the movie Flight, I was shocked to find no reviewer discussing them. So, I made my own review.
Given the sad state of our human condition after the fall, God basically had four options—1) annihilate us, 2) abandon us, 3) assume control over us, or 4) assist us. Obviously, annihilation was a choice not exercised. Robert Zemeckis’ Flight (DVD release—Feb. 5, 2012) examines sinner/saint pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) as he inadvertently takes a trip where he will discover which of those three remaining choices is the true God.
By initial appearances, Whip is more sinner than saint as he starts his morning after a hard night with a little beer, a little pot and good amount of cocaine—and that, just to get to his job as a pilot making a routine flight from Orlando to Atlanta. But in a broken plane and foul weather, Whip becomes a hero by pulling off a landing that no other pilot would have dared, much less completed. Robert Zemeckis who directed Cast Away (2000) with Tom Hanks has a talent for filming plane disasters, and Flight’s sequence will leave even an experienced flyer tightening his belt on his next 727 ride.
Whip’s flight, however, is just taking off as the investigation into the crash begins, and subsequently, the investigation of Whit’s world of addiction secrets. Like the famous Magee poem, High Flight, Whip has slipped the surly bonds of drugs, alcohol, and the mundane world of commercial piloting into the sanctity of a new space where he will be—whether he desires it or not—close enough to touch the face of God. But which God is it? The uncaring God of abandonment who in apathy or caprice hands out cancer to people like Whip’s fellow cigarette smoker in the hospital stairwell? Is it the divine puppeteer who controls everything “for a reason” as his co-pilot counsels? Is there no God other than Whip himself as he jokes?
With a star power like Denzel Washington, the acting alone would probably make this movie worthwhile. Washington definitely brings his best talent to the film and you flip among rooting for Whip, loathing him, and just shaking your head at him in disgust and pity. But the supporting cast is strong as well. This is particularly true of Don Cheadle as Whit’s lawyer who is giving a defense better than Whip deserves, and Kelly Reilly as Whip’s short term love interest whose point in the film seems only to demonstrate how quickly Whip can go from saint to sinner. In fact, if the film has its weaker points, it is in its inability to bring its characters into the story and use them for anything but Whip’s benefit. Or is Zemeckis simply treating these characters as Whip does?
Flight is a movie about alcohol and drug abuse, and there is enough going those things going on to give the film its R-rating. And Zemeckis makes it inglorious enough to nauseate the viewer at times. There is also nudity and foul language. With rare exception, I would likely honor its rating.
Monday, February 23, 2015
Patheos.com is reporting the writing of a new icon which acknowledges the official recognition of the 21 Coptic Christians who were beheaded by the Islamic State in Libya this month as martyrs of the faith.
In Western Christianity, icons are not an essential part of our worship. However, their beauty is hard to deny, and the topics they portray are essential to our faith. As Lutherans, we trust in Christ's promises and feel there is no real need to pray on behalf of the dead. They are, most assuredly, in God's safekeeping. But we do pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who suffer for their faith in Christ. This is happening right now in many, many places around the world. We pray for their oppressors. And we offer thanksgiving for countries like ours where we have the freedom to worship.
More on the icon and the 21 martyrs of Libya at:
Recognition of Martyrdom and a New Icon
"Bol - Gideon and the Angel" by Ferdinand Bol - http://www.artbible.info/art/large/297.html. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bol_-_Gideon_and_the_Angel.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Bol_-_Gideon_and_the_Angel.JPG
I love the story of the call of Gideon from the Book of Judges (chapter 6). The Angel finds Gideon threshing wheat inside the wine press. The wine press--basically, a big bucket--is the absolute worst press to do a task like threshing wheat which requires a wide open space and good breeze. It's a stupid thing to be doing, but Gideon is there because he is afraid of Israel's enemies.
That's the part that first convicts me--being motivated by fear to do something stupid. I am no more or less cowardly or foolhardly than most people, but I consider fear to be a leading motivator in much of our human actions. Fear, in some ways, is the opposite of faith.
The angel tells Gideon that HE has been chosen by God to defeat Israel's enemies and Gideon begins a whole host of reasons why that simply cannot be--"God is not really with us", "I am too unimportant", blah, blah, blah. The Angel's response is classic. He really does not acknowledge Gideon's objections; he simply just announces that God will be with Gideon and that Gideon now carries the might of the Lord as his own. In other words, "hush up and get about the business you have been called to do."
That is another part that I find convicting. Oh, the excuses we all love to give for not doing what God calls us to do. Nonetheless, Gideon will be called to do amazing things. I am unsure if I'll ever do anything "amazing", but I do believe I--as well as you, good reader--am called to do some things for God.
We all have bible stories that seem to speak directly to us. (If you don't, you probably haven't poked around the bible enough.) This is one that speaks to me, and so I have part of it the title of my blog.
Peace in Christ,