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And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers… (Malachi 4:6 ESV)

This is a rare fight movie in which we don’t want to see either fighter lose. That brings such complexity to the final showdown that hardly anything could top it — but something does, and "Warrior" earns it. – Roger Ebert

“Warrior” is now my new favorite movie of the year. I’ve never seen a movie like “Tree of Life” but as a man with a only one brother and a father who passed away 9 years ago from the effects of alcoholism, this film moved me. The previews appeal to mainly the mixed martial arts (MMA) side of this movie but the MMA is merely a tool to go deeper into this troubled, broken family. It’s being billed as a flop at the box office with only $10M in 2 weeks but this one is not to be missed. Nick Nolte as Paddy is perfect as a reforming alcoholic who aches over his wretched past, wanting to make things right but knowing that there’s no way he can make up for it all. Tom Hardy as Tommy is completely believable as a man beat up and burned by the world with nowhere to go and channeling everything into his anger. Joel Edgerton as Brendan is a wounded family man trying to lead his home and simply provide.

The Reality of Wounds and Pain

    For he wounds, but he binds up;
        he shatters, but his hands heal.
        (Job 5:18 ESV)

The pain these brothers feel is real, especially Tommy. Abused and exasperated by his drunken father, feeling deserted by his brother, having to watch his mother die a painful death, and his best friend killed right next to him in war, the world has kicked him in the teeth on many an occasion. He hates his father, he hates God, and he hates Brendan. Deeper than that, in all of his wounds, he also hates himself. He knows his wounds but he knows his flaws as well as you’ll see. All of this comes out in his anger and rage. He has no means to cope and nobody to trust. Even when Brendan reaches out, Tommy can’t even call him his brother.

Forgiveness & Redemption

bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:13 ESV)

Seeking forgiveness means not hiding anymore, confessing sin, and striving for brokenness over the pain you caused and the tarnishing of God’s name. But redemption depends on the other person, on the offended and suffering party. This is what Paddy runs into as he attempts to turn his life to God and stop being a drunk. Brendan forgives him but doesn’t trust him, doesn’t want a relationship with him and certainly doesn’t want him around his kids. Tommy doesn’t even see Paddy as his father anymore and keeps it all business except for the moments of stabbing Paddy with his word, reminding him of his sin. This won’t simply be a clean restoration. Tommy is so wounded and Brendan he’s seen too much for a mere 3 years of sobriety and walking with Jesus to wipe the slate clean. Only one person can fully wipe the slate clean and he had to go to cross to do it

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, (1 Peter 3:18 ESV)

What Does it Mean to be a Man?

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8 ESV)

Being a man means laying down your life for your family. Can I suffer for their best? Can I lay down my rights? Can I do all this in providing for them? This is the example of Brendan. He’s not perfect but fights for his family. He takes a beating that they might flourish. He splurges on them not himself. I love the beginning when his wife speaks aside to him at their daughter’s birthday, scolding him a little for going over budget in the gift he bought. He simply proclaims that it was her birthday. It was not about the money, he couldn’t help himself, he just wanted to lavish good on their daughter. Not the complete picture of manliness but very convicting.

Entering the Pantheon

“Warrior” now enters the pantheon of manly movies for me. It’s not a movie that my wife would likely enjoy but I was stirred and softened. The ending of this movie was better than I could have hoped for. I did not feel let down at all but I simply wept. So few people have seen it but that’s likely because it’s appeal to women is minimal.

I’m thankful that the door to forgiveness through the gospel of Jesus Christ is wide open. Only in him can we cleanly forgive. Only through Him can true redemption happen. I’m also thankful for my only brother. My love runs deeper for him than most anyone else on this planet outside of my wife and my kids.

A friend loves at all times,
        and a brother is born for adversity.
(Proverbs 17:17 ESV)

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“The Debt” is a solid film that not only was insanely intense but it moved me and got to me a bit. The acting was fantastic – the doctor made me loathe him, Sam Worthington (David) made me empathize with him, Jessica Chastain (Rachel) seemed very tortured internally, and I believed Stephan’s hardness both in the past and the present. The twists were superb. I appreciated seeing the ending first and then being drawn into how the pieces come together. The key theme: every sin has consequences but sometimes the lie about the sin is worse.

Beware: lots of spoilers ahead! I cannot get to the heart of this film without digging into all of it.

The Lie

As is likely with most folks who saw this film, I did not anticipate that the doctor would escape. I thought they would torture and kill him and then lie about that. I thought Stephan would carry out some form of justice and then they would lie about the circumstance. I never had a thought in my head that the doctor would get away and they would be left empty-handed. Once he got away, the choice was obvious: face and accept failure and admit their mistakes, or cling to their reputations and tell a lie. Tell a lie and become heroes, keep their careers and live a sham. They choose what many of us would: to perpetuate the lie. They choose to live a façade and seek the praise of men.

For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. (Romans 10:3 ESV)

This hit home with me because I’ve been convicted lately of how much of an idol my own reputation is. After reading “Jesus + Nothiing = Everything” by Tullian Tchividjian, I had to ask myself the question: What do I cling to that I would rather die than have God take away? God likes to answer that question and through an interaction with my wife, I realized that I cling to my reputation. How I am perceived in the eyes of others is vastly important to me. My own name is much more valuable to me than God’s name. This is wrong and will not lead me to freedom and does not lead to joy in Him. But, wow, is it difficult to kill. This is the choice they made and the shame eventually crushes David, breaks Rachel, and Stephan has to sear his conscience for the rest of his life. David knows the path to freedom: speak the truth. But he will come forward without the consent of Rachel and takes another path in killing himself.

The lie is what is at the center of the film but the lie and the escape of the doctor is triggered and set in motion by one seemingly inconsequential act of sin.

One Night Sets it All in Motion

You know what exactly what night that is if you’ve seen it. David and Rachel obviously have affections for each other but David exercises restraint. In one moment, he chooses not to yield to emotion. However, Rachel, initially rejected by David, seeking relief from the pain and intensity of pursuing the war criminal doctor in communist East Berlin, yields to the lust driven seduction of Stephan. That night changes absolutely everything. For one fleeting and regretful night of pleasure, Rachel gets pregnant and truly cuts off the potential for something better with David. This then leads right into the doctor’s hands and gives him an avenue to break David and Rachel with his words, with David eventually giving way to anger and brutalizing the doctor.

David’s anger wasn’t just about the doctor’s killing but, of course, over Rachel. Sometimes, Satan doesn’t need to speak lies to us to bring hurt and further temptation, he merely needs to tell us the truth. We know what happens next. The shards of the plate on the floor. David needing to be calmed by Stephan leaving Rachel vulnerable. The escape. The lie then leads to more shame, more pain, and living a life outside of grace and freedom.

Choose the Cross over Sin, Choose the Cross Again over Shame

We are not very different than David, Rachel, and Stephan. We are faced with the same temptations and daily choices: confess sin or hide it? Run to the cross for relief or trust in the fleeting damaging pleasure of sin?

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:18-21 ESV)

Jesus died and suffered on the cross to bring you to him, to crush the power and temptation of sin, and to bring about your justification. In Christ, we are free! There is now no condemnation! We have nothing to hide! We need not cling to our own façade and reputation – Jesus is our reputation. He is our righteousness. We will fail. We will sin. We will err. He died for it all. Many times, we lie or choose sin simply because of a mistake we made that is not even sin itself! Jesus came to free you from that to walk in the light, to be yourself, to know Him and be satisfied in him. Freedom is not found in the dark but in the light, in Christ.

But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:21-23 ESV)

I’m thankful for the film, “The Debt,” in how it so powerfully illustrates the consequence of sin and the shame and torture that lies lead to. Thank God for sending his son to bring us freedom. May he work in us to give us a deeper understanding of our justification and his deep, deep love for us, that we would not hide but come to him more and more.

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Update (9/28/11): September and October DVD releases offer a plethora of film goodness between X-Men, Thor, Tree of Life, and Captain America. Be sure to read my full reviews of each. Remember: don’t simply veg out but watch to be stirred to worship the One whose story is the only one that ultimately matters.

X-Men: First Class (September 9)

X-Men-First-Class-Quad-Poster

Apart from Tree of Life, this was easily my favorite movie of the summer. James McAvoy is tremendous as Charles and Michael Fassbender plays a very good Erik. This movie works because of those two and the man that Charles is and becomes. Read the rest of my thoughts here. This was definitely the X-Men movie I’ve thought this series could be. It’s not a perfect movie but the character of Charles is worth the watch.

Thor (September 13)

MANHATTAN

Cheesy at times and predictable, this movie actually works because of the charisma and humor of Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and the genuineness of Tim Hiddleston as Loki. By the way, while writing this I just realized that Hemsworth also played Captain Kirk’s dad in that powerful scene at the beginning of the latest Star Trek. Read more of my thoughts on Loki here.

Update (9/17/11)

Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon (September 30)

This film was a complete waste other than the incredible special effects. The slow motion transformation sequences, the destruction of the skyscraper, and the battle sequences were phenomenal. That’s about all the good I can say. The flaws are comical. Megatron gets seduced by the token girlfriend. The Decepticons lay siege to Chicago and lock down the city. Then they somehow forget what cars the Autobots are, who very easily sneak into the city. The film attempts to make the humans more important and is laughable. You can only threaten to destroy the whole world so many times and be taken seriously. Would we really believe that the Autobots would leave? That Bumblebee would die? Also, if less than 10 or so Autobots can take on over 200 Decepticons, how did they lose the battle of Cybertron? Seriously, Optimus Prime probably waxes 50 Decepticons by himself! On top of all that comedy, the movie is absurdly long.

Update (8/31/11)

Tree of Life (October 11)

This is without question my favorite movie of the summer and 2011 [update: Warrior beats it out slightly…], for that matter. It’s such a profound movie experience that you have to just immerse yourself in and then engage with the world and imagery Terrence Malick presents. Grace versus the Law. Our deeply flawed sinful nature. Our loneliness. Eternity. Beauty. Many people have hated this film because it’s so different and non-escapist but I hope this type of film is the direction of movies, it’s a work of art that will move you if you let it. You can check out more of my thoughts here: the experience and sin & family.

Update (9/28/11)

Captain America: The First Avenger (October 25)

captain-america-movie-bucky

This movie was better than I expected, especially the first half of the film. The set up to the transformation and then to the initial battle is simply fantastic. I love how Steve Rogers emulates Jonathan of 1Samuel in his humility and friendship. Read my original thoughts here: Captain America: Steve Rogers is the Jonathan of the OT

A few other intriguing movies coming out:

Hanna (September 6): The dangers of homeschool? Training children to be assassins!

Fast Five (October 5): The dangers of 1000 foot cliff diving? None!

Update (9/28/11)

Winnie the Pooh (October 25): The dangers of honey? Obesity!

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Spoiler Alert! The end of the Harry Potter series is so beautiful and such an awesome picture of what Jesus walked through for us. This is what Jerram Barrs will talk about very eloquently in the video below.

 

The final walk of Harry once he leaves the dock was very moving for me in the film. It was almost exactly as I pictured it. The choice he makes to give his life. The ache. The seeming victory for evil. It’s tremendous. But it’s all set up by the revelation about Snape.

Being Willing to Be Hated for the Sake of Something Greater

Snape is the mystery character throughout almost the entire series. You get glimpses of good in him but he seems tortured and absolutely appears to hate Harry. You wonder why Dumbledore trusts him so implicitly and then when Snape kills him at the end of “The Half-Blood Prince” you think Dumbledore was wrong and that he failed.

In “The Deathly Hallows,” we find out the truth about Snape and realize that he has just as much been the key to defeating Voldemort as Dumbledore was. Snape more than lays down his life, he lets himself be hated for the sake of Harry and defeating Voldemort. He lets his reputation and his name be nothing for the sake of the cause. He lets himself look like a fool and counts himself nothing. His death and the memories he passes on to Harry are so stirring in the book and the final film. His courage. His laying down of his life. His discipline to carry it all the way to the end. I want that kind of courage and that kind of disregard for my own life. It’s not common.

Video HT: Vitamin Z

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I think Harry Potter’s metanarrative will allow Harry to stand the test of time. However, what I loved most about the series is the fog of war.

What do I mean by “fog of war?” I mean a war that is underground, a war that is happening but somewhat hidden and under the surface of normal life. It is a war of truth or simply an underground war against oppressive forces. It is a war denied by most but, nevertheless, is happening.

“You have been told that a certain Dark wizard has returned from the dead – “

“He wasn’t dead,” said Harry angrily, “but yeah, he’s returned!”

“Mr.-Potter-you-have-already-lost-your-House-ten-points-do-not-make-matters-worse-for-yourself,” said Professor Umbridge in one breath without looking at him. “As I was saying, you have been informed that a certain Dark wizard is at large once again. This is a lie.

“It is NOT a lie!” said Harry. “I saw him, I fought him!”

“Detention, Mr. Potter!” said Professor Umbridge triumphantly. “Tomorrow evening. Five o’clock. My office. I repeat, this is a lie.”

The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix

After the first 3 books of the Harry Potter series, you’re still not sure where it’s all going. After the end of Book 4, “The Goblet of Fire,” when the evil Voldemort finally returns in the flesh, you know that this is all going to come down to who wins the war. I love the conflict that follows – the Ministry of Magic denies Voldemort is back and very few believe Harry and Dumbledore. The majority of people and students just want to believe everything is ok, that Harry is lying and just wants attention. The Ministry is clouded by pride and fear and therefore just views the Voldemort return story as a political power play by Dumbledore. Only the Order believes and knows Voldemort is back. And so begins the fog of war – a war that is propelled by recruiting on each side, battles, and schemes, but a war that is predominantly about truth. Once the end of “The Goblet of Fire” happens and the story amps up in “The Order of the Phoenix,” this theme drives much of the tension and the lead up to the end.

This is exactly how the New Testament paints the war we are in and it’s the temptation we are easily lulled into – just relax and be comfortable, it’s all good, no need to fight. In Harry Potter, the truth becomes very clear to all (much too late) once the Ministry of Magic falls in the final book, but we are in a fog of war that will last until the end.

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6 ESV)

The Half-Blood Prince and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter Vs Voldemort

In the “Half-Blood Prince,” everyone knows Voldemort is back, but he has become too powerful and still is content to lurk in the shadows, building his forces without direct confrontation. Even in all the conflict and tension of these 6 books, there are really only 2 outright battles: at the end of the “Order of the Phoenix” and, of course, the Battle of Hogwarts at the end of the “Deathly Hallows.” I love that. This is not a war that will be one by power or simple battle strategy. There is only one way: by sacrifice, death and perseverance. The key to victory is not just a search for and destruction of the horcruxes but the willingness of at least 3 key characters to die and give their lives that evil would be defeated. If any of those characters cling to their own life, the war is lost. No mere confrontation of Voldemort will do until these sacrifices have happened. They have no power to face Voldemort otherwise.

We have no power to face Satan or fight sin apart from the death of Jesus. We are just slaves apart from Jesus just as Voldemort would make everyone if he wins. Voldemort cherishes his worldly life, power and control, while Harry and his friends cherish love, sacrifice, and not their own lives. The film versions actually do a beautiful job with this in the last 3 books. The Battle of Hogwarts is the culmination of all of it. Those against Voldemort know the stakes and know they will not be powerful enough to win, they know something else has to happen and Harry has to come through. Does Harry come in with a secret weapon, having attained a power greater than Voldemort? You’ll have to check it out yourself.

This Life is Not a Pleasure Cruise but a War

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8 ESV)

The Harry Potter series is a profound picture of an underground war that hardly anyone believes in. I love the concept of the Order of the Phoenix, this band of brothers and sisters who resolve to fight for good in the fog, who know what is at stake, who know this life is not fun and games, and who commit their very lives to be laid down if necessary. It’s convicting. Am I simply strolling through life as a believer in Jesus or am I jumping in the fray to see the gospel moved forward and people rescued from slavery and a death that will simply be a door to more misery?

And how disastrous for us is the continual remembrance of death which war enforces. One of our best weapons, contented worldliness, is rendered useless. In wartime not even a human can believe that he is going to live forever. – Screwtape (“The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis)

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