Machine Gun Preacher – Movie Review
Posted by FATEMA H.KAGALWALA on December 9, 2011 | No Comments
PRODUCER – Robbie Brenner, Craig Chapman, Marc Forster, Deborah Giarratana, Gary Safady
DIRECTOR – Marc Forster
WRITER – Jason Keller
CAST – Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon
MUSIC – Asche & Spencer, Thad Spencer
Sam Childers spent a large part of his life as an alcoholic, drug-dealing biker-hooligan, shuttling between an aimless life on the road and the prison. He had a loving wife and daughter in Pennsylvania. One day, he decided he had gone too far on the road of self-destruction and encouraged by his wife, he embraced Christianity. Overnight, he began a life of goodness, duty and selfless service working towards saving the children of Sudan from the vagaries of war.
His is a story that seems larger than life, stuff most resounding, epic fiction is made of. But his is a story of real life that Marc Forster (director) and Gerard Butler (main lead) chose to put it on celluloid and as we watch we understand why. Because it is a story worth telling.
Forster’s version explores the contradictions of Sam’s personality and chosen life-paths and focuses on his grappling with questions of the self, spirituality and service. It is a humane portrait of a man turned a new leaf and necessarily tackles themes of identity, loss and humanity’s ambivalence to the greater common good.
For a large part what Sam Childers achieved is remarkable. The film, although making a valiant effort to remain objective tends to lean on a sympathetic portraiture of the central man. His dealings with the children evoke great emotion and make for stirring set pieces. The entire journey seems somewhat disjointed and wavering but the starkness of look (underplayed cinematography) and grittiness of violence point to a dedicated commitment to realism and then the disjointedness doesn’t seem to bother anymore.
The film is a powerful and compelling narrative never shying away from gore, bloodshed or extreme violence. It almost seems like aiming for a harsh wake-up call at the same time being synonymous and reflective, to the nature of Childers own awakening, which is neither easy nor mild.
Gerard Butler, the film’s lead displays a certain contemplative ownership of the character. His struggles with concepts of religion, human goodness and identity draw a responsive connection from the viewer as he balances the uncaring insensitivity of his nature with the more feeling and hurting side. He knows he doesn’t need to do what he does, but he is compelled to and he doesn’t question it. He is flawed and accepts it. Life is flawed and he accepts that too. He simply realises that the only thing we need be doing is trying to be the best we can. Something his wife Lynn Childers (Michelle Monaghan) and best friend Donnie (Michael Shannon) too embody in their characters.
It is not a flawless or life-changing film. Nor is it the most evocative biography we have seen. But there is a tenderness yet power in its narrative which makes for a touching and inspiring viewing.