I watched three movies recently: Crossroads, I Am Gabriel, and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. The first and the third are not explicitly Christian movies, whereas the second one is.
1. Crossroads: A Story of Forgiveness.
Crossroads is said to be a Christian movie on some web sites, but actually it is a 2007 Hallmark Hall of Fame Movie, which is based on a true story. In this movie, Dean Cain plays a construction worker named Bruce Murakami, whose wife and adopted daughter die in an automobile accident when a car races into their vehicle. There are conflicting eyewitness reports about what happened, and the police are blaming Bruce’s wife. Bruce wants to see justice for his family, so he hires a cynical defense attorney, Erin (played by Peri Gilpin from Frasier). After great reluctance, Erin helps Bruce to investigate. They learn that the accident occurred because someone was racing his car.
Justin, a teenager, was the guilty racer, and he faces becoming a convicted felon and spending thirty years of his life in jail. Bruce initially wants for Justin to get the maximum punishment, but then he decides to meet with Justin, and Justin reminds him of his own son. Bruce and Justin agree to speak at high schools about the accident to warn high school students not to race, since that can hurt somebody. Bruce’s younger son is initially upset that his mother and little sister are being used in some educational presentation, but he changes his mind after he carelessly rides his bike out of the driveway without looking and is hit by a van. Bruce decides to reduce the charges and to keep Justin from being labeled a felon, and Bruce and Justin continue to speak at high schools.
This is a decent movie about bringing good out of bad. That does not make the bad any less bad, by any means, but it is a constructive way to move forward, both for the victims and also the person who caused the accident. The victims are dealing with pain at their loss, and the person who caused the accident is dealing with feelings of guilt that he can never completely atone for. Bruce forgave Justin, but in a manner that entailed restoration and making a positive difference in the world.
2. I Am Gabriel.
I Am Gabriel is a 2012 Christian movie. In this movie, a town becomes depressed after a woman loses her baby, along with her ability to have children. Rain is scarce, and the economy is sluggish. In the midst of this, a boy named Gabe comes into the town carrying a prayer mat and solemn proclamations. Gabe encourages people to pray and reminds them of God’s love. He knows people’s stories. He is a conduit through which God brings rain, heals a girl of her near-blindness, and raises a lady from the dead. The town experiences revival, as things get better and people pray on prayer mats.
The doctor, played by John Schneider, senses from the outset that Gabe was sent by God. The sheriff, played by Dean Cain, is skeptical, and he does not believe in God on account of the death of his wife. When the sheriff confronts Gabe in front of the local church’s congregation, Gabe exhorts him not to let his own anger blind him to what God is doing. Gabe then reveals himself to be the angel Gabriel.
I pretty much agree with the average rating for this movie on the Internet Movie Database: five out of ten stars. It was not a good movie, though it’s chilling, solemn music managed to stay with me after I was done watching it. The movie is thought-provoking, however, because it confronts me with the questions of what keeps me from joining what God is doing, and if I can even change myself so as to participate in God’s alleged work.
By the way, Dean Cain has appeared in more than one Christian movie, and I have wondered what his own spiritual beliefs are. In an interview with Beliefnet, he states the following, as he discusses a movie he was in, The Way Home, in which a community comes together and prays. He explores different beliefs about God’s activity in the world and says that he prays and tries to follow the Golden Rule, even though he is not part of any organized religion.
3. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
This is a 2013 movie about the life of Nelson Mandela. It goes from his youth, through his imprisonment, to his release from prison and his efforts to rebuild South Africa.
Perhaps the most powerful part of the movie was his relationship with his wife, Winnie, who was a leader in the struggle against Apartheid while Nelson was in prison. In the end, she chose violent revolution, whereas Nelson chose the path of forgiveness and reconciliation, and the two parted ways. While I have long tended to demonize Winnie, I could sympathize with her more as I watched this movie, even though I admire Nelson’s approach much more. She was a regular person who was propelled to political activism through her own suffering and the suffering of her husband. This is a good movie, and the soundtrack made it even better.