"Keep me running, from the shadow of my lies,
Like a gypsy, who is never satisfied,
Once you compromise your soul,
You spend a lifetime dodging the devil's toll". Randy Stonehill.
Every now and then, a drama comes along that looks at life head on and tells it as it is.
Robert Zemekis' latest work, Flight (released in the UK this week), is just such a film - it doesn't pull its punches, as it examines what it really costs to spend life avoiding the reality about ourselves and the world we live in.
Not to give away any major details, it is sufficient to say that Denzel Washington's portrayal of a man in denial about his addiction to a lifestyle which is tellingly destructive to himself and others, brought abruptly to a point of reckoning by an unexpected event, is conveyed in a brutally honest fashion which wonderfully depicts the observation of James of a man who sees himself in a mirror, but then forgets what he actually sees (James 1:24). Given this, then, you would perhaps expect some measure of approval for the aim of this movie - that escape from the prison we make for ourselves is only possibly beyond our self-delusions - but the films 'full on' approach to the depiction of the lifestyle of the key character has brought major rejection amongst many churches in America since its release there in November. The film was given an "R" rating for its use of nudity, alcohol and drug abuse, and language, but Christian review sites have gone one better, emphasizing that this is a film that should be avoided due to some of these graphic scenes.
There is no doubt that some may find some of these scenes offensive, and painful. Personally, I found a moment in the film where the lead character is talking with someone with terminal cancer far more jarring, but films of this nature certainly provide a useful basis to address matters so commonplace in our world. As one Christian review noted, "Zemekis has shown us the glaring face of sin, and while that is not glorified, the viewer is required to stare it squarely in the eye in order to continue this journey". The issue for me is aren't we supposed to be this candid about the nature of our reality outside of Christ, because if we aren't, are we not guilty of the same manner of denial about life as the lead in this film? We can, no doubt, have differing views about the manner and nature of how such destructive behavior is depicted and examined (the Bible is actually pretty graphic in some places about that), but there is no denying that part of our role is to clearly convey the nature of darkness and light, and redemptive stories, particularly those of an extreme nature, do this well.
Back in the 1970's, when I was new to the faith, the film "The Cross and the Switchblade" and Nicky Cruz's book, "Run Baby Run'" were both very popular and used as 'evangelistic tools' especially for young people. The material in both of these is tellingly graphic with regards to the manner of material covered in a film like Flight, but this only heightened the manner of rescue in the Gospel.
As some have noted about this movie, there is a telling Christian framework as a backdrop throughout - some of it extreme, some of it poignant and prompting - and there is little doubt that the underlying message is the need for redemption. If this is the purpose of a sober reckoning of the nature of sin, I hope that movies like Flight gain a large audience.