Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Machine Gun Preacher

"Machine Gun Preacher" is based on the inspirational true story of Sam Childers, a former drug-dealing criminal who undergoes an astonishing transformation and finds an unexpected calling as the savior of hundreds of kidnapped and orphaned children. Sam Childers and his wife Lynn founded and operate Angels of East Africa, the Children's Village Orphanage in Nimule, Sudan. The film is directed by Marc Forster who combines action (Quantum of Solace) with inspirational drama (the Kite Runner) with a keen eye for cinematography to portray the difficult that Sam Childers is fighting for.

The cast includes Gerard Butler as Sam Childers, Michelle Monaghan as his wife Lynn, and Michael Shannon as his junky friend. Their performances are all very good with Gerard Butler showing the intensity and passion that Sam Childers has towards his cause. He separates his life in Sudan with his life at home with the family to the extreme of ignoring his family's needs. I think that this dynamic could have been better presented in the film as it only comes out a few times and deserved more attention. Bordering on blasphemy he struggles with the ideal that he is fighting for and loses sight of why he is there. In a touching scene with a young orphan he is reminded that the evil only wins if you let it overcome you. The performance from Michelle Monaghan and Madeline Carroll, as the daughter, don't stand out enough. I wanted to see how they coped with Sam being gone so much. It was an issue for his friend Donnie, Michael Shannon, so it must have been difficult for them as well. Having watch Michael Shannon in recent films and "Boardwalk Empire" I was hoping for a larger role, but in the short time that he was on the screen he did an excellent job.

The film has a specific religious theme, but doesn't become overly spiritual. This was a strong decision by Marc Forster as the spiritual message can alienate many viewers and the important message in this film is the work that Sam Childers is doing. The mission is simple, help when no-one else will. Sam Childers continues his efforts to save the children of Uganda, Sudan, Southern Sudan and East Africa. To learn more about Sam and his work visit

In a year of remakes, sequels, and comic book films, a Hollywood biopic is refreshing. A film that focuses on a living character and an ongoing political climate that hasn't been resolved makes for even more challenges. Staying true to the real life events is important to properly convey the message and I think this film has accomplished that. Some might find it difficult to watch due to the violent massacres but it is a movie that is worth viewing. I don't know how long of a run this will get in the theaters, but a DVD rental is certainly required.

4 Quacks

(screening date 9/27/11, release date 11/18/11, location Mazza Galleria)

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