What makes a man truly good – as in noble, brave and heroic? Is it the ability to fight evil in a war, or the willingness to help others even when there’s great emotional or monetary sacrifice involved? And can a man attain greatness even when he is deeply flawed in some significant ways?
Those questions are explored in two new and very different movies, “Fury” and “St. Vincent,” that offer audiences the riches of unpredictable and fresh writing, bold performances and superb direction. The fact that “Fury” is a harrowing and hell-raising WWII film led by Brad Pitt and “St. Vincent” is a quirky dramedy starring Bill Murray reflects the fact that this fall has been offering an impressive slate of films to make up for a summer of shallowness.
Surprisingly, they are also films with very strong Christian themes and characters who are front and center to the story. “Fury” is filled with strong and sometimes shocking war violence and a lot of profanity, like most modern-era war movies, but at least three of the five main characters are Christian and both prayers and heartfelt descriptions of Scripture and God’s call
are front and center to its most heroic moments. Any grown adult has heard “bad words” before, and these are grunted and yelled in the context of battling Nazis, so tune those out and you’ll be astonished to find a truly powerful Christian witness.
“St. Vincent” has less profanity, being a PG-13 film, but it does feature a central character who smokes, drinks and gambles way too much. He also hires a hooker weekly and the movie opens with a brief and tawdry (yet clothed in underwear) sex scene between that tries to play for laughs, but get past that minute or so and you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful and touching story of redemption that calls us all to strive to be saints no matter how many faults we are fighting.
“Fury” follows the story of Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Pitt) and his four-man tank team (including a solid Shia LeBeouf and an Oscar-worthy Logan Lerman) as they attempt to mow down Nazis in the heart of Germany. It shows both the insanity and horror of war, and the effort made to maintain one’s humanity amid it all.
“St. Vincent” shows what happens when an angry old man is transformed (somewhat at least) by the friendship he’s forced to form with a young boy and his divorced mom. I mentioned the bad things he does above, but the lesson the movie leaves us with is to look beyond the surface
of how someone appears and truly get to know them, and you might find a saint even where at first blush you only see a sinner.
That storyline is paralleled by both these films overall, as a viewer might jump to the conclusion that they’re too harsh or too raunchy to consider. But I say what good is a more directly Christian movie like “God’s Not Dead” in the world, when a movie that heavy-handed is all but guaranteed to never reach anyone outside of hardcore believers, and is so focused on shoving a message down viewers’ throats that it forgets to be entertaining?
Remember that Jesus hung out with the lowly dregs of society, and got to know them firsthand. He told parables that made points while being compelling stories. He came here to shake up the existing order and challenge the world, and so art that represents Him should also be challenging and earth-shaking. Besides, for everyone who bellyaches that Hollywood is anti-Christian, when in fact studies have shown that sex and foul language are vastly lower nowadays than 20 years ago, It should be an obligation to step up and support those Hollywood movies that DO make the effort to speak to us and that respect us. If you don’t vote with your movie ticket, no one is going to be encouraged to make more superb films like these.