Friday, January 02, 2009

Holiday movies

Over the Christmas holidays my family and I saw two newly-released movies: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Valkyrie. While neither one got on my list of all-time favorite movies, I liked them both and recommend them (although be aware there's a lot of sex in Benjamin Button).

Benjamin Button's appeal for me was the cinematography. I'm always taken in by the visual quality of movies, and this is one of the best. At times the movie takes you back in time to the look and feel of early American cinema. It also reminded me a bit of 2003's Big Fish, with its larger-than-life story about the value of community, family, and friendship.

It was fascinating to watch the two principle actors, Pitt and Blanchett, "age" in opposite directions. The special effects were incredible and the make-up people ought to win an award for sure.

While a Christian can watch this movie and take away valuable reminders about the wonder of love and the sanctity of human life (both old people and babies are treated with dignity for a change), it struck me that for the most part God is conspicuously absent. Daisy, Benjamin, and their daughter Caroline have no hope that they will meet again on the other side of the grave. Whether you're getting younger like Benjamin or older like the rest of the human race, knowing that this life is not all there is gives meaning and purpose to life and hope in the midst of pain. All this movie offers is the philosophy that "you never know what's coming for you." Instead of God being sovereign, chance is sovereign. Yet the Bible teaches there really is no such thing as chance. Everything that happens is part of the plan of a God who works all things together for good. If I didn't know that, I don't think I'd want to wake up tomorrow.

Valkyrie, the new Tom Cruise movie, has been scorched by the critics. I really don't know why. I thought all the actors did a more than decent job bringing a little-known story from WWII Germany to life.

The value of the movie for me is that it tells the world there are brave, patriotic people out there willing to die for the cause of right and virtue. Cruise plays Nazi Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, who in 1944 cooked up a brilliant plan to assassinate Adolf Hitler and put a new government in power in Berlin. As everyone already knows, the plan failed. Von Stauffenberg and over 200 of his co-conspirators were executed. But what they died for survived and survives still. I came away with a deep respect for those who stand up against evil at the expense of life and limb. I wondered to myself, "Would I have done what von Stauffenberg did?" I hope so.

In this story about Claus von Stauffenberg one sees Jesus Christ, willing to be put to death for the cause of our salvation. But unlike Valkyrie, Christ's cause prevailed.

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