We aren’t exactly talking The Matrix here, but it’s been awhile since a Hollywood popcorn action movie elicited such a range of theological and philosophical analysis.
Much like Pope Francis himself at times — or even like Jesus himself — Saint Francis of Assisi has often been made into an avatar or mascot of people’s likes (or dislikes) rather than being recognized as the surprising, vibrant figure he really was.
Casino is more than a reboot: It’s also a kind of origin story, based on the first Ian Fleming novel. As such, it’s the story of how James Bond lost his soul, or whatever was left of it, at the very moment when he dared to hope for redemption.
The name of Saint Thomas More has cropped up in recent discussion of current events as never since — well, if not since the English Reformation, at any rate probably since one of my all-time favorite films, A Man for All Seasons, won six Academy Awards at the 1966 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director (Fred Zinnemann), and Best Actor (Paul Scofield).
Nightmare’s surreal scares go beyond most slasher fare by evoking an irrational world in which normal rational defenses don’t apply.
As technology progresses and the culture and the Gospel continue to draw further apart, transhumanist aspirations flourish, both as a worldview and in the world of popular culture.
All violence is not the same. There are obvious, important differences between realistic war violence, violence in a serious social drama, cartoon violence in an action movie, horrific violence in a crime movie, slapstick violence in a comedy and so forth. Ultimately, though, I think it’s important to give ourselves regular breaks from violence of any kind. Violence is unavoidably part of human nature, but it’s far from the most interesting part.
The Dardennes’ films generally have redemptive arcs of some sort, or at least the hope of redemption — though there are no traditional happy endings, only hopeful new beginnings. Theologians ponder the mystery of evil; the Dardennes are intrigued by the mystery of goodness.
Are manmade things ever worth dying for? How do you weigh the value of art or artifacts against the value of human life? On the one hand, human life is sacred; things are just things. On the other, the cultural heritage of a people is an irreplaceable treasure that belongs not only to the whole community, but to all future generations.
In another movie, a line like “We are not things” could be a platitude, but in the context of vividly imagined atrocities with unnerving echoes of recent headlines, this simple affirmation is fraught with topical power that has only grown in the months since the film’s theatrical debut.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.