Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of ON WINGS OF EAGLES

On Wings of Eagles, rated PG-13
***

On Wings of Eagles is a sequel of sorts to the 1981 Oscar winning film Chariots of Fire. It is co-directed by Stephen Shin and Michael Parker, and was titled The Last Race when it originally opened in 2016. The film was written by Rubby Xu, Christopher C. Chan, Shin and Parker.
Chariots of Fire introduced us to Eric Liddell (then played by Ian Charleson), and his participation in the 1924 Olympics held in Paris. Liddell, known as the “Flying Scotsman” who was favored in the 100 meters, chose not to run because the race was going to take place on a Sunday. He was criticized for his decision, but held fast to what he believed the Bible taught. Instead, he ran the 400-meter race, setting a world record, winning with his unique way of running with his head thrown back.
Liddell, played in this new film by Joseph Fiennes (Risen, Luther, Shakespeare in Love), would have many opportunities to financially capitalize on his win, but instead chose to return to China, the land of his birth where he was born to missionary parents, to serve the Lord with the London Missionary Society. Liddell would teach science and sports at the Anglo-Chinese College.
Liddell married Florence (Elizabeth Arends), and they would have three daughters. A pregnant Florence and their two young daughters would leave for Canada in 1941, while Eric remained in China. Eric fully expected to join them soon, but instead finds himself evicted from his home and moving with many others to live in his school building.
When Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, Liddell and others are relocated to the Weihsien Japanese internment camp, which had the ironic sign over the camp entrance “Courtyard of the Happy Way”. At the camp, we see him teaching the children and his faith in action as he cared for his fellow prisoners, including frequently giving away his own food and participating in a few races against the Japanese commander.
The film is narrated by an older Xu Niu (Bruce Locke), who is portrayed in the film by Shawn Dou. Niu is Liddell’s friend and former driver, who works from the outside to smuggle additional supplies into the camp. The film is in English, Mandarin and Japanese with subtitles. It is rated PG-13 for scenes of war violence and torture as we see prisoners, including Liddell, cast into solitary confinement in “the hole” for days at a time. The film includes themes of self-sacrifice, love, and hope.

A review from REEL Faith by Dewayne Hamby states the following:
Stephen Shin, a Chinese director (The Source of Love, Brotherhood, Heart to Hearts) and a Christian, spent more than 10 years trying to tell the final arc of Liddell’s life, all the while enduring cultural and religious barriers.
Shin has stated “The movie does not only serve the purpose of Christians,” he said. “We want to let the general audience can feel about the great work done by Eric Liddell and how he showed his love. He was a Christian and his life showed the love of God. So that everyone can know in difficult and hard times, they can show the love of God and people can overcome difficulties in their lives. My wish people can share the message in this movie.”

I was familiar with Liddell’s life and strong faith. For those who aren’t, I wonder how much of that will come through in this film. Yes, the film does show him with his Bible, showing love to a young Chinese orphan boy, officiating at a wedding, quoting Mark 10:9 “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder” to his captors trying to separate a newly married couple, and the hymn “Be Still My Soul” being featured prominently throughout the film. Liddell’s work as a missionary is not featured in the film. And near the end of the film the narrator tells us that they learned from Liddell to have faith in the goodness of humanity, completely missing the point of his life.
Fiennes was excellent as the self-sacrificing Liddell. I appreciated the film, which was filmed in Tianjin, China. It contains some fine scenery of China, set design and costumes, but I would have liked more of Liddell’s Christian faith to come out in the script. For another look at Liddell’s life after the Olympics, check out Duncan Hamilton’s excellent 2016 book For the Glory: Eric Liddell’s Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr.

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My Review of Risen

Risen, PG-13
***

Risen is a well-made Christian film that would be a good one to watch with family and friends this Easter weekend.
This 2016 film, directed and co-written (with Paul Aiello) by Kevin Reynolds (The Count of Monte CristoWaterworld), gives us a different perspective on the greatest story ever told. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus (here referred to as Yeshua, well-portrayed by Cliff Curtis) is told through the eyes of a skeptic. And while I tend to be wary of faith-based films due to their often emotional manipulation and lack of quality, the trailer for this film had reflected that it might be a step above the norm in this genre. After seeing the film, I found it, with a budget of $20 million, to be well-acted with good use of scenery and sets, and an effective musical score. And unlike 2014’s Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings, Christians will find that it respects the biblical account of the death and resurrection of Christ.
The film, set in Judaea in 33 A.D., takes the point of view of a fictional character Clavius, a powerful Roman Military Tribune, who we see praying to his gods, played by Joseph Fiennes (who has played Martin Luther in 2003’s Luther, and will portray runner/missionary Eric Liddell in the upcoming film On Wings of Eagles). Clavius serves under and is often summoned to the presence of Pontius Pilate, played by Oscar nominated actor Peter Firth. He is driven by ambition, and seeks power and wealth, telling Pilate that he desires “an end to travail, a day without death, peace.”
The film begins with Clavius’ troops brutally defeating Jewish rebels. Pilate then summons Clavius about a Nazarene leader (Yeshua) who has claimed to be God. He is being crucified and Pilate tells him to quickly finish the work because the Emperor is coming for a visit. We see a sword pierce Yeshua’s side, and Clavius watch him die before turning the body over to Joseph of Arimathea for burial in a private tomb.
Since there are rumors Yeshua will rise from the dead, and the Jewish leaders fear his followers will steal his body and claim that he rose, Clavius seals the tomb and assigns two soldiers to guard it. When the body is missing from the tomb on the third day, Pilate orders Clavius and his assistant Lucius (Tom Felton, best known for his role as Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films), to quickly find the body and end the rumors of Yeshua’s resurrection.
The film, which moves at a slow pace, follows Clavius’ search for Yeshua’s body as he interrogates Mary Magdalene (Maria Botto) and Bartholomew (Stephen Hagan) and encounters Peter (Stewart Scudamore). As his investigation proceeds, we begin to see Clavius changing.
I thoroughly enjoyed this well-made telling of the story of the days before and after the death of Christ. The violence at the beginning of the film and some disturbing images of dead bodies earn the film its PG-13 rating. Risen is available on DVD and video streaming outlets. Enjoy it with family and friends this Easter weekend.


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Movie Review ~ Risen

RisenRisen, rated PG-13
***

This film, directed and co-written (with Paul Aiello) by Kevin Reynolds (The Count of Monte Cristo, Waterworld), gives us a different perspective on the greatest story ever told. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus (here referred to as Yeshua, well-portrayed by Cliff Curtis) is told through the eyes of a skeptic. And while I tend to be wary of faith-based films due to their often emotional manipulation and lack of quality, the trailer for this film had reflected that it might be a step above the norm in this genre. After seeing the film, I found it, with a budget of $20 million, to be well-acted, with good use of scenery and sets, and an effective musical score. And unlike 2014’s Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings, Christians will find that it respects the biblical account of the death and resurrection of Christ.

The film, set in Judaea in 33 A.D., takes the point of view of a fictional character Clavius, a powerful Roman Military Tribune, who we see praying to his gods, played by Joseph Fiennes (who has played Martin Luther in 2003’s Luther, and will portray runner/missionary Eric Liddell in the upcoming The Last Race). Clavius serves under and is often summoned to the presence of Pontius Pilate, played by Oscar nominated actor Peter Firth. He is driven by ambition, and seeks power and wealth, telling Pilate that he desires “an end to travail, a day without death, peace.”

The film begins with Clavius’ troops brutally defeating Jewish rebels. Pilate then summons Clavius about a Nazarene leader (Yeshua) who has claimed to be God. He is being crucified and Pilate tells him to quickly finish the work because the Emperor is coming for a visit. We see a sword pierce Yeshua’s side, and Clavius watch him die before turning the body over to Joseph of Arimathea for burial in a private tomb.

Since there are rumors Yeshua will rise from the dead, and the Jewish leaders fear his followers will steal his body and claim he rose, Clavius seals the tomb and assigns two soldiers to guard it. When the body is missing from the tomb on the third day, Pilate orders Clavius and his assistant Lucius (Tom Felton, best known for his role as Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films), to quickly find the body and end the rumors of Yeshua’s resurrection.

The film, which moves at a slow pace, follows Clavius’ search for Yeshua’s body as he interrogates Mary Magdalene (Maria Botto) and Bartholomew (Stephen Hagan) and encounters Peter (Stewart Scudamore). As his investigation proceeds, we begin to see Clavius changing.

I thoroughly enjoyed this well-made telling of the story of the days before and after the death of Christ. The violence at the beginning of the film and some disturbing images of dead bodies earn the film its PG-13 rating. This would be a good film to invite a friend or family member to see with you and then discuss afterwards.