Logan-Theres-no-living-with-killing

Logan: There’s no living with killing

Photo taken from Official Trailer

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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Written By Simon Moetara, New Zealand

Logan is a far cry from the other superhero actioners in the X-Men franchise. Unlike 2000’s original X-Men, rated PG-13 in the US, where the blood-letting was kept to a minimum, this final R-16 instalment is a far darker and more brutal film, gut-wrenching in its visceral violence and profanity.

(Spoiler alert) It is 2029, and the mutant gene has been eradicated. Wolverine is drinking heavily and clearly sickly, working to support an ailing Charles Xavier (Professor X). A woman approaches Logan and asks for his help. Big, nasty corporation Transigen have cloned mutants to be super soldiers, but these mutant kids have escaped. Long story short, Logan ends up reluctant protector to a young girl named Laura, cloned from his DNA. He sets off on the road with Laura and Professor X with heavily armed bad guys in pursuit.

Following in the footsteps of violent anti-violence films like Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (1994), this is no cartoonish portrayal of violence without consequence: innocent people suffer, and those who deal in violence bear the consequences.

Logan draws on the classic 1953 western Shane (watched by Professor X and Laura in the hotel, and quoted by Laura over Logan’s grave). In Shane, a gunslinger tries to live a peaceful life, but in the end has to don his guns once again to protect the peaceful folk against the bullies. In the film’s finale, he says to the young farmer’s son who idolizes him: “There’s no living with a killing. There’s no going back from it. Right or wrong, it’s a brand, a brand that sticks.” For Logan director James Mangold, the film reflects the philosophy of Shane’s final words, in that Shane/Logan can never have a life, because they have taken life.

In one particular scene, where Laura explains that she has nightmares in which people hurt her, Logan says of his nightmares, “Mine are different. I hurt people.” Laura admits that she has hurt others, but they were bad people. Logan retorts, “All the same . . . ” His hanging, unfinished reply speaks volumes. The justification that “they deserve it” doesn’t mean much for Logan. It’s still killing, and it leaves its mark on the soul, a “brand that sticks”.

In the end, Logan chooses to care and sacrifices himself to save Laura and her friends. With his final words he says to Laura, “Don’t be what they made you.” Laura has the ability to make choices; she doesn’t need to be a feral killing machine.

Jesus taught, “Do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matt 5:39). American Baptist minister and leader in the civil rights movement Martin Luther King said, “Violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.” As American priest and author Barbara Brown Taylor points out, the main purpose of turning the other cheek is “to disarm the violence in us”. In following Christ’s example, rather than taking life, we seek to lay down our lives for others in loving service.

Logan also highlights the importance of hope and forgiveness. The film hints that Xavier’s dementia led to a telepathic seizure that caused the death of a number of mutants in the past. One night while on the run, Xavier, Laura and Logan spend the evening with a family. That night, lying in bed, Professor X says, “This was, without a doubt, the most perfect night I’ve had in a long time.” Then, remembering the tragedy he caused, he says, “I don’t deserve it, do I?”

Xavier’s words reveal his deep sense of shame and regret, and his need for something this world cannot offer. Alongside Logan’s guilt and struggle to connect, it shows these previously heroic figures to be all too flawed and human.

This is a wonderful thing about the gospel: we don’t deserve it. We don’t earn God’s love and forgiveness by working hard or being good, but rather, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith . . . not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8a-9). Philip Yancey describes grace in in the following way:

Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more . . . And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less . . . Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love.

This human longing for forgiveness and peace is universal, and as one reviewer writes, Logan is a parable of “the hope that can be found in what we do not deserve.” We are loved and accepted. No matter what path we have walked, no matter what darkness we have encountered, grace and love, forgiveness and hope are available to us because of what God has done through Jesus Christ.

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What Silence Has To Say

Photo taken from Official Trailer

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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Written By Caleb Young, Australia

If you’re into movies that encourage, inspire, or even provoke, Silence may be the answer—if you hang in there and wait for the best parts to emerge.

Silence, a movie that Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese had reportedly worked on for over two decades, revolves around two Jesuit priests who were smuggled into 17th-century Japan just when it started its isolationist foreign policy. The priests, Father Rodrigues, played by Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), and Father Garupe, played by Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), were subjected to physical, emotional, and psychological torture alongside the “Kakure Kirishitans” (the underground Japanese Christians) over their faith—in scenes that take up much of the film’s 161 minutes.

The drawn-out, slow-paced narrative can be a turn-off for some, and was likely one of the reasons why the film did poorly at the box office. However, I would contend that the film is far from a bad one.

Garfield does a fantastic job expressing the emotional distress that Rodrigues goes through when the foundation of everything he believes in seems to slowly crumble. The character of Kichijiro (played by Yōsuke Kubozuka) is wonderfully written and complex. Kichijiro can be described as a strange blend between Judas and Peter who constantly challenges Rodrigues’ concepts of grace and forgiveness in the face of betrayal. The film has a lot of depth and is not afraid to ask tough questions that promise to keep viewers thinking (as it did to me).

As a Christian, I found myself pondering many of the theological questions that arose from the film. And I believe that is a good thing. Although I won’t attempt to answer many of these questions, several aspects of the movie encouraged me in my understanding of my own faith and belief.

 

Putting a Mentor on a Pedestal

We have a very human tendency to place a person on a pedestal. This seems especially true when it comes to spiritual mentors such as a pastor or church leader. The danger comes when we unwittingly equate this person with God; when that person fails—as humans tend to do—their actions can cause a crisis of faith.

This is exactly what happens to Rodrigues when he hears stories that his spiritual mentor, played by Liam Neeson, has publically rejected God in Japan and is working with the Japanese inquisitors to root out Christians. As a result, the Jesuit priest is left struggling with his faith in God.

Although it is a good thing to respect our leaders, we must be careful not to place them on par with, or even above God. We must make Him and His Word—and not the teachings or character of a fallible human being—the foundation of our faith.

 

The Struggles of Persecuted Christians

The film contains several horrific, heartbreaking scenes of martyrdom—along with inspiring scenes of believers showing steadfast faith even in their final moments, which moved me to tears. I was also struck by the complex, difficult decisions the Japanese Christians had to make under severe persecution.

A common tactic used by the inquisitors during those times was forcing Christians to step on a picture of Jesus. If they refused, the people in their village would be persecuted. Some decided to comply, but most stopped short when they were ordered to spit on the image.

As the leader of the persecuted Christians, Rodrigues’ dilemma was even more complex. Though he was prepared to die for his faith, the Japanese inquisitors threatened to kill members of his congregation if he refused to denounce his faith.

Those scenes were a stark reminder to me that even today, many of God’s followers continue to be forced to make such difficult decisions. Silence challenged me to pray more for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world, and to pray for strength, faith, and wisdom when faced with such adversity.

 

When God is Silent

The struggle that Rodrigues ultimately faced was the distance he felt from God in the midst of his terrible situation. He pleaded with God for guidance but was mostly met with silence. At the height of his psychological torture, Rodrigues cried out, “Christ is here. I just can’t hear him.”

Although we may not necessarily have to face the difficult circumstances portrayed in the movie, it is likely that many of us will go through a season of feeling distant from God. How we react to those challenges can have a strong impact on the rest of our lives. Will we lose heart thinking that God does not care for us in our plight? Will we be led astray by false teaching? Or will we, with God’s help, go through the trial and allow Him to mold us into the person He wants us to be?

I’m not saying this is easy to do, and the film shows how difficult those trials can be. But James 1:12 encourages us, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

The film’s unexpected, open ending left me with more questions than answers. And yet, Silence served to strengthen my theology and beliefs, as well as give me insight into the struggles faced by persecuted Christians.

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Career Advice from Hidden Figures

Photo taken from Official Trailer

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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Written By Chia Poh Fang, Singapore

Have you ever felt angry for your lack of opportunities? Perhaps, due to the color of your skin, your looks, your gender, or your not so well-connected family background.

We’d all like to believe that career success is strictly a result of talent, drive, and skill set, but experience may tell us otherwise. In reality, it seems as though hiring managers favor those who are better looking. And we know all too well that prejudice against a certain skin color and gender is still prevalent in this day and age. In environments where supply exceeds demand, we may even need people in high places to help us land any job—not just our dream job. I’ve heard that in China, many university undergraduates are fretting about their job prospects because of a lack of connections.

That’s probably why Hidden Figures’ message is especially poignant and relevant for us today. Based on the true life stories of three African-American female mathematicians, the inspirational movie portrays how these three women crossed gender, racial, and societal barriers, to help America chart a new frontier—send an astronaut into outer space and return safely.

In one of the noteworthy scenes in the movie, one of the key characters, Mary Jackson (played by Janelle Monáe), was challenged by a fellow colleague, Karl Zielinski (played by Olek Krupa) to dream big and not allow societal prejudice against females and colored people to hinder or deter her from achieving the “impossible”, i.e. becoming an engineer.

Karl: Mary, a person with an engineer’s mind should be an engineer. You can’t be a computer the rest of your life.

Mary: Mr. Zielinski, I’m a negro woman. I’m not gonna entertain the impossible.

Karl: And I’m a Polish Jew whose parents died in a Nazi prison camp. Now I’m standing beneath a spaceship that’s going to carry an astronaut to the stars. I think we can say we are living the impossible. Let me ask you, if you were a white male, would you wish to be an engineer?

Mary: I wouldn’t have to. I’d already be one.

That conversation awakened Jackson to realize one thing: she didn’t have to be a victim of low expectations. She later went on to win a court appeal to study in an all-white high school and became NASA’s first black female engineer.

That’s inspiring, you may say, but that’s not me. I’m no trailblazer. I’d rather take the path of least resistance and be resigned to my fate, than go against the grain. You’re probably not alone in that thinking.

However, let’s consider this possibility: we may never reach our God-given potential if we don’t try and give our very best. One author puts it this way: “If we never attempt things that would stretch, grow, and strengthen us, we may end up weak and unprepared for the amazing future that could have been.”

It’s the same message the Apostle James wrote in his letter to encourage the believers who were undergoing immense persecution: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (James 1:2-4, NLT, emphasis mine).

If not for anything, this should encourage us that difficulties and hardships can be for our good if we respond rightly. On top of that, we as believers have good reason to not let society define us. In the words of missionary William Carrey, we can “expect great things, attempt great things” for we serve a great God, who not only holds the universe in His hands, but also holds us close to His heart!

So what does it mean for those of us in a seemingly unending job search or for those of us stuck in a rut in our current job? Consider how God has made you. Use whatever He has bestowed on you—skills, intellect or disposition—to overcome all obstacles, by His strength, to reach your fullest potential! You are God’s wonderful and unique creation (Psalm 139:14), and He has prepared a good work for you to do (Ephesians 2:10).

Finding-Dory--A-Fishy-Tale-of-Getting-Lost-and-Found

Finding Dory: A Fishy Tale of Getting Lost and Found

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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We’ve not forgotten the endearing regal blue tang, Dory, it seems. Though 13 years have passed since the tad-forgetful and oft-apologetic blue fish first made a splash in Pixar’s animated sea, many still flocked to the theaters for Finding Dory—the sequel to the 2003 Academy Award-winning Disney-Pixar movie Finding Nemo. The result? A whale-sized $136.2 million-opening weekend. This was a new record for the opening of any animated movie in the US; it had previously belonged to Shrek the Third, which grossed $121.6 million in 2007.

That’s a huge catch, considering that there’s nothing fresh about this nautical adventure.  After all, we’ve already plumbed the ocean depths in Finding Nemo, laughed and cried with the unlikely trio (that’s Marlin, Nemo and Dory), and learned the importance of family and friendship along the way. So why would a sequel that repeats all the same themes blow the animation record out of the water?

That’s probably because we’re hooked on the amnesiac Dory, one of the greatest Pixar supporting characters of all time. In this adventure—which takes place a year after Nemo is found—the lovable and excitable blue fish is the titular character. After she gets swept up in a massive stingray migration that triggers her memories, she sets off on a quest to find her parents. The trouble is, she can’t quite seem to remember anything about them, save for the fact that they live at “the Jewel of Morro Bay, California”. This sets the backdrop for another heartwarming oceanic adventure with her good pals, Marlin and Nemo.

Along the way, we fall in love with the baby Dory with huge eyes (whom we see during Dory’s intermittent flashbacks) and get acquainted with new characters like Hank, a cranky dexterous “septopus” (since he only has seven tentacles), a kind-hearted myopic whale shark named Destiny, and an insecure Beluga whale named Bailey. These three go to extreme lengths to help the memory-challenged tang find her parents, leaving us in stitches when their efforts lead to a fine kettle of fish.

But like all good Pixar films, Finding Dory is not just about humor and witty dialogue—it’s also about heart. The themes of unconditional love, friendship, and acceptance of disabilities (most notably, Dory’s short-term memory loss) run through the entire 1 hour and 45 minutes, and invariably leave us with warm, fuzzy feelings.

What will probably also strike a chord with Christians is Finding Dory’s simple but important message of finding our way home. As believers, we know full well the pain of separation and sense of helplessness that comes from being lost—as well as the immense joy of being found and reconciled with God. So we can’t help but root for Dory as she embarks on the journey to reunite with her loved ones and celebrate with her when she’s eventually reconciled with her parents. It’s a beautiful depiction of unconditional love—in the ocean and beyond.