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Dunkirk: Searching For The Way Home

Photo taken from Official Trailer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Written By Caleb Young, Australia

What would you do to survive? And to what lengths would you go to save others?

These are the questions at the core of Dunkirk, an action-packed thriller of a war film based on real-life events at the French port town of Dunkirk during World War II.

Forced to the beaches of Dunkirk by the Nazi invasion of France, some 400,000 Allied—mainly British—troops were stranded. England was only 26 miles away across the English Channel but British Prime Minister Winston Churchill thought that no more than 40,000 men could be rescued—until a nationwide flotilla of military and civilian vessels brought some 334,000 men home.

The unending tension, immersive soundscape, unique storytelling, masterful filmmaking, and the extraordinary ensemble cast are just a few of the factors that make this an incredible cinematic experience and the best big-budget film of the year.

But as I consider my own Christian worldview, I realize that the film also speaks to how we treat the message of the saving power of Jesus’ sacrifice.

(Minor spoilers ahead.)

 

There Are Many People Who Need Saving

Just like on the beaches of Dunkirk back in 1940, there are desperate people all around us who are living in fear, searching for a way to escape. Just like the young soldiers Tommy and Gibson in the film who masquerade as medics to get on board a transport ship for the wounded, many people take measures into their own hands and put on masks to feel safe and protected. However, just as the transport ship in the film eventually sinks, the false sense of protection that the world offers will not save anyone.

 

We Need to Show Them the Way Out

In Dunkirk, the characters of Mr. Dawson, along with his teenage son Peter and deckhand George, know that their private boat—together with hundreds of other small boats—along the English coast are the key to saving the soldiers at Dunkirk. However, that knowledge alone will not save those men. They have to sail across the English Channel and show them their salvation. As Christians, we know “the way, the truth, and the life” that will save those around us. However, keeping that knowledge to ourselves will not help anyone. We must purposefully search out opportunities to share this amazing news with others.

 

Sharing the Good News with Others Isn’t Always Easy

The journey across the English Channel is a difficult one for Mr. Dawson, Peter, and George. Just like all the civilian volunteer vessels, they face the threat of German submarines and enemy aircraft throughout their entire journey. With uncertainty at every point, the sailors who went to Dunkirk needed bravery, determination, and even sacrifice to save those desperate souls across the sea.

Sharing the salvation that Christ offers to the world isn’t an easy task either. We also have an enemy working hard to weaken our faith and cause us to turn back. And yet, it is important that we face the difficult task like the sailors in Dunkirk did, with courage and fortitude—ready to give sacrificially to save others.

 

Human beings are prepared to go to incredible lengths to survive. The Dunkirk film is a great example of the resilience of the human spirit. But resilience alone doesn’t always save us; we humans cannot save ourselves from our own sinful nature. The beautiful thing about the gospel is that it doesn’t depend on our own strength. Just like the boats that saved hundreds of thousands at Dunkirk, Jesus is our lifeboat: all we have to do is jump in. For those of us who are already saved, let us tell others of this free salvation that we can have in Christ.

The story and scope of Dunkirk is awe-inspiring and will lead movie-goers on an intense, action-packed ride as you experience the fear and bravery of those at Dunkirk. But as you enjoy this remarkable cinematic masterpiece, may you also be inspired to bring the salvation we know in Christ to those around us who are in need of saving.

 

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.