Visions from the Vincents

March 2, 2008

“Perfect?” Movies Make for Bad Theology

Filed under: movies — Joshua @ 1:15 am
Tags: , , ,

“Perfect?” That is exactly what Roger Ebert recently dubbed the new Joel and Ethan Coen film, No Country for Old Men, and let’s be honest, in the world of movies, few figures’ opinions enjoy greater audience than Ebert. His voice of support served as only a prelude to the movie being nominated for numerous Golden Globes—including best picture. The movie originated from the novel by Cormac McCarthy baring the same name. Many people develop a lens through which they view the world (a worldview), in part, through the movies they watch. Christians develop their worldview from the Bible. So, Christians need to constantly evaluate the movies they watch asking themselves the questions—What does this movie teach? and Does it cohere with Scripture? Let’s take this “perfect” film and view it through the lens of a Christian worldview. First, I will offer a synopsis of the storyline.

The story begins with Vietnam vet Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) hunting in the lifeless terrains of West Texas—where he finds a drug deal gone wrong. With no witnesses and a suitcase full of $2 million in cash, Moss decides to take a chance and hide the money. Moss’s decision leads to a foxhunt for the money with Moss carrying the money playing the role of the fox and a number of savage hunters on his heels. None of the money-hungry scavengers prove more vicious or relentless than baneful psychopath, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). Chigurh covers his path to the money with the bodies of other treasure hunters and innocent bystanders—whom he often flips a coin to decide their fate. A third major character, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones)—who approaches the crime seen on a horse—always follows on the heels of Chigurh as Chigurh continues to pursue Moss. Bell, always a step behind, struggles to understand how any man could be so evil. Eventually, the main character Moss—who is the closest thing to a heroin that this movie provides—is killed in a shockingly anticlimactic way. While the story depicts numerous murders, the screen eventually simply displays Moss’ lifeless, blood-covered body. While Moss dies, the movie simply continues to run without pausing for the briefest moment of silence. This movie ends with a series of anticlimactic events. Bell retires from the force—and thus the pursuit of Chigurh— diagnosing the problem as a generational thing saying, “Anytime you quit hearing ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am,’ the end is pretty much in sight.” Chigurh makes good on his promise to Moss that he will kill his wife (Kelly Macdonald)—though he offers her the flip of a coin to decide her fate. As he drives away from her home, a car hits him from the side, causing him some serious looking injuries, and he walks away.

The storyline is indeed, gripping. The movie’s seductive power is found in its ability to constantly tell just enough to grab the audience, before moving on to another attention grabbing scene. But, what is it that Ebert means when he says that a film is “perfect?” “Perfect” says more than that something is interesting. He says, “A perfect film is serious or funny or anything in between, but in its way it owns wisdom about life, and we learn something about it.” I may agree with Ebert that this film conveys certain wisdom about life. The depravity of man is made clear from this film as are the problem of evil, and the finiteness of man. However, No Country for Old Men, offers no help in answering the reason for this evil, nor does it offer any hope for a world that has faced egregious evil from generation to generation—contrary to Bell’s thoughts that its just a generational thing. Instead, this movie chalks up the events of life to a thing called “chance.” Chigurh determines life and death by the flip of a coin. Life is shown as insignificant from a big picture perspective.  Victims die and are quickly forgotten as the camera moves to the next series of events without pausing to allow the viewer to grieve. The film does not even treat the death of Moss–he closest thing to a hero in this film–as pivotal enough to even slow the film. The viewer leaves the theater feeling as though life is meaningless and governed by the laws of chance. There is a certain type of wisdom at play here, but it is not Christian wisdom. The Bible tells a different story. It provides another worldview. The Bible’s main point is that all of life finds meaning in Jesus Christ. Even the remedial activity of eating and drinking should be done to the glory of God. Our God is the mighty God who has been acting throughout history, and he created man in his image. Man’s finitude doesn’t imply his lack of meaning and purpose. God created man for a purpose—to bring glory to God and enjoy him forever. That same God that gives meaning to man, is also sovereign over all things. Man isn’t the victim of chance; rather, he is the subject of God. The real issue then becomes—Do we submit to the King, or do we trust in the empty worldview of man that claims that there is not God who is sovereign over our lives? Living in the way ascribed by this movie may very well leave one feeling as though death is relentlessly chasing them leaving them with no chance or at all. Notice, the world’s perfect movie offers no hope. As a Christian, I don’t buy that. Because, Scripture claims that if we truly believe in Christ we will be saved. And that salvation is not from some external villain seeking to take our life. The villain that we need to be rescued from is our own sinful hearts, which cause us to have a greater enemy than any man. That enemy is God. But, if we truly believe in Jesus Christ, we have peace with God. And, if we have peace with God, we have a great hope. So, it seems that the “perfect” movie may seem wise to some, but it offers no hope and makes for bad theology.


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