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More About Last Year’s “The Americans”

I finished watching on DVD the fourth season of The Americans.

Like so many other Communists, from Lenin to Mao, from Beria to Che Guevara, Elizabeth and Philip are murderers.  Out of self-protection, they kill people.  It’s pretty gripping when the distraught black woman insists that she and Elizabeth confess (not to spying but to another crime) to the police, and this prompts Liz to kill her.

Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin) gets spared, though, albeit his wife Alice (Suzy Jane Hunt) hotly and frantically accuses Elizabeth and Philip of having had the dude rubbed out in Ethiopia.  Mom and Dad really appreciate your telling Pastor Tim that they’re Russian spies, Paige.

Oh, well.  Be that as it may, 15-year-old Paige (Holly Taylor) is a pleasant girl.  Indeed, we all thought she was a Christian, but . . . is she?

Also: sorry to see good-looking Annet Mahendru (Nina) go.

The Case For “The Case for Christ”

A woman, Leslie Strobel, converts to Christianity in the new Pure Flix film The Case for Christ (2017) and, wisely, it is depicted with subtlety.  Her husband Lee also converts (at the end of the film), but by then subtlety is gone.  The unbelievers in the audience squirm.  The Case for Christ is ALMOST squirm-proof, however, as it proffers some interesting material about a busy atheist and his uncommon marriage.

Lee and Leslie are real-life persons, Lee being a former Chicago journalist.  Selfish and loutish, he cannot accept Leslie as a Christian and he tries to discredit the faith through interviewing skeptics and Bible experts about the Resurrection.  The info in the interviews supporting the Resurrection we have long been familiar with, but Lee Strobel in the late 1970s was not familiar with it.  To be sure, it isn’t quite as intellectually strong as screenwriter Brian Bird and director Jon Gunn think it is, but it is strong.  All the same, Kevin McLenithan is right that “Brian Bird’s great contribution [to the film] is to make Strobel’s marriage, rather than his investigation, the centerpiece of the story.”  It is this that is interesting.  Leslie tells a frustrated Lee that now that she has found Jesus Christ, she loves her husband even more than she did previously, and it rings true.  The very thing, this, that no atheist or agnostic can possibly, truly understand.

As Lee and Leslie, Mike Vogel and Erika Christensen are splendidly persuasive, and effective also are Alfie Davis and Robert Forster.  The movie has a knowing, talented cinematographer in Brian Shanley.

Onward, Pure Flix, and next time, more subtlety!

“A Mighty Heart” Battered By Al-Qaeda

A Mighty Heart (film)

A Mighty Heart (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Al-Qaeda terrorists did not follow the 9/11 attacks with another massacre on American soil.  They followed it, in early 2002, with the kidnapping and murder of an American Jew, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, in Karachi, Pakistan.

A Mighty Heart, a Michael Winterbottom film, chronicles the efforts of Pearl’s wife Mariane (Angelina Jolie), et al. to retrieve “Danny”; the picture is based on her book.  Played by Dan Futterman, Pearl goes off to meet a putative source for an article he is writing on the shoe-bomber Richard Reid (remember him?), only to be victimized by jihadists.  Mariane, pregnant and deeply worried, soon discovers he has been kidnapped, and investigations and Karachi arrests proceed apace.  Frequently there are evasions, ignorance, baitings—and finally a dropped-off videotape.  As everyone knows, Danny is never retrieved.  Mariane naturally refuses to watch the tape which shows him being beheaded; preceding this, she screams with grief.

This fast-moving film is, I think, docudrama at its best.  It’s less political, really, than United 93, which is not to say it isn’t political at all.  It vaguely points a finger at the Wall Street Journal for sharing security-related info with the CIA and thus further jeopardizing the captured Pearl.  This may be unfair; I don’t know.  But also made clear, through the statement of a detained jihadist, is that the kidnappers seized Pearl simply because he was an American.  Actually, of course, he was seized because he was an American Jew.  That’s something the terrorists couldn’t abide.  Certainly Winterbottom does not ignore anti-Jewish feeling among fanatical Muslims.  I admire his presenting the scene where an interviewed cleric tells Danny that the absence of thousands of Jewish employees at the World Trade Center on 9/11 proves that the people of this particular ethnic group were culpable for the atrocity.

Time to be frank.  If A Mighty Heart has a message—I’m going to say it does—it is this: reality, though often pleasant, is a nightmare.  Believe me, where al-Qaeda is concerned, it is a nightmare.  Mariane relates that after the terrorists decapitated Pearl, they cut his body into several pieces before disposing of it.  All Mrs. Pearl can do now is go on living and raising her child.  End of story.

A well-told story, thanks to Winterbottom.

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