Tag Archives: What to See

WHAT TO SEE: The Battle on the Home Front

Sarah Drew, Justin Bruening, Jason George, Tia Mowry, and Madeline Carroll
Runtime: 110 min
Rated PG-13

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes we can make is to think ourselves invulnerable – to stress, pain, doubt, or temptation.

Army Chaplain Darren Turner (Justin Bruening) and his wife, Heather (Sarah Drew), seem to have it all together – a solid marriage, three adorable children, and an unshakable faith. When Darren leaves for his first tour in Iraq, he waves off the cautions of those who have already served in conflict zones regarding how the experience can strain a marriage. “You ain’t never gonna be the same, and neither is your picture-perfect marriage,” warns Sgt. Michael Lewis (Jason George), a neighbor heading for his second deployment whose marital discord the Turners have witnessed firsthand. Darren and Heather echo the same naïveté: We’ve got this. We’re called to this. We’ll be just fine.

In Baghdad, Darren encourages the soldiers, just as he does his own children, to put on the “armor of God” — the shield and protection of faith. “God is no stranger to the battlefield,” Darren sermonizes.

As days turn to months, the Turners’ marital bond weakens. With only brief phone calls and a family website to keep in touch, a disconnect develops: Heather has no grasp of the horrors Darren sees, and Heather’s ordinary family stresses seem comparatively trivial to Darren. Ironically, he ministers effectively to his fellow soldiers even as his own marriage stumbles.

Returning stateside, Darren’s PTSD leaves him distant, disagreeable, and disillusioned. Healing is a long journey, as many war veterans have found.

It’s a true story: in film and in real life, the Turners resolve their issues and use their experiences to assist other military families who find the battle to save their marriages is as challenging as any enemy across the battlefield.

Indivisible may resonate most strongly with military families who have experienced the challenges of long separations and wartime trauma. Its underlying message of maintaining hope and faith and the power of God’s grace is one we can all appreciate.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

WHAT TO SEE: Romeo and Juliet in Hawaii

Running for Grace
Ryan Potter, Jim Caviezel, Matt Dillon, Olivia Richie
Runtime: 110 min
Rated TV-14

Jim Caviezel has played his share of virtuous characters and even starred as Jesus Christ in The Passion of the Christ (2004). He plays a far less righteous figure as he teams with fellow veteran actor Matt Dillon as doctors serving in the Kona Coffee Belt of early 20th-century Hawaii in the 2018 film Running for Grace, now available through streaming services.

Although Caviezel and Dillon provide the star power, the film centers on the forbidden romance between Jo (portrayed as a teenager by Ryan Potter), and Grace Danielson (Olivia Richie), the pretty daughter of a coffee plantation owner. Jo is a “half-breed,” as he is derisively called in two languages, and is orphaned when the Spanish flu ravages the islands in 1919. Considered bad luck by the Japanese coffee pickers and likewise rejected by bigoted non-native haoles, young Jo wanders the village until the kindly Doc Lawrence (Dillon) takes him in. He becomes Doc’s translator and later his “medicine runner” to deliver remedies by foot through lush mountains to plantation workers.

As Jo grows into adulthood, he aspires to be a doctor himself, and his desire to meet Grace – whom he had previously only admired from afar – prompts him to handle a sick call to the Danielson mansion in Doc’s absence. The bigoted Mr. Danielson resents Doc for this alleged permission and responds by recruiting a “real doctor” to serve the haoles. Enter Dr. Reyes (Caviezel), a smooth-talking alcoholic with an automobile.

When Reyes asks Danielson for Grace’s hand in marriage, Danielson hatches a plan by which Reyes and his supposed assets might save the plantation from an unrevealed impending bankruptcy. To fight for Grace’s hand, Jo must overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles of race and class as the film builds to its climactic scene.

“Predictable but pleasant” is how one major film-review journal describes Running for Grace, and perhaps that is accurate enough. But this pleasant, squeaky-clean film with its gorgeous scenery, solid acting performances, positive values, and feel-good ending is a satisfying enough diversion for adults and adolescents.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

WHAT TO SEE: From Darkness into Light

Unbroken: Path to Redemption
Samuel Hunt, Merritt Patterson, Will Graham
Runtime: 98 min
Rated PG-13

The 2014 film Unbroken recounted the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who survived a long, harrowing ordeal during World War II: his plane crashed into the Pacific, he spent 47 days adrift in a life raft, he was captured by the Japanese, and he was dealt especially brutal punishment in prison camps due to his status as an Olympic athlete.

This 2018 sequel continues the story as Zamperini (Samuel Hunt) returns home a hero but has difficulty readjusting to civilian life, suffering from what today might be diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Haunted by wartime traumas and memories of his Japanese tormentor, Corporal Mutsuhiro “the Bird” Watanabe (David Sakurai), Zamperini – already long adrift from his Catholic faith — descends into alcoholism and depression. He meets and hastily marries a fine Christian woman in Cynthia Applewhite (Merritt Patterson), but her longsuffering love and even the birth of their daughter cannot save Louis from his self-destructive spiral as he plots murderous revenge against “the Bird.” Miraculously, Cynthia’s commitment and the preaching of a young Billy Graham lead Louis to a conversion, literally dropping him to his knees in a dramatic embrace of healing and forgiveness.

“God’s not to blame for your suffering,” the family’s parish priest tells Louis shortly after his return from the war, and that summarizes well the theme of this sequel. By film’s end, Zamperini gets it: “[God] kept me alive through everything for this,” he says in a moment of epiphany as he gazes adoringly at his wife and daughter.

A textual epilogue tells the best part of the story: Zamperini becomes a Christian evangelist, founds a camp for disadvantaged boys, and stays married to Cynthia for 54 years (she died in 2001). It’s disappointing that an Italian Catholic boy strays from his childhood faith, but one can appreciate the rediscovery that leads him from the horrors of war to renewed hope, from the darkness of despair into the light of faith.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

WHAT TO SEE: Heroism Under Fire

Hacksaw Ridge
Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey
Run time: 139 min
Rated PG-13
Available through Ignatius Press at www.ignatius.com

Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson, had its cinematic debut in 2016 and was released on DVD and Blu-Ray last year. Now available through Ignatius Press, it takes its place alongside other gritty-but-inspiring modern war films based on true stories in the tradition of We Were Soldiers and Saving Private Ryan.

Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a devout young Seventh-Day Adventist from Lynchburg, VA, enters the U.S. Army in 1942 carrying a pocket Bible and intending to serve in the medical corps because of his religious objection to taking up arms. He suffers ridicule and abuse for his refusal to as much as touch a weapon and faces court-martial for disobeying orders to do so, but eventually he earns a measure of respect for standing firm on his beliefs. Two years later, during the horrific Battle of Okinawa in which his unit sustains heavy casualties at the hands of the Japanese and is forced to retreat, Doss demonstrates immense courage by rescuing dozens of wounded soldiers from the battlefield, lowering them by rope down an escarpment to safety.

This is one situation where the Hollywood version of a character’s heroic acts arguably falls short of capturing his true courage under fire. By the time his unit arrived in Okinawa, Doss had already been awarded the Bronze Star twice for meritorious service in rescuing wounded soldiers on the battlefields of Guam and the Philippines. His daring efforts over several weeks on Okinawa would earn him the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Hacksaw Ridge is a brutal film, with plenty of extended scenes of armed combat featuring graphic violence and gruesome injuries. War is hell, and no punches are pulled in affirming that. But what stands out is the extreme heroism of Desmond Doss, who risked his own life under the most perilous conditions to rescue 75 men from certain death on an Okinawa battlefield. His faith and model of selflessness should inspire us all.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.