Directed By: Marc Forster
Runtime: 129 minutes
This film does not rely on originality, it relies on the tragic reality of the civil war in the Sudan. With an overall tone very similar to Martin Campbell's "Beyond Borders" (2003), "Machine Gun Preacher" is a film only to be taken seriously, with little room for a hopeful ending. This is the kind of film that is emotionally draining and visually shocking, because we know this isn't make believe anymore and just because these tragedies don't happen in our backyards doesn't mean they don't exist. Open your eyes and listen, and you will experience a story that touches all our hearts.
The film stars Gerard Butler, who plays Sam Childers, an ex-convict with a drug problem and a rather dark past that catches up to him on the night he thinks he murders a man out of self-defense (although the situation is a bit more complicated than that). Shortly after his world comes crashing down, Childers turns to God for salvation. Although it is not implicitly stated in the film, the viewer assumes that some time has passed as Childers starts his own construction business, moves the family out of a trailer and into a home, and begins to do mission work in the Sudan.
The transformations throughout this film are what makes it so effective. We experience Childers' life with his family in the U.S. as well as his newfound family in the Sudan. During this transition, Childers goes from being a bad husband and father, to an inspiration as the Sudanese come to know him as the Machine Gun Preacher. Childers had a lot of sins in his past and turned to the church for salvation. When God reached out to him, he then felt compelled to further God's mission, which led him to the Sudan, where the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) burns villages, murders innocent people, and kidnaps children as new recruitments to their rebel cause. What is Childers' cause? He builds an orphanage to protect the children, providing them with food, shelter, and a safer environment than the alternative of being alone out there. How serious was he about his cause? Well, he spent nearly every penny he had and nearly broke apart his marriage and family. The end credits to this film indicate that Childers still continues his work in the Sudan, a lifelong commitment to the struggles of everyday life for the Sudanese people.
The film was well-directed by Forster - showing the parallel lifestyle of Childers was most effective because it can relate to pretty much any audience no matter what background you may come from. With visual images so striking I had to close my eyes at times, Forster holds nothing back, and I'm glad for it. Awareness is something that we choose to accept or ignore. Sometimes it gives us the courage to take action, no matter how big or small. Just remember, every little bit counts!