Movie Review: Machine Gun Preacher

Posted on March 27, 2012 in Media

By Sadhogopal Ram:

“If we allow ourselves to be full of hate, then they’ve won. We must not let them take our hearts.”

We are all fighting a war here. It doesn’t matter of what kind or with whom, but it is a war nevertheless. While everybody is busy fighting their own share of war, there is however a man in this very world of ours who is fighting a war which was never his own and ironically, even after fighting it for over a decade now, it still isn’t his — but he still fights.

There is no better way to put the kind of war he is fighting except how he himself did — another man’s war.

In 2011 came a movie called Machine Gun Preacher, an action biopic about Sam Childers played by Gerard Butler, a preacher-defender of African orphans. The film tells the story of Sam Childers, a former gang biker, and his staggeringly selfless efforts to save the children of South Sudan in collaboration with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) against the massacres of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The film is based on Childers’ memoir Another Man’s War, which it totally appears to be so, only if looked without dwelling deep into its details. But there’s more to it than what connects us to it. There’s another story, almost hidden, which runs parallel to the one being told; the one about Kony’s Army, Head of the LRA, killing and abducting children and forcing them to become part of the war. There’s a war of a different kind, a deeply intimate one, which Childers is constantly fighting, alongside the war which is not his. A war where although there are no bullets are being fired, where no one’s blood is being shed, where everything appears to be normal to the ignorant eyes, but where a tsunami is on the verge of destroying the very last bone of spirit.

Throughout the movie we see Childers, played exceptionally well by Gerard Butler, fighting with his own demons, conquering them one by one, but there still lives one demon which he is not only failing to fight with, but which is also growing stronger and deeper inside him, making him vulnerable to his own faith and slowly turning him into the very thing, the very idea he is fighting.

On the surface Machine Gun Preacher, is full of violence, where blood is being shed and lives are being lost; where the future of Africa is lost to the barrel of guns, and where its present lies scattered around, blasted away in bits and pieces. It’s a violence we are all sort of accustomed to, but Machine Gun Preacher’s real violence lies within its main protagonist Sam Childers, who slowly finds himself stranded with no faith in doing what he is doing as he fights the demon within which threatens to thwart the very good he has done. It was in that moment when The White Preacher (as he is fondly addressed by the people of Africa) is paid a visit by the child who had earlier saved him from being blown up. The silence before the kid speaks in that scene allows us to connect with both of them, making us painfully aware of Childers’ state of mind, enabling us to comprehend the words that are to be preached by the child.

Machine Gun Preacher is a film made with complete passion and heart. Written by Jason Keller and directed by Marc Forster, it’s a well told story with balance of both, love and war. Being a true account of a real-life hero working selflessly, fighting someone else’s war, Machine Gun Preacher must be applauded for its honest effort in trying to address an issue, the tales of which are only disturbing. The entire cast has done a fabulous job; each of the character has its own voice, which reaches to us in an attempt to pull us in.

Watch it for the reasons that there are still heroes out there, outside the fictional realm of comic books and superhero movies, who are trying a make a difference in this indifferent world, who are out there, saving the lives of innocents fighting who-knows-whose war; heroes who haven’t given up on hope, as they fight for a brighter dawn and better tomorrow.

And to those who might not see any point in the war that Sam Childers and hundreds like him are fighting, I will leave it on  Childers himself to answer —

For me to sit here and give all kinds of excuses to make it right — I can’t do it. But what I wanna ask everyone out there, everyone that has a child, everyone that has a brother or a sister, if your child or your family member was abducted today, if a madman came in, a terrorist came in, abducted your family member, or your child, and if I said to you, “I can bring your child home, does it matter how I bring him home?”

Watch it for what it has to offer — reality.


This post was originally published at the author’s blog, ARTH.

Sadhogopal Ram is a Poet… Writer… a Thinker… and a pigheaded Arthśāstri. He likes to rant on a wide variety of topics, Society and People being two of his all-time favourites.