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Review: Machine Gun Preacher

Published: Thursday, September 29, 2011

Updated: Thursday, September 29, 2011 12:09

Machine Gun Preacher review, Gerard Butler

Ilze Kitshoff, MGP Productions

Gerard Butler (right) stars in "Machine Gun Preacher."

Machine Gun Preacher

Starring Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon

Directed by Marc Foster

Rated R

Grade: B+


"Machine Gun Preacher," starring Gerard Butler, is the kind of movie that makes audience members want to get up and join the fight.

The film, based on the life of Sam Childers, tells the story of one man who created an orphanage in Southern Sudan to aid those children who lost their families because of rebel attacks.

Butleris more believable as a gun-toting preacher than he is as a junkie. Thankfully, his junkie role is short-lived and is used merely as background for the story. After "finding Jesus," Childers joins a Christian missionary trip to Northern Uganda where he decides to take a weekend trip with a guide, Deng, to southern Sudan. He tours a temporary camp for those who lost their villages. At night, when children flock to the camp for protection because it is safer than their own homes, he invites them inside to sleep and be protected.

From that moment on, Childers makes it his mission to help these children, many of whom become orphaned overnight. Childers builds an orphanage, complete with a playground and barbed-wire fence, preventing rebels from getting inside the compound.

Despite joyful and touching moments, like the time Childers tries to teach the kids baseball, this movie is far from light-hearted. Within the first few minutes, a village is burned to the ground and a child is forced by rebels to kill his own mother with a club. The violence and graphic images involving injured children continue throughout the movie.

However, no matter how gruesome the film becomes, the violence shown in Sudan never seems overdone. The film does not hide from the truth. Instead, it immerses audiences in the burned villages and the crossfire between Freedom Fighters and rebels, making them feel Childers' emotions firsthand.

The film captures the spirit of the children perfectly each time Childers thinks of giving up. At each turn, there is a story or a child who comes to him and encourages him to keep fighting. When outsiders question his methods for saving the children, he ignores their concerns. A short clip during the credits from the real Childers explains his position best: "If I bring your child home, does it really matter how I do it?"

The main piece this movie is missing is the family element between Childers and his wife and daughter. There are glimpses of emotion between them, but most of the time, the struggle Childers has between providing for his family and for the orphans seems forced and not as convincing of a performance as his interactions with the Sudanese.

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