Greetings again from the darkness. Movies based on true stories and real people tend to receive the benefit of the doubt from me, even when they exaggerate those truths and characters. At the beginning of the movie, Sam Childers is an ex-con, druggie, gun-loving drug dealer, thug, lousy dad, worse husband, and overall man of failed character. When he finds God, he loses the drugs but the only other thing that really changes is his postal address. All of that is based on the real life Childers.
Sam Childers sees himself as a modern day crusader working to make a better life for the war orphans in Sudan. It’s impossible to argue that he hasn’t had an impact on lives. The real question is, at what cost and by what methods? Over the closing credits, we even get a clip of the real Sam asking us “does it matter how?”.
You will find no debate here for whether or not this man has made a difference or whether his methods should be judged. This space is merely for analyzing the movie which is telling a story. Gerard Butler does an admirable job making Sam a somewhat sympathetic character. Re-read my first paragraph if you think that’s easy! Michelle Monaghan plays Lynn, his incredibly supportive wife who actually helped Sam find God, rather than continue his criminal, drug-addled ways with friend Donnie (Michael Shannon).
While I found the story of the Sudanese children to be heart-breaking, the choppy and fragmented manner in which it’s presented was quite annoying. The story began in 1998 but we never really knew what year it was or how much time had passed between Sam’s trips home. Many of the gun battle scenes came across very staged and set-up for a cool shot of Butler brandishing a weapon and bandanna. The photo at left is Gerald Butler discussing a scene with Sam Childers.
The production value of the film is surprising considering it’s directed by Marc Foster, who has many fine films to his credit (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland). While watching, I had the feeling that there must have been some omitted scenes, and others were edited to the point of being nearly incoherent.
So while I found the story to be quite interesting, I found the delivery to be less than adequate. This despite fine performances from Butler, Monaghan, Shannon, Kathy Baker and Madeline Carroll. There are numerous magazine articles about Sam Childers and I believe you will find those more accurate and informative.
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you are up for an interesting story about a fascinating real life man, and you can overlook the shoddy presentation OR you just want to see Gerald Butler looking cool with a machine gun!
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you would rather read an article about the real life Sam Childers than watch chopped up version of his story.
watch the trailer: