House Church Central Goes to the Movies

Paramount Classics, TF1 International, Battleplan Productions. Produced by Marc Frydman and James Spies. Written and directed by Rod Lurie.

This is a movie that has some beautiful theology.

Rob Lurie loves making political thrillers. And he's good at it.

Unfortunately, Deterrence spent only a week in the local theater in our area, and I was one of the fortunate few who found it. Get comfortable before you to which this film, as you will be glued to your chair until it is over. In my view, it is far better than The Contender, Lurie's more recent political film.

An un-elected US president (skillfully played by Kevin Pollak), who inherited the office when his predecessor died, is campaigning to win his first full term when his travels are interrupted by a severe blizzard somewhere in an isolated stretch of highway in Colorado. The presidential team sets up temporary headquarters in a small diner to await the end of the storm, and it is there that an international crisis suddenly develops. The film skillfully presents a deteriorating world situation on a television screen and through the various portable communications devices that accompany the presidential party. In fact, all of the action takes place on that one set, although we catch glimpses of other arenas on the television screen--the movie's window on the world.

Pollak himself was an inspired bit of casting. He comes across initially as an ordinary, unsophisticated politician, but gradually reveals an almost photographic memory for the details of state and demonstrates an increasingly impressive air of authority. The issues confronting the president's response are debated not only between the president and his staff (Timothy Hutton and Sheryl Lee Ralph), who disagree with the president with appropriate respect and tactfulness, but also among the ordinary citizens who happened to be in the diner when the party arrived. We in the audience are captivated by the power of all these points of view as they clash in the midst of the drama of impending global tragedy.

Where is the theology here? Not in the crisis itself. There are no eschatological themes going on at all. There is no Antichrist; there is no destruction of the Dome of the Rock. In fact, the movie is completely secular. Except for one scene, that is--a scene that I absolutely loved. During a break in the international drama, the president, who happens to be Jewish, strikes up a conversation with a couple that had been waiting out the storm over a chessboard. The French-Canadian waitress (Clotilde Courau) stops by the table and joins the conversation as it turns to the president's Judaism. She says she has no prejudice against Jews, but wonders how they can find happiness without Jesus Christ as savior. The good theology is in the president's answer. He explains that he is Jewish only because he was born into a Jewish family. In actuality, he is an atheist. All presidents, he asserts, must be atheists. Anyone accepting such an office must have the view that the fate of the world rests completely on human institutions; otherwise they would not make the kinds of decisions that were necessary to perform their constitutional duty. Yes!

Rod Lurie's intention for the film is to get people talking. Did this president make the right decision to put his finger on the nuclear trigger? He reveals his answer in the director's commentary on the DVD--but is careful not to tip his hand in his skillful direction of the film. Yet this was not the number one issue with me. I imagine that Mr. Lurie is, like the character he creates through Kevin Pollak, an atheist. And I find it very refreshing that some of the best theology that I've heard in a movie comes not from a Christian production, but from an atheist.

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