We saw End of the Spear on Friday night. Great movie, I highly recommend it. If you don't know, its about American missionaries in the 50's who were murdered by an extremely violent Ecuadoran tribe. The missionaries' wives and children, continued the work, eventually living with the tribe and introducing them to the Gospel. This is a true story recounted in a number of books (Jungle Pilot, Through Gates of Splendor, End of the Spear and others). Understand, this was a tribe with a 60% homicide rate INSIDE the tribe. For those who've seen Princess Bride, this is the opposite of “My name is Iñigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” It more along the lines of "My name is Stephen Saint, you killed my father, prepare to be loved, accepted and forgiven".
I have a few plot development quibbles but all in all, this was a great movie. However, there are lots of interesting things AROUND this movie.
For instance, critics and moviegoers split. On Yahoo, 8 critics gave it an average of a C-, 1240 users averaged a B+. I find users tend to be more savy than critics about entertainment. Too many "critically acclaimed" movies tank. Obviously, this movie doesn't resonate with the critics. Fortunately, critics weren't the intended audience! Take a look at this Yahoo comment:
In the realm of Christian movies, even casual movie watchers such as myself tend to cringe when hearing about the next film that will attempt to tell a story with Christian themes. Left Behind, anyone? Yeah me neither.Thankfully End of the Spear is no Left Behind. The acting is believable, the story is powerful, and one can actually feel like they connected with the movie long after the credits go up.
Moviegoers like this are the target.
Secondly, this movie deals with themes that Hollywood doesn't understand, so they don't address. Themes like sacrifice and forgiveness instead of revenge. Let's see, the Passion of the Christ, oops, a Christian movie. Hmm. Chronicles of Narnia!, oh wait that's a Christian movie. The Great Raid, hey maybe there's one. If it's tough to make movies about things you don't understand, perhaps the current state of movies says a lot about the current state of Hollywood!
Third, the theater we went to was full. Like if you walked in late, you walked out because there was no seats full. On top of that, the movie drew people who don't normally go to movies (you would think companies would want these incremental dollars). My parents went. My wife's grandmother, who can count the number of movies she has seen in a theater using single digits, went to see this movie. We won't have box office totals until next week, but it will be interesting to see what the opening weekend totals were.
Finally, the movie is relevant. Don't think Christian missionaries are persecuted anymore. Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez recently kicked New Tribes Missions out of Venezuela, costing them large sums of money and significantly setting back their work.
[Side note: A recurring theme of wanna be dictators is that they want to kick out or kill the Christians. You would think that we would learn the warning signs!]
Four missionaries were killed in Irag in 2004. Not to mention Kazakhstan, Uganda, and Yemen for example. Being a missionary is still a dangerous job and a noble calling. To all the Nate Saints and Jim Elliots who brave the rain forest, the concrete jungle or suburban wastelands, our hearts and prayers are with you.