‘Machine Gun Preacher’ an emotion-filled tale

By Larissa Gula

“Machine Gun Preacher”

Starring: Gerard Butler, Michelle… “Machine Gun Preacher”

Starring: Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon

Director: Marc Forster

Studio: Apparatus, Safady Entertainment, 1984 Private Defense Contractors, Mpower Pictures

Grade: B+

“Machine Gun Preacher” is exactly what it sounds like, but the story is more complex and poignant than the title would suggest.

The film begins in 2003 with graphic images of a child captured after an attack and given a choice: kill his mother, or die. After this scene, the main character Sam Childers (Gerard Butler) is seen leaving an American prison. He returns to his family and, after hitting rock bottom, decides to rebuild his life. He soon finds faith in God and begins a construction business.

When a visiting pastor speaks at his church, Childers decides to go to Sudan for several weeks to help rebuild parts of the country. What begins as a short-term philanthropy project evolves into a full-time job. When Childers sees masses of children living in fear of a rebel army — the Lord’s Resistance Army — that abducts them, he cannot turn his back knowing that the international community has failed to address the problem.

Childers begins working to save as many children from the army as he can by picking up a Bible, a hammer and a machine gun, earning two nicknames — the White Preacher in Uganda, and the Machine Gun Preacher in the United States. As the film progresses, Childers focuses more on his projects in Africa than his family at home as the war takes a toll on him.

The film tells a story of determination, faith and survival, and does so beautifully. Butler and the rest of the cast do their jobs with stunning conviction, especially later in the film as the horrific sights Childers sees begin to wear him down mentally and physically.

One flaw this film does have, though, is pacing. As the film moves forward, it’s hard to tell exactly how much time has gone by. Questions like “How old is this man now?” and “How long did this project take?” are left unanswered.

A second flaw in the film is the exclusion of other groups involved in eliminating child soldiers, which is a real shame considering there are people working hard in Africa even today. Instead, the film portrays Childers as one of only a few people who cares enough to help.

Despite these flaws and any liberties this “based on a true story” tale took in its making, this movie balances entertainment, shock and raw emotion surprisingly well. Somehow, the writers and director have balanced humor with blood, death and missing limbs — all in a way that does not disrespect the victims of this conflict.

The film’s credits feature statistics, commentary on the conflict and actual photos and film of the people and children involved in this bloody conflict. It also includes a video of Childers asking, “Who wouldn’t pick up a weapon to defend their children?”

Whether or not people agree with Childers’ methods or not, this film will not disappoint. Still, when they settle down to watch, viewers should probably have some tissues handy.