I just saw this film tonight. Originally, I was typing a response to this blog, but my reply snowballed enough that I'd like to get a more direct response. I'm also not a "blogger" or even LIKE to write very much, so don't expect this to be very profound. Just hoping to start a good discussion about a good movie. Also, I have clearly marked where I start talking about specific plot-points and grayed-out the text in an effort to conceal spoilers. So don't be afraid to read the first couple of paragraphs for a general, brief review, and the last paragraph for my conclusion.
To start off I'll post the video that got me interested in this film. It's an interview of Matthew Chapman, the director, by AronRa on his YouTube channel:
At face-value, the film didn't seem as pro-atheist as much as it did anti-evangelist or anti-fundamentalist. Kinda like "Saved!" if you've seen that. But after consideration, I do think it puts forward a positive message about Atheism - one the general public really needs to understand.
Patrick Wilson was great as the antagonist Christian (Joe), but I didn't care for the lead actor Charlie Hunnam (atheist, Gavin) very much. Gavin at first seems like a pretty normal guy, but maybe a little too smug for his own good. Joe pretty much encompassed every stereotypical, narrow-minded, christian attitude you can imagine. I mean just about anyone foiled against that would seem like a good person. Liv Tyler is sweet, as always, as Shana: Joe's wife and eventually Gavin's lover.
I'll skip the complete summary of the film for brevity (there's always wikipedia or IMDB if you don't want to watch it), so I'll just hit some highlights as they pertain to my points. Highlight the text to read more easily.
Later on in the film, Gavin tells Shana about how his daughter was killed in a car crash while he was driving. A trucker in oncoming traffic had a heart-attack, and swerved into their lane. Gavin, in the split-second he had to react, turned his car in such a way that the truck hit his daughter's side instead of his side. He didn't say specifically, but it was clear that somewhere deep inside he considered himself responsible for her death. His wife also left him for this reason.
After Joe learns of Gavin's and Shana's affair, he basically tells Gavin (in a very fire-and-brimstone manner), "Jump off of that ledge or I'll kill Shana." Later, while he was on the ledge, a detective was trying to talk him down, and the whole time Gavin was holding and looking at a picture of his daughter - not Shana, the person he was ostensibly saving by sacrificing himself. To me all of this suggests Gavin didn't necessarily die for his beliefs or to save Shana, but to only prove to himself that he COULD. The whole time he was talking to the detective on the ledge, he was giving the distinct impression that he was going to do it regardless of what the detective said or could do to help fix the dilemma Joe put him in. That's not a very atheistic attitude.
So the way I see it, Gavin could just as easily have been a more liberal form of Christian (or any other religion), and the story would not have been much different. At first, I didn't like that idea very much - this was supposed to be an ATHEIST movie, right? But then I thought maybe that's the whole point: to show the public that Athesits have a lot of the same ideals (and even faults) that they do. Atheists don't claim to be perfect or have all of the answers, but we're not Nihilists. So in an era where Atheism is commonly misunderstood, I think it's overall a good introduction to the public. A good icebreaker, if you will.