- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Jan
The preview for
It's a simple premise: Two men meet on the freeway—in a car accident. Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) and Doyle Gipsen (Samuel Jackson) were both on their way to important court cases. The accident leaves them both sorely delayed and desperate. Doyle tries to handle the accident with patience and goodwill, but Gavin ignores the rules and rushes off to court, abandoning Doyle and his wrecked vehicle in the pouring rain. Bad move. The file Gavin needs to win his case accidentally falls into Doyle's hands. And Doyle, whose delay will cost him the hope of familial reconciliation, is now an angry and dangerous man. A game of moral disintegration begins, with both characters forced to learn something from the chaos of their urban combat.
Religious press critics seemed excited by the film's focus on moral issues. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops critic says, "The ending is a tad too sunny to match the preceding events. But after being put through the wringer, the viewer leaves feeling hopeful that doing the right thing is its own reward."
J. Robert Parks (The Phantom Tollbooth) examines the film's questions: "Is it okay to do bad things if they're outweighed by the good? And what is my responsibility to my fellow man, even someone I've never met before? The film's script isn't perfect … but I was willing to overlook those faults in order to focus on these compelling issues. Which are raised in a very compelling film."
Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) writes, "What is most striking … is how easily these characters could have avoided their conflict at any time. By being so immersed in themselves and their problems, and by resorting to retaliation rather than forgiveness, their troubles keep escalating to the point where they nearly destroy themselves. Had Doyle and Gavin simply took a few seconds to remember to 'do unto others what you would have them do unto you,' all unpleasantness could have been avoided."
Holly McClure (Crosswalk) recommends it "because it deals with the ethical and moral dilemmas all of us face at some point in our lives. It also has a strong message of redemption and forgiveness, and it shows how a little kindness goes a long way in righting wrongs in people's lives."
Tom Snyder (
But Greg Groninger (Christian Spotlight) says, "Christians will notice some great potential for discussion about our own morality, and the fact that we as humans often come up short." But Groninger was disappointed that the film didn't explain that the gospel is the answer to Gavin's dilemma: "I wanted to shout out 'Ask Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior,' but like Gavin I left the movie feeling unfulfilled."
In my opinion,
Still, I applaud the courage of Michell and Company. Jackson and Affleck turn in impressive performances (it's Affleck's finest work since
Mainstream critics almost unanimously praised the actors, but they offered mixed reviews of the film itself. Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly) was bothered by the speeches and religious symbolism. She calls it "a movie about moral conundrums, and more specifically, talk about moral conundrums. Which is to say, it's self-consciously in love with its own words."
But Roger Ebert (
Critics in the religious press are continuing to praise Samuel Jackson and Ben Affleck for their strong performances in Roger Michell's
The review at Cinema in Focus, a site maintained by a Free Methodist pastor and the former mayor of Santa Barbara, raves about the movie: "Few films reflect the spiritual and ethical struggle within American culture as powerfully as Roger Michell's
Raymond Teague (Unity World Headquarters) writes, "The intelligent script of