SPOILER: I'm not sure that I understand the praise for this film and regret that my review may be interpreted as a political reaction. I'll applaud a good film whether I hold the beliefs of the maker(s). I think in bullet points so here are my views on the Pros & Cons. Pros
- Solid framing, shots, & set design. From the initial shot of the church to the biking scene, to his minimalist furnishings, to the emptiness of the mega-church, I felt like everything visually (barring sfx) was solid & beautiful
- Premise is promising
- Incongruity between reverend's journey and supporting plot: The leaps the main character makes in the movie are at odds with the presented plot and character background. I think it is a disservice to those vulnerable to fanatical extremism to represent such an easy and shallow transition into said self annihilation & willingness to destroy others. This is a topic still under examination (NY Times 5/31/18), but this film would suggest that a reasonable model for creating a fanatic is to create a 46 year old, white divorcee who lost a child, attended seminary, runs a small church, & suspect he may have cancer. Add one counseling session with a young, environmental fanatic and boom: suicide bomber. Is this a remotely probable demographic?
- Thrown away opportunities: the underground railroad tie in and "gift shop church" as presented were appendages that missed strong opportunities drive the story
- Shallow spiritual platitudes: This film is reviewed by some as a spiritual / Christian engagement into responsibility for how we treat the earth. There is some support here, but the actual intellectual engagement at a theological level (supposedly this character's driving mentality) are a few obvious scripture quotes and brief exchanges. I have engaged in far deeper conversations with environmental activists on Christian under-pinning for their beliefs than this film even considers. It isn't of substance.
- Corporate blame: The story takes a cliche view of the blame by pointing to corporations and the rich exploiting the environment & maneuvering the government officials. This is part of the story, but it is convenient when I can leave a theater on the global consequences of climate change and not feel an iota of responsibility or need to change. Thank you, for the pat on the back and reinforcement of smug slactivism.
- Hawke's portrayal: he nailed the glassy-eyed, soulless addict. Unfortunately, the character needed to be so much more than this to pull such grand issues together.