Chris Sullivan casts his critical eye over the latest offering from director Marc Forster and concludes that watching Machine Gun Preacher is time well spent.
Machine Gun Preacher is a hugely inspiring movie. Not only is it a great couple of hours of well crafted cinema, directed by the formidable Marc Forster (The Kite Runner, Quantum of Solace) and featuring a spellbinding turn from Gerard Butler, it is also a lesson that any one of us can make a big difference.
The story revolves around Sam Childers – AKA The Machine Gun Preacher – a former junkie/robber and biker gang member who, after almost killing someone (in real life, it was he who was almost killed in a bar fight in Florida), goes to church with his ex-lap dancer wife (the brilliant Michelle Monaghan) and sees the light.
He later joins the church and, after hearing a visiting preacher’s tales of the horrors of Uganda, goes to Africa to help rebuild houses lost in the civil war.
He sees a child killed by a landmine and decides to build an orphanage in the Sudan to house the children orphaned by the mad man Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army who raid villages, kill the adults, kidnap the children and force them to become either soldiers or sex slaves.
'It’s even better when the movie itself is as captivating as this'
Soon, the former biker, who describes himself as a freedom fighter, is monitoring the LRA and intercepting themwith his trusty AK47 and rocket launcher.
He brings the kids back to his orphanage while still keeping his church and a family going in the US.
As Butler told me, “I read the script and thought this is fantastic. It can’t be true. But I met with Sam and did my research and not only is it true but we’ve only touched the surface of what Sam has done. He’s a remarkable man.”
Forster, who spent weeks in Childers' orphanage, manages to deliver a film that, while not short on action or excitement, also walks a difficult tight rope and examines the serious issues of honesty and integrity to deliver a superb description of a very complex man.
“Sam’s life is divided,” says Forster. “His family is in Pennsylvania and the orphanage is in Africa. In the movie, he essentially abandons his real family for a new family in Sudan.
“He has a purpose there that he never had in the US. I feel these two worlds represent his inner and outer lives and to juxtapose them against each other in the film is really interesting.”
It’s a pleasure to learn about a man who has his demons but still does good. And it’s even better when the movie itself is as captivating as this. Undeniably, the icing on the cake is that it’s a true story. Highly recommended.
- Video: Meet the Machine Gun Preacher
- London Film Festival 2011: The pick of the flicks
- More Popcorn Diaries
- Movie Feature: The men who almost played James Bond