Recently I re-watched the 1992 movie “A Few Good Men”. The movie stars a youthful Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and the always-iconic Jack Nicholson. Its story revolves around a court case involving two marines from Guantanamo Bay who are accused of murdering a fellow marine. Jack Nicholson is their superior officer and Tom Cruise is their defense lawyer.
“A Few Good Men” is an absolutely riveting film with great performances, sharp dialogue, beautiful costuming, handsome set design, exquisite lighting, warm and luminous color, and rising action throughout. The film is a classic. Based on three criteria: story, performance and technical elements, I rate this film as 9 out of 10. The movie has an 82% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.7 out of 10 rating on IMDB. These are very good ratings for any film. In fact, they are almost identical to the audience ratings “Because of Grácia” got on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.
Why am I telling you about “A Few Good Men”? Good question, pardon the pun. I hadn’t seen the film since becoming a filmmaker in 2005, and had not paid close attention to its compelling storyline, exceptional performances, and technical excellence. Seeing it again excited me about making quality films, films that will stand the test of time.
This time around, I was struck by the character played by Kiefer Sutherland. As the son of Donald Sutherland and Shirley Douglas and the grandson of Tommy Douglas, the former premier of Saskatchewan, Kiefer has a strong connection to Saskatchewan. I’ve enjoyed Kiefer’s performances dating back to “Stand By Me” (1986) and “The Lost Boys” (1987). He plays antagonistic characters with passion, honesty and integrity. In “A Few Good Men”, Sutherland portrays 2nd Lieutenant Jonathon Kendrick, a marine on a mission. He’s super serious about three things; God, country and being a marine. Listening to his accent, it’s clear that he is from the south. He is quick to remind people that he is a follower of Jesus Christ. He is also one-dimensional with no character arc from beginning to end -- wooden, judgmental and humorless. He holds Tom Cruise’s character, a fast-talking lawyer from Washington DC, in utter contempt.
Reflecting on Kiefer Sutherland’s character, I asked myself: Would the critics have given “A Few Good Men” such glowing reviews if Tom Cruise’s character, a self-centered, secular humanist, had been one dimensional with no character arc? Would they have praised the film if Kiefer Sutherland’s Christian character was complex, funny and the hero of the film? My guess is … probably not. And why is that? Personally, I don’t believe that most film critics or filmmakers understand Christian characters. They don’t relate to their life experience.
That’s where I hope that a new generation of filmmakers can make a difference -- portraying all characters, Christian and non-Christian alike, sympathetically, with a level of complexity that audiences can relate to. As the writer and director of “Because of Grácia”, I have tried to do just that. The main character, Grácia Davis, a committed Christian, is smart, compassionate, fun loving -- and flawed. She has a past that she’s ashamed of. Her combative and agnostic debate teacher, John Livingston, is intelligent, hardworking and has a strong moral compass. Towards the end of the film, he makes a heroic choice.
Re-watching “A Few Good Men” got me super excited about the art of filmmaking. It reignited my desire to create films that make a difference, films that explore the human experience in a God-centered context, films that inspire and challenge people of all ages. I know that “Because of Grácia” is doing so. As I hear reports of how it is touching people from all over the globe, I am reminded of the power of film as a storytelling tool that changes lives.