UNSTOPPABLE Review

Many times I don't like to accept being labeled as a "Christian" simply because of all the stipulations that surround the word and the assumptions people make about me, my character and my stance on certain issues. That being said, I was raised Catholic though I assume many Protestants might find it hard to believe Catholics consider themselves Christians and not simply as Catholics, but believe it or not this is true for most Catholics. I continue to practice that faith though I won't go without saying it hasn't been tough. I have so many questions that come up consistently and lead to other questions. I find it interesting to learn as much as I can about the basis of the Christian church so that I have a good pool of knowledge to pull from when discussions concerning faith and the existence of God come up. Unstoppable was not going to be a discussion or a debate on whether there was a God or not, but instead was attempting to answer a question that makes perfect sense to ask when you've been bombarded with "Jesus Loves You" your entire life and that is: Why does God let bad things happen to good people? The simple answer for a casual believer in God may be something along the lines of, "how can we grieve when God is in control of every situation?" For me, in that regard though, it would almost seem that anyone who considered themselves devout in the faith would have to feel somewhat celebratory at the death of a person who they knew also believed in God for despite the fact they wouldn't see them anymore they knew they were now joining God in heaven. To be completely up front I've heard that sentiment a thousand times from regular church-goers, but as a way of comforting those who'd just lost someone close. Still, it never seemed to truly help and more than anything I felt it would genuinely cause people to react more negatively to God and begin asking the same question Kirk Cameron poses as the basis of his new film.

I was ready to go into this not expecting much as I'd seen enough of Cameron's discussions on talk shows to know that he has taken his interpretations of the teachings of the Bible and applied them to a society so far past the days when it was written that he didn't seem to think it necessary to adapt the morals of the stories to a different landscape. I personally think the writings that are included in the Bible are very intentionally metaphoric for the reason that they might indeed last and still provide valuable lessons that can teach us as much about God, his son, and their works as it does about ourselves and how human nature works throughout each of our lives. Through all of this though and despite the fact the intro from a live webcast at Liberty University featured Cameron grinning from ear to ear and speaking to a sold out crowd while he introduced a few musical acts was almost intentionally an opportunity to express how upset they were at the fact they were so often asked to defend their strong convictions I eagerly awaited the conclusions Cameron had come to regarding his premise. The bad news here is that Cameron wasn't actually blessed with some divine piece of information the rest of us weren't privy to, but instead he simply revels in the Bible stories he feels so close to and attempts to convey the idea that hope always comes out of tragedy.

The inspiration for this exploration was a young boy from Bison, South Dakota named Matthew Sandgren who battled cancer for ten years of his life before succumbing to it at the age of fifteen. Cameron states and re-iterates several times throughout the documentary that Matthew and his family were good Christians, God-fearing people who went to church every week and had what he would call a very personal relationship with Jesus. Why then, would God seemingly punish them by giving Matthew such a horrible disease and leave his parents to deal with such heartache? In many ways we are all searching for the answer to such questions and so it was smart of Cameron to tease his film this way and to go even further and promise an answer to this question that would do nothing but solidify the faith he assumes his audience already have instilled within them. Cameron finds ways through the "familiar" stories of the Bible to show us the details we are missing because we've heard them so much throughout our lives and that these are the most important parts and lead to a better explanation of why God is loving and caring, but not necessarily answering why these bad things happen to what are otherwise decent people.

We get dramatic, artistic and very slow-moving re-enactments of the Adam and Eve story as well as Cain and Abel. Cameron makes it a point to show us that God showed Adam and Eve mercy when they didn't deserve any and that Cain's brutal acts are traced back to the original sin that lives inside all of us, but how that ultimately relates to a young boy who suffered more of his life than he was actually able to live and how that makes up for why this happened to him and not a murderer or rapist sitting in a cell the next county over never really comes full circle. Though I guess we can't really fault the guy for trying to bring up an engaging discussion about the mentality of a sovereign figure who remains mysterious to believers and non-believers alike, it all still feels like it falls flat when you don't have a strong enough idea to serve as the central thesis to the question originally being asked.

While I would like to see Cameron take on tough theological questions and attempt to deliver a conversation that doesn't immediately take offense to scrutiny, this isn't that. I think Cameron has a wealth of knowledge concerning these claims the Bible makes and stands by as truth, but I also think he can be judgmental to those that like to come in and put that faith to the test by asking the tough questions. Christians need to take these opportunities as just that and answer these questions with open minds as 1) we should never stop learning and 2) if we simply dismiss these questions with disgust or with pat responses that claim "God is bigger than all of this, so why question it?" atheists and critics will simply continue to think the way they do and view Christians as nothing more than less intelligent people. I was hoping some of this might spread into Unstoppable and that we would get Cameron's ideas and thoughts on how other questions people have asked have informed the answers he is coming up with for his main question, but things are kept in a safe zone here. I was hoping we might get interviews from people who have suffered tragedies and otherwise been decent human beings and what their reactions were to these events and how they dealt with them and came out the other end with a stronger faith or a loss of one. That maybe in gathering as many diverse inputs as possible on the topic that Cameron might piece together a puzzle and find a common thread that would serve as a strong resolution to his own tough question. Unstoppable promises a lot, but simply rehashing the stories of Genesis and delivering what is essentially a sermon on these stories isn't going to make for an eye-opening journey of self-discovery that the promotions claim Cameron experienced in making this. Maybe he did, who am I to question that, but whatever he felt it didn't successfully translate to the screen.

There is a humbling quality to the piece though and Cameron makes no attempts to be controversial or stir up a heated debate, but essentially is only hoping to soothe the pain and offer comfort to those dealing with tough and tragic situations that might cause them to question their faith. Cameron is a soldier for the "never give up" army and that is respectable and I respect having strong religious values. I hope to see more work from him in the future for he certainly has a voice and a sense of ideals he wants to project, but I hope he can find a more effective way of conveying them. That he may craft something that tackles the tougher questions of faith head on; offering a comprehensive look into the challenges of being a believer in today's society and that by challenging the fundamentals of faith we are not doubting what Christianity believes, but only hoping to grow and discover more of what that ultimate truth may be.