Film Friday: Free Fire

When a gang of ne’er-do-wells meets a gang of boys-your mother-warned- you-about, in a lonely warehouse, only trouble can come of it. One lot have guns to sell and the other lot have money to buy them. However, two of the opposing gang members have history and it isn’t long before the sales transaction turns into the gunfight at the darkened warehouse. For the next hour the two sides shoot bits off the walls, furniture and each other. Bang, crash, wallop. Ouch.

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The two sides plug away at one another in a violent and sordid tale, which defies the usual blow-em-away cinematic rules of gun battles, and attempts a more realistic kind of shootout; where most bullets miss, and people scuff their shoes, bodies and faces on the grit they are rolling about in. Before the end of the story everyone will be wounded and some of them worse. But it all takes a while.

Solomon, the king who followed David, inherited a race of people who had not only been delivered from cruel violence and oppression at the hands of the Egyptian empire, but a race of people who had been instructed to pass down their stories of deliverance and freedom. The stories of the God who loved peace, who loved to set people free. This was their story, this was their God. Not like any other god of any other nation. And so Solomon built a temple, the most incredible building he could create, to honour and reverence that God. However, he also built fortresses, and traded with the very country that had enslaved his people. He bought chariots and weaponry from them, building up a huge military force, and perpetuating the notions of war and violence. He had been called to be a different kind of king, not a Pharaoh dedicated to dominance and power, but a humble king, a peace-loving president. Apparently Solomon forgot. Have a look at 2 Chronicles 1 vv 14-17 and 1 Kings 19 v 15, Solomon effectively became an arms dealer. It paid well, and he became extremely wealthy. He also used forced labour to build his monuments and fortresses, bit of a snag when he was supposed to be celebrating the God who set slaves free.

Jesus told tales of people who thought they could get their own way by force. He lived in an oppressed country where many young men banded themselves together in order to throw out the Romans. Understandable when the Romans were so evil. But Jesus warned the people that this approach would lead to disaster. When Peter produced a sword in an attempt to fight off those who had come to arrest Jesus, the peaceful carpenter intervened, ‘Put away the weapons,’ he said, ‘Those who use violence die by it.’ Certainly that’s the nature of things in Free Fire.

I grew up watching war films and cowboy movies. I continue to love tales of adventure and action, suspense and battle. But I have visited places torn apart by violence, and the experiences people shared haunt me still. In Isaiah 11, the prophet imagines a time and place when there will be so much peace even wild animals will co-habit without threat of attack or violence. One day, he says, the world will be so peaceful little babies will crawl about amongst nests of poisonous snakes. And all will be well. It’s a powerful picture when you consider how chaotic little children can be, and yet not even their blundering ways will provoke attack or invoke any kind of danger. Peace will be the order of that day, and the night will never come.

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