To be honest here, I was not looking forward to watching Tom Cruise’s latest wham-bam actioner. After all, in this age of Marvel and Star Wars and who-knows-how-many-more action franchises, who needs another film full of running and jumping and bangs and crashes? I have to look back to the early 90s and the film Terminator 2 for a time when a movie made my jaw fall open. The special effects guys from the CGI dept have spoiled us, anything is possible now and very little makes us marvel. Well, if you’re an old embittered fuddy duddy like me anyway. 😊 But all that said – I was surprised – I was quickly scooped up into the story and the edge of my seat almost came into play at times. I enjoyed this more than the last Bond film. The plot, well have you got a postage stamp ready there? Baddies want to hold the world to hostage with a fistful of big bombs and Tom and his mates must stop the rot. Oh and along the way, put on a false, latex face mask which they can then peel off to great effect.
As you can see from the trailer, thrills and spill abound, and for my money, really work. Years ago, around the time Gladiator was released, I was working in a cinema in Woking. I will never forget seeing a wall of guys walking towards me on opening night, intent on seeing Russel Crowe’s period actioner, jammed with thrills, spills, and much buckling of the swash. I love that film myself and it made me wonder how we can communicate some of the action stories in the Bible. When Joshua leads his trumpeteers around the walls of Jericho in order to bring the masonry crashing down, when Ehud blags his way in to the royal court in order to slice King Eglon in half, when Jonah is hurled into an aquatic abyss only to be eaten by a great fish moving slowly through the dark waters, when Paul survives a shipwreck only to be bitten by a snake and then worshipped like a god, when John stares at the sky and sees and hears fiery explosions and killer scorpion-locusts… these are big screen moments. Edge of the seat dramas. Of course the Bible contains 1 Corinthians 13 with its powerful depiction of true love, along with so many other bits of instruction and wisdom. I know it’s not all Hitchcock, Spielberg and Lucas. But much of it is told through stories, pictures, images and poetry.
Perhaps the Bible needs a soundtrack, backing music to move us or shock us, to make us laugh or unnerve us. To exhilarate us. I recall reading the first collection of sketches by Riding Lights Theatre Company, called Time to Act. As I read it my jaw was kind of on the floor, these retold Bible stories were so fresh, so funny. I wasn’t even sure we were ‘allowed’ to tell them in this way. Years later I am convinced the Bible is full of moments of action, wonder, daring, tragedy, heartbreak, swashbuckling, comedy and tension. We surely do it a disservice if we forget that and deliver it as if we are merely reading a text book. Everyone in there, apart from God of course, is a human being, caught up in the danger, uncertainty, mundanity, difficulty, colour and wonder of real life. And that’s where God meets them, in all those places. That’s why there are arguments, doubts, family dysfunctions, disagreements, jokes, silences, reconciliations, clashes, battles and yes – action adventures. God is present in all these experiences, in the Bible and in our lives today.