Monday, May 30, 2011
Review: "The Encounter"
I remember the first time I saw Bruce Marchiano in a movie - the epic, word for word production of The Gospel of Matthew. I'll admit, I wasn't sure how to take his portrayal of Jesus at first. He was happier, more humorous and more human in his portrayal of Christ than any other actor I had watched. Not long into the movie, I fell in love with this unique portrayal. I remember thinking to myself, "That's how Jesus was. That's how my Savior related to people." Some have criticized it as too American. I guess many folks have a hard time letting go of the stoic, long faced Jesus we have become so accustomed to through movies like "The Greatest Story Ever Told." It's not that these are bad movies, but are they leaving out something about Jesus that has not yet been captured on film?
I can recall watching one of these movies once and thinking, "Something strangely familiar about Jesus." It wasn't that I saw something from the Bible, but something that reminded me of another character. Finally it struck me: Mr. Spock! That's right, Jesus had all the traits of a good Vulcan. The only thing missing was for him to put one of the Pharisees in a nerve pinch and drop him to the ground. Or maybe do a mind meld with Nicodemus so he could really get this "born again" thing. Is that how Jesus really was, or was he more "down to earth" and more conversational in his style?
When I saw Marchiano had a new movie out called "The Encounter" where Jesus shows up in a modern day setting I had to check it out. I'll admit, at first again I was a little taken aback. Jesus is in a diner with a nametag that says "Jesus." Wow, what was this going to be like? Unfortunately I was unable to finish the movie on the first time through, but I watched enough to know it was good for my weekly movie night on Thursday night.
God has blessed me with the great privilege to minister at our local Juvenile Detention Center (JDC). I'm always on the lookout for good Christian movies to take. Most of the time I have thoroughly previewed the movies and many of them I have shown so many times I could just about recite them line for line. It's always nice to get a new movie, and I enjoy the times I actually feel comfortable watching them for the first time with the youth at JDC. They are also a good litmus test for a movie. They can be a tough and discerning audience.
The Encounter kept them captivated for its entire 90 minute running time. They shouted at some of the characters that made bad decisions and derided some of them for their behavior. They wondered if the Jesus character was the real deal or some lunatic. They also got a kick out of Officer Deville especially when his true nature was revealed. The Holy Spirit impressed upon me to give a no compromise presentation of the Gospel after the movie, and four young men gave their lives to Christ that night. It just does not get much better than that.
I give The Encounter my highest recommendation. For believers it is an encouragement about the love of Christ. For unbelievers it is a clear presentation of the Gospel message and the love Jesus has for each of us. One of the characters, a businessman named Nick, asks Jesus several hard questions. Jesus does no soft pedaling in answering, but replies in biblically grounded, solid answers. That was one of the things that impressed me most.
The basic premise of the movie is that a group of people are stranded in a diner on a stormy night with Jesus. In a face to face encounter with Christ, they each have a decision to make. Bruce Marchiano gives a powerful portrayal of Jesus, and the other actors do a fine job as well. In perhaps the most powerful part of the film, Jesus looks each of them in the eye and says, "I love you." I found my eyes misting with tears as I remembered how the real Jesus loved and saved this knuckleheaded atheist. I pray that this movie will reach many people with the power of the Gospel message. We have a generation of young people that are more open to visual presentations like this, and it's nice to find a movie that presents a solid, biblical presentation of the message of Christ. Be sure and check it out.