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THE APOSTLE MOVIE REVIEWS
In 1997, a film by Robert Duvall took the world by surprise. The film, The Apostle, was a religious film which depicted a conflicted world for the man of God, the apostle. Duvall, who is known as Sonny in the film, is full of charisma but at the same time he has an uncontrollable temper. The film was based on a Tennessee man who lived in the 1930s. The movie leaves the viewer in with a twist trying to figure out the conflicting attributes and weaknesses of their beloved character Sonny, the man of God. What the preacher believes tends to be different from what his actions portray.
Robert Duvall was able to produce and perform highly on the role as leader of the film. It is said that he wrote the script for the movie long before it was produce. This is event since both the fans and the critics appreciated Duvall’s superb creation. Since the day of its release on December 17th 1997, it has been ranked among the best religious drama movies with an ability to turn a budget of $5 million into a gross of $21 million. This clearly showed that the movie was loved not for being a religious thriller movie but also for its drama. The Apostle was filmed in Louisiana and some other parts shot in Texas. Apart from Duvall receiving lot of money from the movie, he was also nominated for the academy award for the best actor
The movie has a degree of perfection for a person who has some experience with the Southern Pentecostal culture. John, a positive reviewer said the movie was not that bad but his wife loved it very much. She was familiar with the struggles faced by a man of faith. Despite a preacher being an ordinary person, the congregation expects him to be righteous. They expect him to act in accordance to what the religion portrays even in extremely difficult situations. We see Sonny facing this life huddles and choosing to behave the same way that any other human being would. Despite all these faults in his character, the movie shows a man who feels the urge to serve his God right into his inner core.
It is possible to see all the negative attributes of Sonny if one looks only at his surface. Looking at it from this perspective as a self-centered preacher who does not practice what he preaches, it can easily be said that he is like any other Elmer Gantry who is a fraud and does everything to benefit himself. It can be assumed that it is his own wrong doings that broke his marriage and pushed his wife into the arms of another man (Caputo, 2001). But it is only when you are almost fully confident of your judgment on Sonny that he proves you wrong. He admits his mistakes after messing up and sets his life on another path.
Many religious movies build a preacher’s character as a person with many weaknesses and whose actions take them further and further away from God. The apostle is different in this as it builds the character of Sonny a preacher who tries to get closer to God. He believes he is capable of talking straight to God, one on one. His mother shares the opinion and believes he has been doing it since he was a young boy.
Afterwards, Sonny’s life is met with many challenges he finds a solution the only way he knows how. This is by reaching out to God and asking him to provide him with a path. He holds a conversation with God. The conversation seems one sided because all the apostle does is ask the solution to his problems while complaining about it. One day this annoys one of Sonny’s neighbors who in return call his mother to discuss the issue with her. She defends her preacher who she claims has the ability to personally talk to God and claims that she was not going to interfere with something divine.
According to the Christian religion, a man of God is supposed to live by the values he preaches. He is a leader of the community and should thus represent the values of the religion. The movie shows the struggles that the apostle is going through in order to get his life in line with his religious beliefs and the expectations of his community. The struggles faced by the apostle are similar to those faced by everyone else but still he is expected to act different to those challenges.
What makes the movie (Apostle) so appealing is the fact that it clearly outlines a scenario where religion is used to try to justify human imperfections. I guess it is true what they say “to err is human”. The Apostle makes mistakes but still gives himself a pass. There are several occurrences in the movie depicting wrong actions from the apostle, but he is clearly justified by the tough situations he faces and eventually redeems himself. Sonny just like any other man found himself in a very painful situation when his wife decides to leave him for another man. Anger gets the best of him and makes him take an action that ruins his life, and he regrets since then.
I will show several occurrences in the movie displaying the various mistakes done by Elmer Gantry which are as a result of flaws in his character and not failure to follow his beliefs. I will be trying to explain the apostle’s actions in relation to religion and his unique character. There are many ways in which Sonny failed, but there are also explanations for his behavior. It started with challenges forcing him to act with anger and commit murder. Then ended with his mistakes forcing him to transform his life and become an even better person. His wife cheated and that made him make rush decisions that were fueled by anger. He fled and changed his life to become a reformed and sincere minister of God who was interested in building his new church up.
In general, the movie displays the apostle as a narcissist person. There are a few times when the actions of the apostle are guided by rage. The anger and self-centeredness are some characteristics associated with egocentric people. The apostle is seen to have low empathy and also an insatiable hunger for violence. We see him trying to cover up all this using his position as a minister of God.
Like any other misfortune, we see a series of events that lead to distress in Sonny’s life. It all begins with his marriage taking a turn towards the wrong direction. It’s only after his wife wanted to break up the marriage that he realizes she was leaving him for the youth minister. This means he was not only about to lose his wife, but also there was a chance he would lose the church. He comes to this realization in a motel and decides to go home and check on his wife who he unfortunately finds absent. He then heads straight to the youth ministers home to go look for her and throws a baseball through the minister’s bedroom window.
After going through all this, Sonny gets drunk and decides to get even with the minister. He joins a league game being coached by the youth minister and bangs him with a baseball bat on the head. This is where Sonny’s life changes drastically since he has no option but to flee. Guilt and regret overshadow him. He was not planning on it and so finding a place to go was a challenge, but he finds himself in Louisiana. This is where he changes his name to apostle E.F.
In the rural area that he stays, he is given an old church to rebuild by a retired black minister. The church starts with a small congregation composed of almost purely black people. He gives the congregation his level best. The church starts to grow as a result this. This is also made possible by the fact that the summonses are broadcast on a local 40 watt station. We can now see that sonny is serious about the second congregation, and he wants to find redemption for what he had done in the past (Ebert, 1998).
There is a big difference between the type of person that sonny was at the beginning of the movie and the person he turned into when the movie ends. It is what he has been through that changes his character and makes him want to come even closer to the beliefs he has about his religion. He starts out as a simple, arrogant southern preacher who after getting to an accident looks at the victims and tells them they need Christ was going to save them instead of calling an ambulance and getting medical help. It is the falling apart from his marriage that makes him kill a fellow minister of God and thus changing his life forever.
After watching the movie, I can now say with great conviction that it is one of the best religious films I have ever seen. The way Robert Duvall introduces contrast and emotions is just fascinating. I would recommend it to everyone that is a fan of both drama and religious movies. The Apostle is, to some extent a mix of both drama and religion. What I found most fascinating about the movie, is the interesting character of Sonny. The movie displays him as a very complex person. His personality is made up of controversial attributes depicting our societies’ values and vices. He is both the protagonist and antagonist. His character possesses a shade of darkness that eventually fades away as you approach the end of the film (Duvall, 2019).
The main lesson that can be learned from this movie is it’s never too late to bounce back from a fall. People including the strong in religion undergo challenges in life. What matters is how we handle them ourselves during the time of hardships and whether that improves our focus and standing in life or it diverts our attention into the wrong direction is totally up to us. Robert Duvall shows that even after Sonny commits murder he gets a second chance in life and uses it to turn his life around. The movie also puts emphasis on the saying all humans are the same.
In an interview Mark Moring said “Let me straighten these people out. And you can put it in print. My guy [Rev. Euliss ‘Sonny’ Dewey, the title character] killed a guy out of anger, right? But he wasn’t one half as bad as King David in the Psalms, who sent a man off to be killed, so he could be with his wife. Every time I read the Psalms I think of that. But on the other hand, I heard that Billy Graham liked the movie, and many, many preachers did. Rev. James Robison of Fort Worth said I could use anything from any of his services to put in the film. So I’m not mocking.” (The ‘Low’-Down on Robert Duvall 1)
Unlike in many situations, where a pastor starts as being religious and ends up falling from grace and being a fraud, Sonny does the total opposite i.e. he starts as being a narcissist arrogant preacher and reforms to become a new minister who is serious about his church. He does all this in the hope of finding redemption. He killed I the past but this motivated him more to be a better person. It is faith in the Lord and work on himself that pushed Sonny to achieve transformation. He is able to rebuild a Church that very few members in its congregation and make it grow massively into a respectable church.
The Apostle was perfectly filmed ensuring the whole plot come to life without missing a single detail. It is a work of art. The filming was done South, in the rural parts and hence you can almost feel the presence of nature in the movie background. The movie contains famous persons like Miranda Richardson and Farrah Faucet. However, it is the elite performance from the upcoming actors and the members of the congregation that give the movie the great flare. Millions of people have enjoyed the movie and there are still more continuing to watch if forty years after its release.
The movie sound tracks include “you didn’t have to say it out loud by Randy Sharp and Chris Farren”. The editing of the movie is something to be desired. It was both of high standard and maintained authenticity. The cinematography in the movie actually exceeds the expectations of many in the year 1997 at the time of production. There are no unnecessary camera movements, as a matter of fact the cameras were kept steady and at the right angles which was not an easy task to achieve at the time. From the movie productions view, the apostle is a movie that was very well coordinated with Robert Duvall paying very close attention to detail.
It has always been an advantage for a movie to have a twist to capture the attention of its viewers. The paradox of a preacher committing murder, while at the same time claiming to have a personal relationship with God, bewilders anyone watching the movie. Presence of both darkness and light in the preacher leads him in the wrong path but also helps him find his way back to his religious beliefs. The producer of the movie, Robert Duvall was able to directly relate the life of a pastor, to the challenges that face ordinary people. It’s a good twist that ensures unpredictability of the movie’s ending making the viewer stay in front of their screens up to the last minute.
1. An apostle, according to the Christian religion, is chosen by God to minister His word to the people. He is supposed to have personal communication and to be able to give God’s message exactly like it was given by God (James Porter Moreland and Ciocchi, 2015).
2. Apostle is an example of a religious film. There are others such as Paul Apostle of Christ, that have almost a similar plot
3. A book was published in 2006: Movies that matter. To explain how a film can be read through the lens of faith.
4. The apostle was among the first movies designed to address both religion and its integration to the community.
5. Louisiana was known to have African American people from the early 1800s.
6. Christianity in South America gained popularity in the 20th century with almost half of the population converting to Christianity.
The Apostle (1997) – IMDb. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118632/.
Moring Mark, The Christian today: The ‘Low’-Down on Robert Duvall, 7/27/2010. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/julyweb-only/lowdownrobert-july-10.html
Duvall, Robert, The Apostle movie script: Oct 22 1997.
Loenard, Richard. Movies that matter, Chicago. III., Loyola press, 2006.
Duvall, R. (2005). The Apostle. [online] Rotten Tomatoes. Available at: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/apostle/ [Accessed 31 Oct. 2019].
Duvall, R. (1996). The apostle E.F. Hart : [screenplay].
Anker, R.M. (2010). Of pilgrims and fire : when God shows up at the movies. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.
Ebert, R. (1998). The Apostle movie review & film summary (1998) | Roger Ebert. [online] Rogerebert.com. Available at: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-apostle-1998 [Accessed 31 Oct. 2019].
The Apostle (1/10) Movie CLIP – Last Rites (1997) HD. (2011). YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwdhau_agX0 [Accessed 31 Oct. 2019].
Duvall, R. (2019). The Apostle (1997) – Robert Duvall | Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related | AllMovie. [online] AllMovie. Available at: https://www.allmovie.com/movie/the-apostle-v158676 [Accessed 31 Oct. 2019].
Caputo, J.D. (2001). On religion. London: Routledge.
Virgil, P. and Torry, R. (2007). Film and religion : an introduction. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press.
James Porter Moreland and Ciocchi, D.M. (2015). Christian perspectives on being human : a multidisciplinary approach to integration. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock.