Tag Archives: great guy movies

Great Guy Movies (Pt. III)

Flags of Our Fathers (2006), [R]
Based on the book by James Bradley, Flags of Our Fathers is an artistically-masterful reconstruction of the events surrounding Joe Rosenthal’s famous snapshot (which quickly became a symbol of America’s triumph and indestructible spirit). Those expecting a straight-up war-actioner will be disappointed; but if you can appreciate a complex and emotionally nuanced military drama, I’ve little doubt you will find it a deeply satisfying experience – a sobering meditation on sacrifice, valor, the hellishness of war, and the nature of heroism vs. celebrity-ism.

Warrior (2011), [PG-13]
A masterpiece. Set in the violent world of mixed martial arts, Gavin O’Conner’s Warrior isn’t just another dime-a-dozen fight movie: it’s a profound and fiercely moving story about forgiveness, reconciliation, and redemption. The action is gripping, the performances are stunning, and the emotional payoff is nothing short of extraordinary. It’s the best film of it’s kind since Cinderella Man, and if you haven’t seen it, you must. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Act of Valor (2012), [R]
An intense, roller-coaster of a movie. Featuring a fact-based story, stunningly authentic combat sequences, and a cast headed by honest-to-goodness Navy SEALs, Act of Valor is a rousing and patriotic tribute to the guys who risk their lives for their country and for each other. What the soldiers lack in Oscar-worthy acting chops, they more than make up for in pure genuineness. It’s rather awe-inspiring to see them onscreen; knowing that, for them, firefights and HALO jumps aren’t just Hollywood 8×10 glossy – they do this stuff for a living. The film isn’t perfect, of course, but it’s a welcome antidote to the cynicism that pervades liberal Hollywood: telling us, and rightly so, that the heroes who fight on our front-lines should be honored as such. There’s nothing “glamorous” or “fun” about what these soldiers do – but you sure respect the heck out of ‘em for doing it.

The Book of Eli (2010), [R]
Even when the world ends, the Word of God goes on. The Book of Eli may not be for everyone, due to it’s brutal and often unsettling nature; it does, however, offer something that the vast majority of movies do not: a strong Christian worldview. The Bible is acknowledged as the precious and powerful Book that it is, and stirring themes of faith, sacrifice, and redemption abound. Washington gives a terrific performance as the determined hero, and the Hughes Brothers inject the proceedings with intense pacing and brilliant cinematography. Of course, the film is not a perfect – and it shouldn’t be regarded as a comprehensive, Gospel-tract view of the Christian faith. In the end, though, the pros far outweigh the cons. I hope we see more movies like it.

District 9 (2009), [R]
As a rule, films with abundant strong language do not make it onto my list of recommended movies. But I’m going to make an exception here, for the simple reason that District 9 is an exceptional movie. Harsh and brutal though it is, Neill Blomkamp’s envisioning of the “alien vs. human” scenario offers an intensely powerful story of redemption and self-sacrifice; by proxy, it is also a thoughtful exploration of mass persecution, segregation, and genocide. The premise is brilliantly conceived and executed, the technical details are stunning, and Sharlto Copley’s performance is one of the best I’ve ever seen. In short, District 9 is a combination of potent allegory, ambitious sci-fi action, and emotionally-wrenching drama – and the result is nothing short of breathtaking. In the words of one critic, this is “science fiction as it was meant to be: intelligent and challenging.”

The Next Three Days (2010), [PG-13]
Tightly-crafted, highly suspenseful, and boasting a powerful performance by Russell Crowe, The Next Three Days is a thought-provoking crime thriller that asks, “How far would you go to save someone you love? What lines would you cross to get there?”. From a Christian perspective, the answers given are not all the right ones, but there’s plenty of weighty stuff to chew on nonetheless. It was also refreshing to see family and marriage portrayed as eminently precious things, things to be fought for, not given up on. If only that view were more prevalent in today’s society.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), [PG-13]
A refreshingly unapologetic pro-American thrill ride. You don’t wanna miss this one. It boasts fine acting, superb visual effects, a dash of humor, plenty of imaginative action, and a slick retro vibe with sci-fi gizmos galore. Best of all, Steve Rogers makes for a hero who is genuinely heroic through and through. There’s no doubt about it: Captain America is the best movie of 2011, and possibly one of the greatest superhero films ever made. To quote another critic, “Hating on Captain America just isn’t American. Go ahead and move to Canada; I’m sure they have some magical Mountie who’s thwarting evil loggers.”

13 Assassins (2010), [R]
There’s one brief scene of non-sexual nudity (easily skipped), but on the whole, this movie is a deeply stirring tale of courage and sacrifice. It’s about good men taking a stand for justice even when the odds are stacked against them. The story is intelligently told, exceptionally well-paced, and executed with a dazzling panache, and the acting is top-notch from the entire cast. But my review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the climactic battle sequence: a masterful 45-minute ordeal of gritty sword-slashing mayhem. The choreography is nothing short of jaw-dropping. To quote another critic, “Does Guinness World Records have an entry for longest on-screen fight? If it doesn’t, Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins just set it. And if a record actually exists, Miike’s film just broke it.”

I Am Legend (2007), [PG-13]
I’ve seen this one multiple times, and after each viewing, I always reach the same conclusion: I Am Legend truly is an under-appreciated gem in the realm of science fiction. The story may be grim, but it’s also exceptionally beautiful, and overflowing with profound biblical themes. Director Lawrence’s computer-generated rendering of a decaying Manhatten, NY is extraordinary and Will Smith carries the entire film on his shoulders, turning in one of the finest performances of his career as the lonely but determined Neville.

Win Win (2011), [R]
A dramedy of the highest order, with genuine humor and pathos. It’s about love, forgiveness, and life; about making mistakes, owning up to them, and doing the right thing the next time around. It also presents a superb picture of how subtly we often justify our own self-interest by telling ourselves that we’re just “doing the right thing.” The script is brilliant, the characters are quirky and believable, and the cast is flawless. Do yourself a favor and check it out – it’s a winner all the way.

Read part one and part two of this list. And if you’ve got any recommendations of your own, be my guest and leave a comment – whether you’re a guy or a gal!

Great Guy Movies (Pt. II)

If you have not read part one, and are thoroughly lost or confused as to the purpose of this post… do yourself a favor and click here.

Black Hawk Down (2001), [R]
Based on the book by Mark Bowden. Detailed, factual, and sticking closely to its source material, Black Hawk Down triumphs not only as a gripping story of camaraderie and courage, but also as a raw, unflinching depiction of modern warfare. The acting, cinematography, and directing are all top-notch, and the battle sequences are stunning in terms of sheer realism and authenticity. Above all, much like Saving Private Ryan, the film left me with an even deeper appreciation for the bravery and sacrifice of our troops.

Defiance (2008), [R]
Based on a true story, Defiance is one of the best, most underrated pictures of 2008. The historical accuracy of the film, though not perfect, is surprisingly good, and the performances of Daniel Craig and Liev Schrieber are spectacular. The story is well-told, intensely thrilling, and also thought-provoking, leaving the viewer with plenty to think about long after the end credits roll. Pretty much a must-see film, especially for guys.

Valkyrie (2009), [PG-13]
Valkyrie is a factual, unpretentious, and straightforward tale of heroism and sacrifice, revolving around the last attempt to assasinate Adolph Hitler. History tells us the assaination plot failed, and that Hitler committed suicide months later – but that doesn’t stop this movie from being as taut and suspenseful as any thriller.

The Lost Battalion (2001), [NR]
Notwithstanding its made-for-television origins, this A&E production is an exceptional war film. Rising above cliched storytelling and run-of-the-mill plot devices, it vividly portrays the horrors of war and the “never say die” attitude of the men who fought in such extreme conditions. The performances are solid all around, the history is accurate, and the battle sequences are tightly shot, impressively staged, and brutally realistic, in the tradition of other greats like Saving Private Ryan. And although copious amounts of strong language are staple in most of today’s war movies, the script for The Last Battalion is, for the most part, refreshingly devoid of unwanted obscenities.

Hotel Rwanda (2005), [PG-13]
This powerful, inspiring film tells the true story of Paul Rusesabagina’s courageous stance against the savagery and violence that occurred during the 1994 Rwandan conflict. If you haven’t seen it, you really must. Don Cheadle gives the performance of his career as the protagonist, a man who has only his wit and willpower to protect himself, his family… and 1,200 refugees.

Taken (2009), [PG-13]
Pierre Morel’s Taken is a harsh movie. It’s violent. And it’s very unsettling. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it. Amid the brutality is the powerful story of a father who loves his daughter so much he’s willing to fight to protect her life and purity. He doesn’t give up, he doesn’t back down, until she is safely in his arms again. And he doesn’t negotiate with bad guys. This isn’t to say the film’s ethics are flawless, and there is one particular scene in which I think Neeson’s character crossed the line. Everything considered, however, the good qualities of Taken more than redeem it, making it a worthwhile choice for those in search of a thought-provoking action thriller with plenty of grit.

Collateral (2004), [R]
Michael Mann’s gritty crime thriller is an excellent film that requires your brain to come along for the ride. And it’s a ride you won’t soon forget. Thanks to a smart script, stellar plotting, and the raw performances of Cruise and Foxx, there’s ample opportunity for rich, thoughtful character studies that will provoke plenty of intelligent discussion long after the film is over.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962), [PG-13]
Based on the novel by Richard Condon. The Manchurian Candidate is, in my opinion, one of the greatest political thrillers ever made. After watching it, all I could think was, “Wow.” Brilliant performances by Lansbury, Sinatra, and Harvey lend even more gravity to the already chilling storyline. I was literally on the edge of my seat during the entire film – especially during the final scenes, which add new meaning to the word “intense”.

Amazing Grace (2006), [PG]
Based on the true story of William Wilberforce and his passionate, never-say-die struggle to abolish the slave trade, Amazing Grace is one of those films that will have you on your feet cheering at the end. Despite a uniformly excellent cast, Ioan Gruffudd stands head and shoulders above them all – his portrayal of Wilberforce is something to see.

A Man Called Peter (1955), [NR]
Based on the book by Catherine Marshall, A Man Called Peter is a superb depiction of the life of Peter Marshall, an immigrant Scotsman who eventually became Chaplain of the U.S. Senate. A quick-witted, fiery preacher, he was a man who stood by his convictions, and who sought to serve God in every way he could… and God used him mightily because of it.

Once again, got any favorites/recommendations of your own? If so, be my guest and share ’em down in the comments section, whether you’re a guy or a gal.