Reviewed by: Tim Curran
CONTRIBUTOR—first time reviewer
What is a NAZARITE? Answer
Who is SAMSON? Answer
Who is MANOAH? Answer
Who is DELILAH? Answer
Who were the PHILISTINES? Answer
Who is BALAK? Answer
What is FAITH? Answer
What is the BOOK OF JUDGES? Answer
|Featuring:||Taylor James … Samson
Rutger Hauer … Manoah—father of Samson
Lindsay Wagner … Zealphonis—wife of Manoah and mother of Samson
Billy Zane … King Balek
Caitlin Leahy … Delilah
Jackson Rathbone … Rallah
Frances Sholto-Douglas … Taren
Greg Kriek … Caleb
Ares Afonso … Beaten Up Hebrew
Sven Ruygrok … Orum
Lily Spangenberg … Tobia's Daughter
James Ryan … Tobias
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|Director:||Bruce Macdonald—“The Perfect Wave” (2015)|
|Producer:||Pure Flix Productions
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Pure Flix Entertainment
“Chosen. Betrayed. Redeemed.”
Given that a mere four chapters of the Bible are devoted to the account of Samson and the tendency of the previous biographical films covering this Israelite Judge’s life and death to take unnecessary liberties with Scripture, I was a bit skeptical about this movie’s nearly two-hour length. On the other hand, the brevity of Bible verses that are related to God’s strongman doesn’t leave much for a moviemaker to work with, which requires some understandable fleshing out of the bare bones material contained in The Word. So, as I seated myself in the nearly empty theater, I was also ready to give some space to Pureflix’s production.
The average Christian who is familiar with Samson’s life will recognize many of the scenes in this movie as directly paralleling the Bible account. The film opens with the famous Nazarite already full-grown, choosing not to include his miraculous birth to a barren woman. From there it touches on each of the most well-known details of Samson’s life—his fight with a lion, the slaughter of a thousand Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone, and Delilah’s infamous betrayal.
Those who know Samson’s story, also understand that it contains some very violent and disturbing parts, as well as mature material not considered suitable to be included in the typical children’s version of God’s Word. Therefore, parents will certainly be hesitant about this film, uncertain as to what they’d like to expose their kids to. So, I’ve detailed the content that may be considered a concern.
Violence: The subject matter requires that the brutality be both necessary and quite heavy in order to accurately portray the life of Samson. The Philistines are portrayed as ruthless and merciless, especially the extra-Biblical character Rallah, the prince, who is shown to repeatedly order the execution of defenseless people. Characters are killed off suddenly, though usually with little to no blood or gore. A man fights with a lion in a bloodless contest that ends with the sound of the beast’s neck snapping. Samson has numerous battles with the Philistines, using his bare fists to kill many adversaries and uses the jawbone in the longest scene.
The God-given strength of the Nazarite is depicted as being such that a single blow is all that is necessary to dispatch each enemy, thus eliminating any drawn out and painful misery. One Philistine’s neck is broken quickly and without graphic effect. Two characters are thrown off a city wall, but their bodies are not seen afterward. A number of people are stabbed with swords, but the camera conveys these in close-up fashion, so the actual act is mostly offscreen and without any splattering of blood. A character is beaten, punched and whipped. A bloody bag is seen and a character opens it, allowing for the barest glimpse of a severed head, but a simple blink of the eye could easily miss the view. In the destruction of the Philistine temple, people are crushed by falling stones.
The most graphic, violent and disturbing scene is that of Samson’s eyes being burned out with a red-hot sword tip. The buildup to this sequence is obvious and will allow parents the opportunity to choose whether their children should view it or not before the act is carried out on screen.
There are numerous intense and potentially frightening scenes in the movie that could scare younger viewers, especially the battles and most notably the jawbone one which is extended and shot partly in slow-motion. Characters are threatened with violence and death constantly. Dead soldiers are seen continuously, but lack any blood and gore.
Profane language: Thankfully this film refrains from even a single crude or foul word. There are also zero misuses of the Lord’s name.
Nudity: Samson is seen shirtless a few times, starting with the donkey’s jawbone battle. In the final temple scene, Samson wears nothing but a large loincloth, but his body is only seen intermittently.
Sex: There are four instances of people kissing. None of these lead to any other physical contact . A man mentions that a woman has “kept her virtue” because of Samson’s protection from the Philistines. A man says that a woman is “pleasing to the eye.” Three girls are freed from a camp of Philistines, and it is implied they were sexual slaves. A man is unknowingly approached by a Madam who invites him to stay at her tavern. A short shot pans over the revelers inside a whorehouse, but nothing objectionable is shown and the prostitutes are modestly garbed. A man tells another that he can’t “go from bed to bed.” A woman is possibly supposed to be a man’s lover, but this is not explicitly implied. There are no bedroom scenes.
Overall, much of what I’ve listed here will go over the heads of younger children, as the sexual references are quite mild.
As should be expected in any film that is based on the Bible, there is a plethora of material from which the viewer can learn valuable lessons.
The futility and emptiness of trusting pagan gods like Dagon are portrayed, with much of the dialog revolving around the Philistines invoking their false deity to help them, only to be disappointed. The triumph of the One True God is contrasted to this, with Samson always overcoming with the supernatural strength given him by the Lord. As a Christian, I found this to be a very inspirational aspect of the film, offering to believers the comfort that God will never suffer defeat at the hand of any false god or even the Devil himself.
True Biblical love is portrayed between Samson and the woman from Timnath that he chose for his wife, as well as chasteness between unmarried persons. Samson proposes marriage, following God’s commands to avoid fornication.
The seriousness of our vows before God is covered in detail, as well as the remorse and repentant feelings that one has from breaking these oaths. Consequences of going back on one’s word are shown, reflecting accurately that wrong actions will include a backlash against he who commits them.
The strongest theme that runs throughout the entire movie is that of desiring and seeking God’s Will in our lives, and the struggle we all deal with in finding it and choosing whether to or not to follow His directing. Samson is seen in despair and depression, acknowledging the difficulty of doing what God would have him to do, rather than following his own desires. Godly sorrow and guilt are displayed regarding Samson’s choices to not adhere to the Lord’s Will. This message will resonate with many viewers as it did with me, because I can relate very well to the struggle of waiting, finding and then aligning ourselves with God’s wishes for our life.
The wicked Philistine prince wishes to gain Samson’s supernatural strength and is told he must acknowledge the One True God and humble himself before Him. ***SPOILER***He rejects this and later suffers the consequence of his sinful pride and unrepentant heart. ***END SPOILER***
Also correctly conveyed is the utter futility of opposing God and how all the plans of God’s enemies come to naught. It contrasts this by showing that the Lord is able to work through even a broken vessel of clay like Samson who ends up with so many issues due to his disobedience and flouting of God’s Will. This latter point is one that brings hope to the viewer, revealing that the Lord can use any of us and that even if we think we’ve failed, the Almighty won’t give us up. This brings true peace to the fearful heart that trembles at failure before God.
In conclusion, I feel that Pureflix has done an excellent job in bringing this Biblical account to the big screen, at least quality-wise. The filming is spectacular, the CGI is tasteful and not too obvious. The acting equals the moviemaking quality, making this a worthwhile Christian film—the budget of which obviously was used wisely.
As for Scriptural accuracy, I’d say the movie is about 90% so. Nearly all the dialog is scriptwriter created and certain points from the Bible are morphed to make the storyline flow smoothly. Unfortunately, some details are changed that have quite an effect on the account overall, like the portrayal that Delilah and not Samson’s wife was the one who tipped off the Philistines about his riddle, and the idea that the Nazarite strongman was deceived into visiting a whorehouse in Gaza, when the Bible seems to strongly imply that he was fully aware of who he was with and where he was. Other little things are off, like Samson giving his wedding guests only twenty-four hours rather than a week to solve his riddle or the depiction of only one instead of three times that Samson tricks Delilah about the source of his supernatural strength.
I feel comfortable in recommending this movie to others simply for the lack of objectionable content and due to the inspiring messages one can glean from it. It was very exhilarating to watch Samson defeat his foes, calling on the true power Source in the universe, the Lord Almighty. This portrayal of the spiritual warfare between God and Satan’s gods in such a visual way is rarely seen today and is awesome to witness.
It is my fear that this movie on the life of one of God’s greatest warriors will meet with little enthusiasm among Christians who have saturated themselves in this culture’s obsession with modern day superheroes, as Samson’s feats with God’s help might seem like nothing when compared to Superman or Spider-Man. We must remember not to be so caught up in the fictional fantasy of this world that we forget the amazing accounts and miracles that are recorded in the Bible for our benefit. May we not be awed by the false powers in fiction and numbed to the very REAL power that God can bestow on any of his followers, if we have but the faith of a mustard seed.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.