For an in-depth commentary, see this
by Chuck, a pastor
Pastor Jack Hayford
Comments received from others
“THE APOSTLE” tells the story of a preacher who—at the film’s beginning—thought himself to be bigger than any church (look at his reaction to being forced out of the pulpit)…and then, in the film’s overwhelmingly touching conclusion, realizes that God’s church is infinitely more important than any one man (look at how he—as the police are leading him away, he stops to make certain the church he and the others started WILL GO ON). Sonny’s weaknesses aside, this message is one that we have never seen come out of a mainstream Hollywood movie yet, and may never see again. It’s a message worth getting.
Shane Dodson, age 28
I thoroughly enjoyed “The Apostle.” My wife and I went on opening night. As others have said, it was a healing experience. Having had some some damaging experiences in pentecostal/charismatic churches, it reminded me of the validity of that expression of Christianity.
Reading some of the negative reviews, I feel sorry for those people because they seem to have neither an accurate view of themselves, humanity or the nature of GOD’s redemption through JESUS Christ. That’s what this film is about. E.F. knew that he could never abandon the truth of who JESUS is, nor his “calling.” This was his struggle. As far as his flaws go, has anyone never read the book of Judges? As far as the acting of Mr. Duvall, I have been a fan of his for years; I don’t know why people seem so surprised! For those who enjoyed his acting in this story, I highly recommend Tender Mercies.
Robert C. Fullerton, age 41
I absolutely agree that it was tough to decide whether this movie was good Christian publicity (only good things can come when the Gospel is preached) or if it was a slap to the collective Christian face. I have decided, though, that the former is true. The best part of this movie is the fact that EF is REAL.
So often we hold our pastors to this standard that we are not willing to follow ourselves. The BETTER part, though, is that he acknowledges and takes responsibility for his crimes (in the end) without grumbling or giving up on God. If the point of this movie was to slam Christians—EF would ditched God and fled when he knew the police were after him (he may have kept on moving). So, overall, I think this movie illustrates the humanity of Christians and shows that we are not perfect, just forgiven!
We hated this movie for two reasons, one carnal and one spiritual. Yes, I will explain. First, let me say that I consider Robert Duval the greatest actor in history, and have since my teens. But even his compelling screen presence and skill could not save this BORING movie. It was excessively dull and pointless and plodding, so much so that I would have gladly paid 20$ to have NOT seen it. And this is a subject that we are REALLY INTERESTED in—as it is OUR FAITH.
Yet still, this was an excruciatingly tedious and sluggish film. Every scene seemed to be 50% too long. Can we be the only ones to have noticed this? But on to the spiritual point. Even within the church it is grieving to see precious spiritual reality being “sermonized” into showy presentations that lack actualization and honesty. The truth is besmirched by those who speak of the holy ways of God as if mere “topics” to be “arranged” and gesticulated into a bromide. Surely every believer has at least once heard a sermon “as from God” and can tell the difference of the “spirit and truth” vs. just the words (even if true) with no power?
If play-acting is bad enough within the body, then what about pure-acting? To hear of my God spoken of with such exceptional human verve (Robert Duval, after all)… but in such absence of His Spirit… was vivid torture for me. Perhaps I am oversensitive in this area, for some Christians are much less vexed by human showmanship and affectation. But, after seeing this movie, I am convinced that one cannot “act” an anointed sermon, although Robert did better than many actors in the pulpit today. This, I suspect, is the answer to “WHY” the movie was made.
Robert has dreamed of preaching for a long time—since he saw these real guys and admired them in the flesh. How else was he going to get his chance? A pulpit has never been so expensive for either the pulpiteer nor his hapless congregation. Give me a man with 1/100th the personality or charm—but with the real fire of God in him—any day over even ROBERT DUVAL aping the form of things. Perhaps we can learn something from this. Ichabod is to be lamented, not celebrated.
Dean and Laura Van Druff, seen with Don and Stacy Wallace (from 24-39)
I really didn’t like this movie. what it said to me was. Do what the lord wants you to until you want to do something else for a moment then go back to the lord. The apostle killed someone, tried to commit adultry and would have if the lady gave in. Sure he lead a few to the lord in the movie but if you give your WHOLE self God He can bring 1000’s even millions to him through you. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS MOVIE.
Sam, age 27
I wanted to jump up and down praising God, after watching this film. There is a very strong evangelistic message in this film. This is the first time I can remember that Christians were shown in a positive light… There is a violent scene early in the film, which I strongly suggest you avoid by closing your eyes when Sonny walks onto the softball field. Sonny also dates and kisses a separated woman, while estranged from his wife. I highly recommend this film for your non-Christian friends. This is a story of an imperfect man who redeems himself, showing God’s love for his fellow brothers and sisters. I would cautiously recommend this film for Christian adult audiences who can remember that this is only a film.
Dave Martin, age 37
We went to see the The Apostle last weekend. Out of four of us, two thought it was in poor taste and were very disappointed that Sonny did not show any repentance. They felt his sin was not dealt with appropriately. One agreed with the first two but could see some redeeming qualities in the worship scenes. I would have liked to see the sin dealt with a bit more obviously but I still enjoyed the movie.
I, also, that the more I thought about it and talked about it, the more subtle the message was. Sonny did acknowledge that he lost his wife, kids and, by the end two churches, due to his sin. (He also lost the joy of discipleship as the mechanic that loved him so was not converted till the night he was arrested.) At the very least, as has been proved by all the comments here, this movie will stir up conversations. And if people are talking about it, they are talking about Jesus. And if the Christians are on their toes, they will have many opportunities to witness. And the glory goes to our God!
M. Schlein, age 36
As a Presbyterian who was raised Baptist but along the way as a musician have experienced many forms of worship, this movie reminded me how powerful are the songs that many people regard as simple or old-fashioned. I agree that repentence should have been emphasized more. I loved the acting especially by the many real people that were used and by the black minister as he tried to trust God but figure Sonny out at the same time. In this day of easy divorce and running away from problems, I was concerned over his abandonment of his beauties.
Too many kids have been abandoned by self-seeking parents. Saying all that, I felt like this was an honest representation of a way of worship and belief that may call many more into the Kingdom than some may like to believe. Duvall was superb and the “simple” people much deeper than most would imagine. And Jesus got focus even in prison. I LOVED the work scene at the end. Someone who IS called by God cannot escape that calling, no matter how flaed the human being that He is using. If we are honest, we could wonder why he uses any of us.
Susan, age 44
I cringed while reading [the] movie review of “The Apostle.” Having grown up in the Pentecostal church as I did and still being a part of it as both a Sunday School teacher and evangelical scholar, there is nothing sacreligious about this movie at all… Closing ourselves off in pious indignation does little but add to the problem. We need to realize our mistakes before we fix them.
I found watching The Apostle to be a healing experience. Having come from a background where Pentecostal fervor was high and personal accountability was low, I have a deep personal dread of the whole “tent revival let’s just praise Jesus scene.” I also have a lot of painful unanswered questions about the actual relationship of God’s spirit to the behaviors of people, especially my family, during my years of growing up in that sort of atmosphere.
My perception of the movie was that Sonny was just a real person with a very real faith. A faith that can make a difference in someones' life, but only to the extent that a person is willing. Although Sonny’s true character was always somewhat ambiguous and out of reach to my judgment, the fruit of the spirit that came out of his desire to serve God was clear and tangible in the lives of those around him. I have discovered a similar truth in my own search to know God: though I remain human, full of deep flaws, and though my process personal change and growth is slow and often painful, God’s grace in my life and ministry is abundant, clear, and by contrast to my own limited goodness, even miraculous. I came away from the film with a clearer perspective on my past—people of great faith are still only people.
People are flawed and can hurt and disappoint. When they hurt and disappoint in the name of God that is tragic, foolish and even laughable at times. In the midst of this God is still working. We may try to smear that work with our own mistakes and quirks, but God’s work and grace are pure and unmistakable gifts that can change the world around us for the better. In our careful, enlightened and politically correct culture it is a danger at times that we try to explain God’s grace away, or tone God’s spirit down a bit. It is refreshing for me to see someone with such unabashed faith.
It is, also, a little frightening to see someone so real, so capable of doing damage to other’s lives, and so recognizable from my own life. And yet I left the film comforted. I guess my comfort is in the knowledge that God’s grace is bigger than any of our hearts, and that grace can and does bring healing.
Much has already been made of Robert Duval’s extraordinary talents in producing and acting in the Apostle. Enough said—he is one of the best. I agree with Jack Hayford that the film depicts an element of American Christianity (Southern Pentacostalism) in an accurate fashion. This culture does exist and the film is reasonably fair with this. The preaching and conversation seldom get far beyond the basics of the gospel and there is a certain shallowness to the brand of faith presented. However, the faith is not mocked. And the believers are sincere.
The key to the film is the depiction of Duval’s “Apostle” as having more personality than spirituality. He is overdeveloped in assertiveness and underdeveloped in character. This leads to his downfall. The film serves as a good warning to all those in ministry that “the elders of the church must be above reproach.”
If there are still pockets of Christianity in America that honor pastors and evangelists because of personal magnitism and drive rather than character and spiritual depth then this film is a good word. I do not think Christians will find this film offensive, although it will be disturbing and thought provoking. Duval clearly understands the gospel and real life conversion experiences. So some rare things are present in this film by Hollywood’s usual standards.
Pastor Jeff, age 41
I think the reviews of the Apostle, especially that of Jack Hayford’s, may be the first time Christians have been honest about their viewing of a so-called “Christian” Hollywood film. Personally as a Christian, I try hard to stay away from Christian produced films. They tend to be too stereotypical and shallow. And in those instances when Hollywood makes great attempts in portraying Christianity, the status quo Christian view is not supportive or,… dishonest.
Case in point, Franco Zefferelli’s Jesus of Nazareth. Three hours of Jesus, with not one of His words not found in the Gospel. Not only is the film a fabulous production, it stays closer scripturally than most films of its type (the film even comes with a scripture study guide). Yet, for some odd reason the Christian establishment seems to reject this while supporting films that don’t come nearly as close in production value, or scriptural basis (i.e. “King of Kings,” “The Ten Commandments,” “Jesus,” etc.)
As Jack Hayford points out maybe we should think more about film re-newing, and supporting Hollywood films, instead of reviewing and harping on the trash that comes out of Hollywood. I think we as Christians had better become a lot wiser in our approach to the world, and be sure not to send mixed messages. Even now, we are in a tantrum about holding up the president because of sexual immorality accusations. Many of us can’t find anything good to say about the man. While at the same time, you can’t find a children’s bible or, Christian reader, that does not hold up David as a hero. The same David, that lied (feigning insanity), married more than one woman, murdered a man to cover his sin of sleeping with his wife, etc., The “Apostle” may be an opening for us all to be honest.
What about repentance? Isn’t that part of the salvation message? As long as your quoting scripture it’s OK to continue in your sinful ways?? Even my fourteen yearold had these same questions. We were both mortified.
My husband and I saw it about two weeks ago and I still can’t help talk about it. Everyone I speak with I tell them thad they have to go see this movie, “The Apostle.” I was so blessed in seeing this movie where our Jesus Christ was lifted up. During the movie I felt like I was in our church and I verbally agreed with the people on screen as they said “Amen.” Man does not easily forgive but God does, when one comes to Him with a repentive heart.
In the movie the preacher (“Sonny”) wasn’t shown as a perfect man. God is the only One that is perfect. Though Sonny was continuely talking to the Lord and lifting Him up! This is a movie that all people should see. Whenever there is a movie made that raises up the Name of Jesus Christ, us Christians should back that movie up with prayer and with us going to see it. If you truly want to be blessed, I challenge you to go see this movie. Remember Always that Jesus is Lord.
Debbie E., age 43
What a surprise to fine a movie with a strong Christian message brought fourth in by Hollywood. As I have heard Mr. Duvall interviewed he said that there were 7 conversions by cast and crew in the making of this film. Sonny was so very human. I have known Pastors like him. He was subject to temptations of the flesh. We all are and ministers called by God fight temptations same as the rest of us. Sonny was a (Hoot) to say the least.
You know he did state toward the close of this film that he knew he needed to serve his time for the crime he had committed, however God would use him in prison. You can’t compare him to Billy Graham, but few can compare to Rev. Graham. There were messages of God’s love and forgiveness through out this very well made film. Duvall used non actors, people who worship the Lord in the same way that this film depicted. The fact that
has been nominated for an Oscar is wonderful and if he should win, or the very fact he has been nominated is a nomination for the Gospel of Jesus. This did not depict the perfect Christian, but who among us can stand up with a handful of stones. My favorite seen is when Sonny puts the Bible down in front of the Tractor. Faith—total Faith.
Ruthann Weathersby, age 58
While my brother and I are both Christians; he 33 and I 42, we both came away with different observations regarding “The Apostle.” He said at times he felt the Lord’s presence during the movie, however, I came away totally grieved at the hypocracy and undealt with indwelling sin in Sonny.
To me, Sonny is a prime example of why the world is so turned off and tuned out to Christianity. Sonny needed to confess and make himself accountable to other mature Christian men. If he had done so, maybe the heinous sin of murder could have been prevented. He was in no spiritual condition (in my opinion) to be in any kind of leadership position. His life showed a grievous lack of holiness and integrity throughout the whole movie.
While he appeared to talk to the Lord at times, his actions proved he was quite spiritually immature in his relationship with the Lord. Any life in such spiritual disarray brings reproach on the Lord, not glory. The way I saw it, Sonny’s spiritual condition was much like Sampson and Solomon's… he had shipwrecked.
Linda Winner, age 42
My wife and I went to see “The Apostle” not knowing any thing about it. We both were very pleased with the content of the movie. An amazing work from an amazing actor. It carried honesty and depth with the script, plot and characters. And the best thing is that it was accurate.
As I watched “The Apostle,” I was reminded of the Kingdom’s upside-down principles about who is greatest or least and I loved the simple faith that many of the characters had. Sonny could have been right out of the Bible. His relationship with God was genuine and personal.
I loved watching him pray when he was “alone” in his despair or joy. He was a man of vision, acknowledging his own sins and limitations, but never losing sight of God’s work through Christ. That may have been one of the first movies that I can recall that stated the Gospel message so honestly if not through works, through words of “genuine” people. It was great to see these people portrayed accurately and not mocked.
I’m praying more films like this are made—and less of the pseudo-religious-Hollywood nonsense like “Michael” or “Dear God”—the Post Office one. I would recommend this film to adults, preferably ones who are older in their faith, so the subtleties of the film won’t be lost.
Steve Skibbie, age 32
While watching the movie “The Apostle,” I was reminded of the evangelicals in the writings of Flannery O'Connor. However flawed or funny they are as human beings, O'Connor means for them to speak the gospel, the truth, as she understood it. It’s interesting that O'Connor, a devout Catholic, could understand and use Southern evangelicals to dramatize such truths as a measure of the human beings in her fiction. My gratitude to
and a nigh perfect cast for a wonderful experience.
Arlie Herron, age 70
Last night my husband and I saw the film, “The Apostle.” We left with very mixed emotions. Several times during the movie I was deeply moved and had tears well up in my eyes, and a lump in my throat. To me it showed the difference between the message (the Word of God), and the deliverer of that message.
Even though Sonny (EF) was living a lie (of identity) in La., the Word of God that he preached was the power of salvation. I felt that the christians portrayed in the movie had more biblical integrity that the Preacher, and sensed a realism and sincerity in their acting.
was an excellent actor in this part, and the church members acting was also very realistic. What left us feeling very sad, was the thought that there were probably many preachers like Sonny in this world, who are called of God, but are missing the joy, freedom and deliverance in their own personal lives.
The gifts and callings of God are without repentance, so God still works through people who are sinning, but thinking that they can get away with it, but this movie did show that is the love of God to expose our sin, so that it can be delt with, and our lives can truly receive healing from the Lord. I would have liked to have seen Sonny turn himself in after he confessed to the Pastor, instead of biding the time until they found him.
D.F. age 40
After watching “The Apostle” I had trouble believing that Hollywood could put out such a picture. Then I figured it out! Hollywood thought Mr. Duvall was acting. PTL
Steven G. Hanson, age 49
We thoroughly enjoyed this movie; it was probably the best movie I’ve seen in several years. What makes Duvall’s work so appealing is that the characters are _real_. So many times I wanted to tell the Duvall character that he was mistake, but he was acting as humans do. If you want to go to a movie that will give you something to talk about afterward, this is the one.
Eric, age 44
I came away from this movie feeling the same way that our fellow reviewer Mark Gilman felt-what was the point of that? Does anyone know the point of that movie? If it’s true that he has wanted to do that movie and that script for 13 years then why. I came away thinking that niether the script nor the storyline had a point. In fact one of the only things that I found to be endearing about the film was the consistently amazing acting of
(certainly one of the best kept secrets in all of Hollywood). If the point was to show just how of this world a preacher can be then I don’t need to be told that.
And another thing that gets me is maybe he knew Jesus Christ (or maybe not
) but he sure did seem to act on his own volition. Sure we all fantasize about really doing things like leaving possessions behind and packing up and going with God but I doubt most of us imagine making a man comatose before we leave. Hello whatever happened to consequences? And the whole scene when the church layed down their bibles and were trying to use that as a threat against the guy on the bulldozer-what?!
As if God dwells in a book (
). How irrelevant would that have been for the man to trample those bibles published by Nelson, translated by so and so, updated by whoever… God cares about whether or not that man is rightly related to Himself; not how much sacriledge the man engages in. Oh well, I guess I just have a hard time getting excited about shadows of the Truth and that’s what this film was-a shadow.
Jeremiah Cowart, age 22
I can relate a lot to “The Apostle.” I certainly would like to see
testimony of conversion to Christianity (if such applies). Let me say at the onset that you will miss at least one good ingredient of this film if you leave before the credits are completely done: the film continues on after fading into the credits, and the final song by Lyle Lovett caught me nearly dancing in the aisles.
I suppose I was more bothered overall by the murder in the film than I was by the overall film itself. Yet there were so many noteworthy scenes: the conversion and comment to the police officer at the car accident scene, the receptionist of the radio station being jarred in her spirit by Sonny’s radio air time, the conversion and the tears of the young auto mechanic as Sonny leaves, and of course the bulldozer scene. I would have to say that this film “The Apostle” is a good cross between the films “The Eye Of God,” starring
, and “Leap of Faith,” starring
Beyond that I must admit, I prayed during the film for those in the theatre, and against the sordid credits of previews before the film. I have heard a rumor that this film was banned from Hollywood, and Duvall produced it on his own, aside from Hollywood, …If this be true, then how could he be nominated for Best Actor / re: Academy Awards? Regardless, God’s Word will not return to Him void, and whether Christ be preached (filmed?) out of mixture, I will rejoice that He is preached. Halleluiah. Amen.
(Procrastinators: beware: This film may not be in the theatres long, and who knows if it will become readily available as video purchase material?)
Thomas Ashley Young
My husband and I loved the film. What a surprise to fine a Hollywood movie depicting the Gospel of Jesus without ridicule. Yes, Sonny was imperfect—he was a sinner who loved The Lord. He was punished for his sins, but he was also forgiven. He is shown as a man of Faith—Placing the Bible on the ground in front of the bulldozer—my favorite scene. Sonny was a “hoot” to say the least.
Pastors are human—I’ve know a few like him. No he is not a Billy Graham (my favorite) but few are. Duvall has said that he filled the cast with non actors—people who worship the Lord who brought realism to the film. He also stated that there were seven conversions of cast and crew in the making of this film. May God bless Duvall for believing in the Gospel of Jesus and for making this film, “The Apostle.”
As Christians we all come from different places, and few among us can stand ready with a handful of stones. Love and Forgiveness were the stars of this film. I really hope that Duvall wins an Oscar for his portrayal of Sonny. The very fact that he has been nominated for a Christian based film is more than a positive sign. With all his sins, Sonny loved the Lord and the message of the Gospel came through.
Ruthann Weathersby, age 58
I am a 49 year old black female. I am a licensed minister in a Southern Baptist church in Houston, Texas. I saw “The Apostle” twice. I loved it. It is real, unpretentious, moving and real-life. The pastor of my church told me to see this movie after I shared with him my struggle with God and problems in my calling, my ministry, my life in general.
The movie was expressive of that which I could not express in my own words. Preachers are human beings with all the faults and frailties of human beings. For me, Apostle E.F.’s relationship with the Lord and the Lord’s willingness to use him in spite of his weaknesses speaks volumes to those who think they are “all that” when it comes to righteousness living.
We need Christ whether we think we do or not. And the power is with Him, not with us. We are merely instruments in His great hands. The movie carried a strong message of redemption—E.F. grew, the people in the little church grew, the audience, if receptive, can grow. We are better than we were before we saw the movie.
Even in prison, Sonny is still preaching while quietly accepting punishment for his crime. The power and presence of God was felt throughout. The very fact that the police arrived but waited patiently until E.F. was ready to go, reminded of Elisha’s experience with the enemy army. I felt that there were angels standing outside that church barring the officers' way until the message of redemption had been preached. It’s a great movie!
I read a lot of the reviews before seeing this movie. Most were really good, praising how Christ is portrayed. This movie was not really centered on Jesus. Rather, it was about the main character’s weaknesses (in the first act of the film) and his great victories over these weaknesses (in the second act). With regards to Jesus himself, I have never seen a modern movie so absolutely loving in its regard to Jesus. (I don’t know if that was intentional. I’d like to think it was.)
Jesus is the reason why this man makes the wonderful turn-around he does. This movie is about human imperfection and how this imperfection is greatly lessened by truly having Christ in the life. I walked out of the movie feeling good and energized in my faith. I’ll probably buy this movie when it comes out on video. My final point is this: Christians shouldn’t be offended by this because Christ himself is regarded with love throughout. This is a movie about acceptance and repentance.
Rajeev Mehta, age 22
I have seldom been so entranced by a character as I was in this movie. Duvall is excellent in his realistic portrayal of a preacher who made contact with heavenly fire but never managed to find where the altar was placed. His zeal is unimpeachable even though his character is so terribly flawed. The anger he has toward women in general is the dangling passion that he has never understood and it seems to serve as some sort of accommodation to his service.
Since women are not as “loyal” (read controllable), Sonny divests himself of anything close to a truly intimate relationship with a woman and relies upon his devotion to resolve all of his conflicts.
This is a passionate film with a passionate theme. No excuses are offered but somehow we begin to understand many we have seen or heard in our own lives. We have no excuse for them but it is not impossible to understand how well meaning people get caught into impossible schemes and life patterns. Overall, there is an honoring of the Name and work of Jesus Christ throughout the movie. As abased as this miniter became, it is amazing that God was never blamed for the despicable life he came to lead. What is also amazing is how much good he did as he traveled along. I think that’s what astonishes us most.
Billy Bob Thornton
was excellent and, as always, someone you could not have possibly recognized. I recommend this film highly to anyone!
This was actually a well made movie,
is excellent, It really is about a man who is also a Christian minister who has a rather stormy, if not tragic, home life. He is on the road a lot doing revivals and ministry, however he occasionally strays from the path, as does his wife(Miss Fawcet). However, on this last occasion she asks for a divorce, though she is with another man, from the church, and Sonny(Duvall) is not a happy camper. He has a few drinks and ends up assaulting the boyfriend, he eventually dies for his injury. Duvall travels to Bayou Country and starts a very interesting ministry.
If this all sound very disjointed, it is to an extent, but the movie pulls it all together by the end. There are quite a few unanswered questions in this tale and Sonny is no Billy Graham. But ya' know it was clean and told a story that could very well have taken place. It would see it, but leave the younger ones home. Sonny is a good Minster but certainly in need of some healing of his own. Very long as well 2 and half hours, but it moves well.
is excellent in this movie. The part will never get him an Oscar in seculars Hollywood though.
Mike McCann, age 46
Bar none, this is the best film I have ever seen. I have never cried at a movie before, but I found myself openly weeping at three separate occasions during The Apostle. I don’t claim to know what
actual religious beliefs are, but to see this movie even being made and distributed in a secular world, is remarkable. I NEVER thought I would see anything like it in a movie theater. Duvall’s Sonny character, while indeed fallable (and aren’t we all?), after his redemption, is a humble servant of God. As Apostle E.F., he only chooses to do the work of God.
We find E.F. working different menial jobs in order to get money to finance his new ministry, as a mechanic, ice-cream man, and short order cook. Not only that, he pours his heart and soul into his preaching, and in the movie, he comes off as ultimately one being used of God. To even hear the words “salvation”, “Savior”, “holiness”, and “Holy Spirit” in a movie without being ridiculed or otherwise made fun of, is nothing short of miraculous.
I found this film to be extremely powerful—it has affected my own faith. Sure, there are some questionable scenes (especially in the first 45 minutes), but I would recommend this film to anyone, Christian or athiest. In fact, I believe that every Bible-believing Christian in America should see this film. I think that, once you do, you will be amazed at how we all relate to Duvall’s character. After all, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God—praise Jesus for His redemptive power.
My husband and I thought it was a wonderful movie. It did not put Christianity down, it was done reverently and sincerely. It might be difficult for traditional Christians to accept the shouting, hallelujah experience, but, we think it was very well done and very realistic. The audience we were in were reluctant to leave and continued watching (standing in the ailes) as the crdits were given. Rubert Duval was outstanding in his performance. The conversions were very touching. We think this will reach many people and get the message before people who would not otherwise go to church.
The Apostle clearly was a well made movie. The acting was extraordinary, the directing first-class, and the script was excellent except for a few minor flaws. I don’t understand why the main character (Sonny) was dragged to church as a child by a black woman when his mother was a Christian. Overall, the movie, tells a compelling story of a man who makes the biggest mistake of his life and runs from the trouble it brings.
My major disappointment was that I never got the sense that Sonny repented, but he does convince me of his desire to serve the Lord. Though The Apostle is a wonderful movie in terms of its style and technique, I would not trust its theology. There was little, if any, talk of grace and there was more emphasis placed upon “doing the work of the Lord” than on anything else.
Considering the content of the movie, particularly in the life of Sonny, the Apostle, I believe there should have been more talk about sin. He was a man not abovre reproach. He was a self admitted womanizer who shouts at God in his prayers, saying, “I love you, Lord, but I’m mad at you!” His wife, no saint either, succeeds in dethroning him from his pulpit while carrying on an affair with the church’s youth minister, who takes over as pastor after Sonny’s demise.
One of the movie’s most disturbing scenes shows Sonny baptizing himself in a river. He exclaims, “I baptize myself as your Apostle, Lord, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,” and as he raises himself out of the river after his second burial, “and in the name of Jesus Christ.” The most redeeming scene in the movie is when the town’s persecutor, played by
Billy Bob Thornton
, comes to bulldoze the Apostle’s new church, which he builds after his “fall from grace.” The Christians valiantly stand their ground and refuse to let the destruction occur. Apostle E.F., as he has taken to calling himself, places a Bible in front of the bulldozer while proclaiming the destruction that comes upon those who trample upon the word of the Lord. In a most compelling scene, the Apostle and his flock win the iconoclast over to God’s side in one of the most moving scenes of repentance and conversion I have ever witnessed. Then, we never see or hear from the new convert again.
captures the spirit of pentecostalism quite well and those of that persuasion will love it.
Those who believe in salvation by grace alone will wonder why all the screaming and yelling about Jesus is so appealing. While there is a lot of preaching, there are no sermons concerning practical Christian living. There is one altar call and lots of prayer. Emotionalism is the main theme for worship.
I would not recommend it for new believers and children unless accompanied by a more knowledgable Bible authority who can explain the errors in Sonny’s teaching and the movie’s depiction of Christianity. Nonbelievers will get the wrong idea about what it means to be a Christian. The movie should be seen only by the most mature and theologically grounded.
Allen Taylor, age 31
I went and saw The Apostle knowing nothing about it. The people I saw the movie with all thought there was no purpose to the movie, but I would have to disagree. I believe that this movie serves as an opportunity to show that God works through anyone He can to get his message about Christ out—even if it means using an ill-tempered old man accused of murder.
The great thing about this story is that despite the fact that he has ruined his life, Sonny continues to fulfill his calling and works to change the lives of a small community in need of the Gospel. True, Sonny is not perfect. But I have to wonder… who on this Earth is?
Peter Wright, age 22
Overall, I enjoyed this movie. It explored what happens when a true believer (as Duvall’s character makes plain in the opening scene) walks in the flesh and not in the Spirit. The character is NOT made out to be a money-grubbing, self-seeking televangelist, merely a simple man bent on following God’s “call” even if he gets side-tracked by sin from time to time.
How you feel about this movie depends on your belief system. A believer will appreciate and applaud the obvious presentation of the gospel message (“Trust in Jesus!,” Sonny screams) and how he continues to do the work of ministering to people no matter the circumstance in which he finds himself (the final scene after the credits was a wonderful touch!). On the other hand, an agnostic, humanist or atheist will examine Sonny wondering what twisted quirk in his personality and background causes his religious eccentricities. Though none of us are comfortable with Sonny’s sinful passions, we all struggle with the flesh. Sonny may simply be more show that side more honestly than the rest of us.
Coy Wylie, age 34
A movie guaranteed to spark discussion. My husband and I found it quite amazingly uplifting (what a SHOCK to see the Gospel clearly portrayed in a Hollywood movie)!! Two family members in attendance with us, were split in their views. He thought it realistic, and potentially valuable viewing. She was horrified, and flatly declared it “disgusting”.
Duvall’s charecter was decidedly impure. On the other hand, there is always the biblical David. I am not sure how much MORE “impure” you could get! He not only lusted after a married woman—he plotted cold-bloodedly to get rid of her husband so he could have her!!! Still, when he repented (as he had need to do repeatedly), God forgave—and called him a man after His own heart.
Could there be a message here? Like maybe God delights in using even cracked and faulty vessels, to His glory? I feel many, who might think themselves too “dirty” to enter the often self-righteous and judgmental churches around them, might be encouraged by this movie and receive the Gospel message sounded therein—that God LOVES even THEM… and that Jesus has already paid the price for THEIR salvation. We give our “two thumbs UP” for The Apostle.
Tommie and Cassie Thompson, age 45 and 50
I was drawn to see this film not so much by the subject matter, but by my admiration for
and his oustanding acting ability. Of course the subject matter of the film is fascinating enough, but to have Duvall’s writing, directing, and producing skills put to the test, it was a must see for me.
performance was, as I expected, first rate.
His ability to capture the essence of the depth of his character’s “calling”, the fire in his eyes as he preached, the “body language” that his character exuded during the worship services, and the personal one on one warmth of the character, showed awesome multifaceted acting ability. I found myself, however, uncomfortable at times during the movie.
The most uncomfortable part for me was the scene at the baseball field he grabs a little nip from his flask before he confronts his wife and her lover. What happens subsequent to that causes me to wonder about this man’s actual character and how much Christ had really changed him. Also, his obvious desire for the Miranda Richardson character disappointed me.
It was interesting to me that it was her strength, rather than this “anointed” apostle’s, that seemed to keep them from entering into an inappropriate relationship. Certainly this film has some very touching moments of conversion, but overall, I would not recommend it for new beleivers, or for young people. Lord knows, we have enough cynicism in the world today, not to mention the Body of Christ, and, for the most part, this film adds ammunition to that cynicism.
It would have been nice to see this film end on a more postive and reconciliatory note given the fact that as Christians, we have been made ministers of reconciliation (which should have been Duvall’s top priority). Hollywood however, or so it seems, still has a problem with the happy ending. Perhaps I’m being too idealistic and perhaps that is not reality… but it would still be nice.
Jack Harbour, age 43
We saw “The Apostle” last night. We have discussed it constantly since then and I could hardly sleep last night for thinking about it. Would definitely like to go back and see it again. Though not billed as a “Christian” movie, the gospel was loud and clear and Jesus' name was lifted up throughout. There were some areas of confusion, such as Sonny’s being taken to church by a black woman when he was a child when his mother seemed to be a Christian herself, and why his wife would take the church away from him if she was the one committing adultery. But overall, this is one of the best movies we have ever seen, and we give it high praise.
The Jays, age 54 and 56
My husband and I saw “The Apostle” this past weekend, and left feeling uplifted and thankful for the grace we’ve been given through our Lord. I agree that probably many Christians will have a “problem” with the portrayal of this fallible preacher. But, my question to them would be—aren’t we ALL sinners? It seems to me that the sins and shortcomings of the character of Sonny are very similar to the sins I struggle with every day… pride, jealousy, rage, etc.
It might be uncomfortable for us to see ourselves and our sins “blown up” into such a caricature, but I found it to be an overwhelming statement of the profound grace and redemption we’ve been given. We were also incredibly moved by all of Sonny’s talks with God. These totally honest conversations brought us back to the beauty of his soul, and (I believe) the purity in his motives. I have never experienced a movie in which Jesus' name was said so often in “praise” and not disgust. I felt a little happier about our world after seeing this film, and I believe God will use it to reach people… whether that was Mr. Duvall’s intention or not. (We will definitely recommend it!)
Jenni Brauer (age 29)
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