Friday, October 8, 2010

Swinging Bridges

Sorcerer, 1977
I have never served in the military, so take this comment with a mouth full of salt.  I find many aspects of the Randall Wallace flick, We Were Soldiers as just plain trite.  It's difficult not to view the film as a whole as part of Mel Gibson's inevitable march through war history on film.  When I first saw the film in theaters in 2002, I found the film's ending narration, the bop-you-on-the-head listen-to-this-part-because-it's-the-theme-of-the-whole-darn-film part as particularly trite.

We Were Soldiers, 2002
Some had families waiting. For others, their only family would be the men they bled beside. There were no bands, no flags, no Honor Guards to welcome them home. They went to war because their country ordered them to. But in the end, they fought not for their country or their flag, the fought for each other.

That final line sounded to me like a cop-out.  They fought because our country was afraid of Russian commies (or something like that) not because they liked the guy beside them.  The whole deal resonated with me like one of those chocolate cherries that your grandmother buys you for Christmas.  It sounds like a good idea, but then you bite into it and this goo drips down your chin and the whole thing is just gagingly sweet.  

Stand by Me, 1986
3 years later.  It's about 7:30pm on a brisk November night at Biola University.  It's a Wednesday, which means I am strolling around outside during the 15minute break of my evening Systematic Theology course.  It's just past twilight.  I'm in a good mood this day.  I am whimsical, even.  At this moment I'm circling around the ugly fountain, just about ready to head back in for the second half of the lecture, when everything dims.  

The electricity has gone out.  I begin to walk with hurried pace.  By this point in my Biola history, I had grown quite accustomed to electrical outings.  Biola had its own mini power plants, and during this period of population growth, it wasn't rare to lose power for a bit school wide.  I enjoyed such episodes generally.  There's something about power outages that breeds childhood joy within me.  

Where was I going?  I wasn't heading back to class?  Nor was I going back to my dorm to come up with some great adventure to relish with my droogies.  No, without even realizing it, I was walking toward my girlfriends dorm.  To check on her.  To make sure she was okay in the dark.  My feet decided to do this before I ever consciously made such a decision.

I tell this brief anecdote not to dwell on the past for the sake of pastness, but because it stood as a moment in my life (the first?), where my first thought was for someone beside myself.  It was instinctual.  I didn't need to resolve to do a good thing for another.  My impulse was for the good of not-me. 
Horton Hears a Who!, 2008

What a splendid sensation to encounter.  Watching We Were Soldiers today, I can know what it means to fight for the person beside you.  I can feel it.  And I can know why that is something that is worth living for. 
Flip to the other end.

Everyone knows that William Friedkin's The French Connection has the best car chase of all time.  But now I can say without hesitation that his 1977 flick "Sorcerer" has the all-time best swinging bridge scene I've ever endured. 

Part of what makes the bridge episode so darn intense (as well as the whole film), is that our protagonists aren't living for anyone other than themselves.  

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 1984
There's a futility in that idea.  When you strive for the betterment of someone else, you are offering them hope and grace.  When you strive for yourself, what are giving yourself?  Possessions.  Maybe a personal sense of accomplishment.  But you can't give yourself hope.  You can't accumulate hope like that.  

Friedkin's characters look after themselves first, foremost, and finally.  

He is a bleak director.


  1. Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me,O Lord GOD of hosts;
    let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me,O God of Israel.

  2. Hmmm... That's a bit of a cryptic comment.

  3. It seems to me that David had the mindset your post references. He didn't want to bring disgrace to his brothers. An early look into the team mentality of following God perhaps? Sometimes we want to succeed morally and spiritually for those around us and not for ourselves.

  4. Cool. Do you have a direct verse for the quote?