The Christian community has good reason to feel encouraged by the new film, End of the Spear, if we will let ourselves. Not because it is a great movie (it isn’t, though it is a good one). And not because it will earn huge Passion dollars that will make the world sit up and take notice (with only tepid box-office so far, it seems obvious that it won’t).
We should feel encouraged because End of the Spear demonstrates that followers of Christ, after decades of churning out mostly trite, sloganeering entertainment, are finally recapturing the artistic imagination that inspired great works like Milton’s poetry and Bach’s concertos.
The names Jim Elliot and Nate Saint are as familiar to most evangelicals as their story. In 1956, the two men, along with Peter Fleming, Roger Youderian, and Ed McCully, made contact with the violent Waodani tribe of the Ecuadorian jungle. Their aim was to share the Gospel and teach the Waodanis a more peaceful way to live. Sadly, the fierce tribesmen misinterpreted the missionaries’ intentions and speared all five men to death.
End of the Spear retells these events, and those that occurred after when the wives and children of the slain sought out the Waodoni to offer them forgiveness and hope, with impressive depth and authenticity.
The film makes mistakes, but, in a strange way, even these are encouraging as they are mistakes common to many movies with much bigger budgets and much bigger names attached (names like Disney and Bruckheimer in particular).
Several scenes are emotionally overplayed and scripturally underdeveloped. The score is far too intrusive, and a major payoff moment, the conversion of a conflicted tribesman, is brushed over so lightly we’re not even sure when it happens.
Yet, what the film gets right is much more striking that what it gets wrong. Mainly, it demonstrates that Christian filmmakers are finally learning to tell their own stories rather than simply making bad copies of secular films with biblical themes tacked on.
Spear focuses on a narrative that is personal to Christians but relatable to anyone. One needn’t be an expert in eschatology to feel for the Saints. It allows the plot to unfold realistically—singular occurrences don’t bring the Waodonis to their knees, weariness with their way of life does. And it strives for the highest production values on every front.
This brings us to the most important change End of the Spear illustrates: filmmakers of faith have finally figured out who their audience is—everyone.
Megan Basham is the author of Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide To Having It All
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