If you haven’t checked out part one, it may be best to do so before you peruse this part.
A quick recap:
- Serenity – At the Mercy of the Meddlesome
- Equilibrium – For All It’s Worth
- John Adams – The Freedom to Do the Right, Difficult Things
Now for Part Two…
Aviator – An Atmosphere of Incentive
Aviator dials in keenly on the obsessive/compulsive habits and womanizing imperfections that made Howard Hughes such a fascinating tycoon. With a plot-line such as this, Aviator could have been a formulaic paranoia-flick centered on psychosis, and there are those moments, yet the climax is worth the wait. Besides, Leonardo DiCaprio pulls off a powerfully driven Hughes who isn’t so much balanced out by his condition, but is in many respects complimented by it. When he is daring, he is ingenious. When the condition takes over completely, he’s debilitated.
Hughes inherited a successful tool company and other wealth. He risked all of it to make films, build an international airline juggernaut, design untried types of airplanes (both sleek and cumbersome), and even test pilot several himself. During one of those trial flights, he crash landed and suffered severe injuries, which must have been all the more horrifying for a victim of OCD (This all took place before the condition was identified in the sciences).
Through it all, one aspect glistens like Venus on a moonless night; Hughes took hold of his goals and never let go. His example shows how capitalism provides not just for the imperfect capitalist, but for those he hires and those who buy products from him. Many of the people Hughes brought into his schemes ended up becoming wealthy beyond what they thought possible. Dealing with an eccentric personality, like Howard Hughes, couldn’t have been easy, but wealth is earned, not given.
Aviator would make a decent afternoon view, but it is vaulted into greatness by the showdown at the end, between Hughes and the Senate War Investigation Subcommittee. The historicity of the film is in question. It accepts Hughes’ version of events as fact, though that version is supremely doubtful. Certainly, the portrayal of Brewster is inaccurate since he stepped aside from the committee in light of the allegations Hughes leveled his way. Brewster even testified as a witness before the committee. No matter, since Aviator isn’t about just one section of Hughes’ life.
The climax is important is because, whatever the historical merits or demerits of the film, many of us wish someone would have the guts to treat Congress the way Congress sees fit to treat anyone it finds distasteful. Rather than take a tongue lashing from Congress, who owned the stage; Hughes fought back, returning accusation with accusation. Finally at the end, he walked out of one hearing with a statement of absolute defiance.
Once again the history is seriously in question, but does Hollywood even realize what they’ve done here? Do Alan Alda, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Alec Baldwin realize that in their virulent spite toward a nearly-forgotten Republican, they’ve portrayed the government as overbearing and corrupt, while displaying the private, multi-millionaire businessman as the hero for freedom? Most likely, Brewster’s association with Joseph McCarthy broke down all of Hollywood’s sense as to what the actual contents of the film display, and so the sweet taste of this defense of the free-market is all the more potent, in that it is entirely accidental.
By the end, one is left with a strong impression that wealthy businessmen aren’t conniving and evil. Generally speaking, they’re hardworking risk-takers who lead the way in creating better lifestyles for all of us. It’s nice to see millionaires in the movie industry accidentally laud productive behavior for once.
Tears of the Sun – When the Good Have to be Ugly to Stop the Bad
Many filmmakers are more than willing to show us dehumanized blood and guts and gore and pandemonium (some seem almost dissatisfied without it). But few actually take the time to research the harshest realities and to find what is and what is not the case.
Tears of the Sun tracks the hard decisions made by a Navy SEAL team sent into an African nation undergoing genocidal upheaval. They are tasked with bringing back a doctor who is an American citizen (French by birth and generally spiteful toward the America military). She understandably wants to bring out all the people she was caring for as refugees, but time is running out.
Probably for good measure, Bruce Willis plays the Team lead as a man who is almost dead inside, who has been emotionally destroyed by his job. Throughout the film, Willis slowly rediscovers his soul; all well and good because it’s not oppressive, preachy, or overdone. This detached state of mind is actually extremely rare in real members of the special forces, but remains agonizingly common in war films; the emotional hints of Hollywood’s anti-war slant that seem impossible to remove from every war script. In any event Willis is convincing in his personal redemption.
Fortunately, the rest of the Team makes up for his predictable character. The men are always willing, even unto a suicide march, to follow any orders the “el-tee” (Lt.) dishes out, but at the same time they’re principled. They see the right thing to do and they crave to accomplish it, even while facing lottery-odds against survival. They are brutal when they have to be, insistent and even gentle when necessary. Idealism is a common trait for volunteers in the armed services.
The one other thing that makes this film important is its honest depiction of genocide. In America, we don’t have to know anything about that if we don’t want to. Too many of us have played the ostrich defense to the plights of people around the world. Others escape reality by buying a “Save Darfur” bumper sticker and a Live Aid CD and calling it a day.
Seen those coexist bumper stickers around lately? Should we apply that to previous evils? Does any sensible mind among us wish we hadn’t bothered with stopping Germany during the Second World War? We’re not stopping the Nazi equivalents in Africa right now! In the past decade, more people have been killed and eaten in the Congo than were killed in the entire holocaust! And eaten, I reiterate! That is stomach-heaving food for thought. Tears of the Sun does not shy away from that brutal reality which is so foreign to modern “African-American” homeland pining. The production-line genocide of first-world communists should not remain our only focus, while low-tech third-world holocausts actively plod onward, hardly noticed.
Black Hawk Down – Honor Thy Defender
Many people have different opinions as to why this film was made. I will focus on why it’s included in my list. The actors aren’t the men who went in and actually fought in the battle of Mogadishu, but every time I see the movie, I get choked up and pray for everyone in the armed services who take the mission as seriously as it is here portrayed.
A line by one Delta operator at the end is probably the most accurate. When he’s out there, he’s not fighting for country or religion or anything like that. He’s fighting for the guy next to him. I respect that honesty and I know most of the real Army guys would agree with that, the ones that have seen combat especially.
But they’re only ‘out there’ fighting a tiny portion of the time. They did join up for country and for the flag and because Memorial Day is a remembrance that needs to have its pool of sacrifice grow if we’re to be free enough to commemorate it.
Our nation is a rare one. After thousands of years of history, among tens of thousands of people groups, spanning hundreds of thousands of power battles, America is the first nation where freedom became a universal ideal for every man. That’s worth fighting for and I know that’s why almost all of our volunteer military joined up. Ask them, they’ll tell you. The next person you see in an armed services uniform, or wearing a USN veteran ballcap, or with a Persian Gulf license plate; look him in the eye and give him a firm handshake.
He just wants to know that it was worth it, that while he was out in Whoknowzistan fighting for our freedom to choose, someone back here was choosing to defend freedom on the home front by talking to people who may not understand what it costs, even what it is to be free. Those servicemen know. They gave those rights up for four years, some of them more, and some traded everything they had for a white stone in the grass somewhere, names forgotten in a generation or two, but the record of their sacrifice lives on in us. Honor them. Pray for them.
The Way Back – Shining Mirage on the Horizon
Liberty is precious. It’s easy to forget that. Few stories will ever illustrate how desirable is our condition of life, a treasure that we take for granted.
The Way Back is one of the handful that can really put into perspective the profound value of our freedom. This true story begins in a Soviet gulag prison camp in Siberia. The conditions are terrible, the work is harsh, the food lousy, the heat… what heat?
But that’s nothing. A group of men escape with the full knowledge that they will have to walk on foot thousands of miles in some of the world’s harshest conditions to arrive at relative safety. It takes months and months, and finally when they arrive, worse for the wear in almost every way, they discover that the land they thought would be a safe haven had gone Communist during their time in the gulag.
And further south they must go. Many die in search of that elusive, mythical land where men may own themselves, where their individual rights are not subject to dictatorial repeal. Perhaps the essence of liberty is only understood in times when we must seek it or defend it. Only then can we truly know how it is worth our nation’s weight in gold. And many of us were born here, privy to this gift without any understanding of its purchase price.
At the end, the film recounts a few of the pegs on the Soviet timeline, which probably came across as vague to most people in my generation. The horror of the Soviet regime remains impossible to sum up properly (check out Richard Pipes’ A History of Communism if you’d like the best effort at it). So those atrocities are relatively unknown to a generation of Americans who believe they have the answers to our current woes. Some of them stand up to suggest one feature or another of the economic plan tried years ago by the Communist Party of Russia. Is popular fiat somehow more laudable than dictatorial fiat? Of course not! Administration isn’t the problem. The moral destitution of statism is.
Consider this; when these refugees left the gulag (mid-WW2), they had somewhere to escape to, a world where America had just overtaken Britain as the premier superpower, where both began a global struggle against the forces of brutal tyranny. If we yield liberty, even for supposed good, then who is to lead the world in making men more free? This is why America’s founding remains the primary target for those whose religion is of the powerful state.
The Way Back is a fantastic story of effort and endurance, but more important is perpetually grasping toward that shining city on a hill, that beacon of hope and freedom and justice. Countless people all over the world would crawl over broken glass to get here, and some have. We can’t abandon this cause.
The Lives of Others – Are Not State Property
This is the one film on the original list that shall remain. The Lives of Others is an influential picture and one that I can say I appreciate for its wonderfully subdued acting. As foreign language films go, this one probably wasn’t expected to make a splash in the American markets, which are drowning in CG and thirsting to death for an original plot.
Here we follow an East German operative whose task is to investigate possible subversives seeking to undermine the Communist Party. He spends a great deal of time listening to wiretaps of telephones and to bugs planted inside people’s homes. Yet, during the film, he comes to realize how truly wrong such behavior is; the right to privacy is inimical to any moral view of mankind, and furthermore the right to have an opinion which disagrees with the state is also a moral imperative.
After seeing The Lives of Others, I wondered why it was that reunified Germany, after the fall of the Soviet Union, lapsed into an anesthetized, multi-culti socialist numb-topia. Surely, the presence of U.S. military bases didn’t foster all of this comatose demography in a Germany that was, within living memory, the polar opposite of this new way. No one wants to see a return of national socialism, but a nation needs at least enough nationalism to have some semblance of a desire to maintain a German state, reproduce a German people who, you know… speak German. A people need not assign the population to be the property of the state in order to love their nation. And a nation at least needs its culture to survive.
True, for seventy percent of the 20th century, the German people saw either dreadful mishandling of government apparatus or more commonly, a far more vicious and willful misuse of it. I suppose then, the answer was to deconstruct the logical processes that had brought about such savagery and mayhem as the Third Reich. ‘Do good for goodness sake’, we’re told. But I quote Ravi Zacharias, “Greek philosophy came perilously close to the truth. [Aristotle] taught of value and virtue, but he never had anything to hang it on.” If the state is responsible for such heinous crimes, why should it be empowered? Isn’t the proper answer to limit the state as much as possible?
The Lives of Others doesn’t give us a moral nail to put into the mantle, but it shows us a few of the knits that shouldn’t hang there if we can find an anchor point. We really see how certain things are independently wrong and are known to be wrong, even by the people who continue to do them. Every so often, knowing its wrongness, one of those people will just make up his mind to stop. Be sure to watch this film!
With two entries left to go on The Ten Films of Freedom, there’s one more part due up! And as always, be sure to check out Sunlost!