Starting now, the movie Persecuted is in theaters. What happens when a prominent evangelist is framed for murder? Is his plight just one small part of a much larger agenda? A conspiracy is afoot, one that hopes to undermine the most important freedoms the United States was built upon.
And don’t forget to get your copy of the novelization, written by yours truly.
2014 has already been a big year for faith-based movies. Persecuted — of which I had the honor of writing the novelization — is a different kind of movie. I’d call it a faith-based movie for people who don’t like faith-based movies.
Persecuted is a political thriller, a deep-probing drama, and a scathing commentary on public sentiments toward religion and religious freedom — all rolled into one. Where films like God’s Not Dead and Son of God encourage you to think about your beliefs on a personal level, Persecuted is more interested in the state of our nation. It also asks, as the title suggests, how far you’d be willing to go to hold to your convictions.
One thing’s for sure: it’s going to have people talking. In fact, it already does:
“The Movie the Faithful Want You to See” – Politico Magazine
“Persecuted: The Next Christian Film to Hit Theaters” – Newsmax
“Persecuted Not Just a Movie But a Movement” – CBN News
“New Film Persecuted Warns Against Abuse of Gov’t Power, Religious Persecution” – The Christian Post
“Persecuted film examines freedom of conscience versus the state” – Deseret News
Fred Thompson: “Is the premise of my next movie, Persecuted, really so far-fetched?” – FoxNews
As you can see from what’s been published so far, the media response is largely focusing on the movie’s political commentary. Sure, there’s political stuff in there. It wouldn’t be a “political thriller” if there wasn’t.
But to me, Persecuted is more about the plight of believers being persecuted around the world in nations hostile to their beliefs. What writer/director Daniel Lusko has so cleverly done is find a way to depict that kind of suffering in a setting that’s familiar to us: modern America. Which is pretty much the last place on earth you’d expect to see religious persecution. It’s an allegory. And a cautionary tale. Because what attracted me to the story to begin with is that it presents a scenario that’s all too believable.
Rather than hearing the opinions of people who had nothing to do with making the movie (except for Mr. Thompson, obviously), why not see what the man who made the movie has to say about it.
Persecuted opens nationwide on July 18th — and my novel hits stores on the same day. A great new trailer for the film is embedded above.
When a writer thinks of creating suspense, we often think of building tension through pacing and/or action. But there are any number of ways to build suspense — it’s less about what you portray and more about how you portray it. (The same goes for storytelling in general: it’s better to have a humdrum story idea that’s told brilliantly than to have the greatest story idea ever but execute it horribly.)
Here’s a perfect example. The clip above comes from the 2002 Tom Clancy movie, The Sum of All Fears. If you’ve never seen it, I’ll be straight with you: it’s not that great a movie. But this scene is utterly brilliant.
Sum was an attempted reboot of the Jack Ryan franchise with Ben Affleck taking over as a younger version of the main character (12 years before Chris Pine did the exact same thing). Ryan spends most of the movie attempting to track down a missing nuclear bomb, and this sequence, roughly in the middle of the film, is when his search comes to a head. He phones his boss — played by Morgan Freeman — to tell him that he has a lead on the bomb, which has recently been seen at a harbor in Baltimore. Unbeknownst to Ryan, Freeman’s character and the U.S. President himself are in Baltimore at that exact moment, attending a highly publicized football game.
Watch how the suspense builds when Freeman’s character slowly realizes what Ryan’s report means. What’s so fantastic about this scene is that it builds suspense in an atypical way. There’s no action, no explosions or gunshots, nor any other standard suspense tropes that we’re used to. Taken out of context, you probably wouldn’t even know anything is amiss at this football game. It looks like all American fun, business as usual. But the music and the expression on Freeman’s face sell the truth of the scene.
Obviously, movies and books are quite different, and novelists employ different tools to create suspense than filmmakers do. But this scene always inspires me as a writer because it creates exquisite, heart-pounding suspense in a completely outside-the-box way.
I can scarcely believe my eyes.
For so very long, Hollywood has shunned films of an overtly religious nature, or water down the material on the rare occurrences when they attempt one. Have they finally figured out how to make a big-budget, intelligently-made movie with a Christian worldview at its core? A movie that manages to be touch the heart without preaching?
If this movie turns out half as good as the trailer, then Sony Pictures deserves our applause. By all accounts, Heaven Is For Real (based on the bestselling book of the same name) has a stellar pedigree behind it: it stars Greg Kinnear and Thomas Haden Church, and it was written and directed by Randall Wallace — the writer of Braveheart and The Man In the Iron Mask, among others.