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To Save a Life
IMDB Rating: 7.1/10 from PG-13 votes
Release: 22 Jan 2010 /

To Save a Life

Genre: Drama
Director: Brian Baugh,
Stars: , , ,
Synopsis: After a childhood friend's death, Jake Taylor, an all-star athlete must change his life - and sacrifice his dreams to save the lives of others.

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Critic Reviews

Listen - although I understand the passion behind this movie, I'm not going to sing uncritical praises as some have. It has flaws but it's also not as bad as the weighted user rating suggests (at the time I wrote this review, it was hovering around a 4.6) However, after viewing it tonight, I would not say this movie is for the public at large (thus the undeserved 1 star ratings its garnered - which I believe is more a rejection of the worldview espoused by the film than an authentic impression of the movie itself).

Although I contest the sincerity of the low ratings, I think I know why: To Save A Life is produced by a church and it feels like it. Primarily - it's a film exhorting Christians to BE followers of Jesus rather than passive egocentric judgmental consumers. Secondarily - it's a powerful listening ear to the hurt, depressed and marginalized among us who may feel invisible to the cold world around them. It also empathizes with those who wrestle with fundamental questions of purpose and meaning. Where I appreciated this about the movie, I'm not too sure how well its narrative will translate to disinterested audiences. It might come across cliché or as religiously charged melodramatic propaganda. And I wouldn't blame anyone for feeling this way. Regardless, you can't go into a horror movie and expect a comedy. Know what to expect: It's a Christian movie.

That being said, for what it is (and what it was intended to be) my wife and I both thought it was solid. Narratively and artistically. Our 17 year old cousin Nathan agreed. I'm 30 and my wife is 29 so we're not too far removed from the high school experience ourselves. As Christians, we all found the story very authentic. The characters followed natural paths and the emotion captured never felt disingenuous. Dialogue can be tricky - and save a few perfectly-timed cliché moments and pedestrian deliveries, it was engaging and believable. We also appreciated the humility of Jim Britts writing - self-indicting the Church as a major contributor to the pain its trying to heal was both surprising and refreshing.

Also, this may sound lame, but I went in with the preconceived notion that this would be another 'rich white person' saves 'poor disenfranchised minority' movie. Ironic - I'm white - but for whatever reason, it's something I've noticed in movies and television lately and it's been bothering me. But To Save A Life isn't like that. When I saw the trailer, I almost wrote it off, thinking it would just carry the torch. Angry black dude kills himself. Stud white dude saves the day. I was pleased to be proved wrong as minorities play prominent positive roles in this movie and its not the rich white kid who rides off into the sunset as hero as you might have reasonably assumed. Turns out - dude needs saving too.

On a technical note, as someone who loves film (context - my favorites include Godfather, John Hillcoat's The Road, PT Anderson's Magnolia, American Beauty, Children of Men, Fight Club) I'm always mindful of the cinematography, editing, etc. I especially pay attention in Christian films - which are typically inept. But not so here. The crew should be proud.

No matter what harsh criticisms will eventually befall To Save A Life (there will be plenty), this movie exists for people who need to know they're not alone. Leaders and outcasts. The churched and unchurched. We all need saving.


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