Here on THiNC. we (read, I write, and you yell at me for my plethora-filled grammatical errors) find tricky, thought-filled, movies, and we talk about them. I don’t do movie reviews. I try to only bring movies that are worth talking about. Not 100% are A+’s, but 100% are worth talking about… at least a little bit. Generally I prefer to find outstanding, indie movies, that will blow your mind. And then, after said mind blowing, we argue about what the heck just happened. Which, I love. (I don’t love the constant flogging I get for my obvious lack of writing skills, but alas, it is what it is.)
So, the other day, Anderson (from the illustrious site, http://dystopianmoviesociety.com) brought us a movie for us to talk about. He mentioned that, since I am an outspoken Christian, it would be interesting to hear my take on this particular movie. After watching the movie, not exactly sure what that means. But I’m happy to talk about this fairly clever little movie.
(I’m sorry, but nothing ages a movie like an old school 4:3 ratio. Just saying. I’m sure our future selves will soon be saying that same thing about our current 2D 21:9 ratios, but I digress.) Anyway, I had never heard of the movie Frailty before. Zero. And it has Bill Paxton and Matthew McConaughey in it? Where was I in 2001? So thanks Anderson for bringing this movie to my attention!
Frailty Movie Overview
I am going to walk through this movie narrative not as the movie unfolded, but based on the right hook surprise we discover towards the end of the movie. And I am going to do this walk through so that we are all on the same page. That we are all coming at this film from the same direction. So last chance, if you haven’t seen the movie… turn back. Watch it, and come back. Last chance.
As the movie starts, we watch as Adam (played by Matthew McConaughey), under the pretext that he is Fenton, goes and meets with the lead detective of the God’s Hand murders. See, I told you I was going to bring it strong right at the outset. Anyway, the Detective, Detective Doyle (played by Powers Booth), is interested in learning what “Fenton” knows about the murders. And so, Adam regales Doyle with a story about his father and his brother and how the murders of the town played out. Adam and Fenton’s father, Mr. Meiks or Dad (played by Bill Paxton), has a vision of an angel telling him he should destroy demons in this world. That Dad has been given a list of names that are actually demons, and that each one, one by one, needs to be destroyed.
Immediately, Adam buys what their dad is saying. He believes the entire story about angels, demons, and their need to carry out God’s vengeance. But Fenton on the other hand, well, he isn’t even somewhat swayed. Fenton knows that his father is murdering people at random, and he’s using a spiritual excuse to do so. And yet, Fenton can’t figure out how to get out from under his father’s thumb… to tell someone what is happening. And so he participates in the first murders, hoping they’d eventually just stop, but they don’t.
Eventually, Fenton tells Sheriff Smalls about his father and the murders, and Sheriff Smalls comes out to investigate. And it’s then that their father jumps Smalls, and kills him. Which is a fascinating turn of events, mainly because their father is angry that Fenton forced him to murder someone for “the first time.” That until then, he had never killed anyone before. Instead, he had been “destroying demons.” Worse, Fenton’s father informs Fenton that the angel has told him something bad about him. Which, we can surmise, is that Fenton’s name has been added to the list to be killed. And so, to fight against this revelation, his father locks Fenton in the cellar and starved him until he has a revelation. And upon the next abduction and murder, Fenton is told to deliver the blow to kill the “demon.” Instead though, Fenton kills his father. But before the hostage is freed, Adam kills the hostage. And now the boys have two bodies to bury in the rose garden.
Well, as I mentioned from the top, Adam reveals to Doyle that he isn’t in fact Fenton, but rather Adam… the one that bought in to the delusions of his father. And not only that, but he had destroyed Fenton, and that he had become the God’s Hand Killer. Which becomes clear in a flashback showing how he had originally shared the visions his father had had. And when Adam puts his hands on Doyle, he sees that Doyle had actually killed his own mother. Doyle wonders how Adam could possibly know, and then he is struck down with Adam’s axe.
Now, as Doyle pointed out, a lot of people saw Adam at the police station even though he was posing as Fenton. But no one remembers his visit. The security cameras throughout the building futz and fizzle… to ultimately obscure his face. When the FBI agents raid the real Fenton’s house, they find all kinds of Detective Doyle’s things, which Adam planted. Which pointed all the blame in the direction of his dead brother. And as the movie ends, Adam tells his pregnant wife, that “God’s will has been served.” Roll Credits.
Initial Thoughts on the Movie Frailty
Divorced from the religiosity of it all, the movie was really very good. The double back flip from Fenton to Adam had me wondering if that was going to happen. It seemed to make sense, but I didn’t know if the film makers were all in on a negative ending, which would be required if that went that direction. And at each step, I was wondering where the plot would take us in order to bring us to the point that we have “Fenton” with information to share years later. It’s no wonder that the interview technique, starting at the beginning of the movie isn’t a fantastic success every time that it is employed.
The Theological Implications of Frailty
Now, as to the spiritual side of things. As I said before, I’m an outspoken Christian who happens to love movies. Really, I’m not as scary as all that. But I will say that if you don’t mind me getting just a little Christian dweeby on you, I’d appreciate it. The first is the phrase, General Revelation. That is the theology that we generally know the will of God through reading the Bible. We know that we shouldn’t lie. We shouldn’t steal. We shouldn’t covet our next door neighbor’s wife. We also know through the Psalm 19 that the heavens declare God’s glory. That the skies proclaim the work of His hand. That you are left without excuse if you don’t happen to believe. These are all general revelations.
But special revelations… that’s a different thing all together. Special revelations account for Angels, like Mr. Meiks said he saw. Throughout scripture there are a number of special revelations. Think, Moses and the burning bush. Think, Jonah and that call to go to Nineveh, which was then followed by a corrective whale. The Bible also calls out a number of angels coming with specific revelations as well. In this Christmas season, the most famous visit by an angel was the archangel Gabriel coming to Mary. And let’s look at what Gabriel said to Mary, just so we can compare it to what the angel said to Mr. Meiks.
“Don’t be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God. You will become pregnant, give birth to a son, and name him Jesus. He will be a great man and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. Your son will be king of Jacob’s people forever, and his kingdom will never end.”
What is interesting about this quote from Gabriel is that none of the things he said countered scripture (Old or New (which hadn’t been written yet)). It was consistent. Gabriel informed Mary, a virgin, that she’d have a child. That He would have throne of Mary’s ancestor King David. And that He would rule over this Kingdom forever. The number one rule about special revelations as they relate to general revelation, is that they never contradict general revelation. And we don’t have a direct quote from the angel to Mr. Meiks. But we generally know what they said to him. If I were to formalize it, maybe it would have sounded something like this:
“Don’t be afraid, Meiks. You have been chosen by God to be His instrument of judgement. Across the land there are many demons in need of destruction. You will be given a list of the names of these demons that you are to dispatch, and then bury in the town’s public rose garden.”
Or something like that. But think about this, the “Angel” is telling Meiks that there are demons in this world that God needs help destroying. Meiks believes that God wants him to kill other humans. And because special revelation cannot contradict general revelation (God told me to lie to my professor… uh no. God told me to have an affair with my secretary… uh no. Etc., etc. God told me to give my Christmas bonus to the town’s soup kitchen… uh, ok… now you have my attention. Why? Because caring for the widow, the orphan, the impoverished is definitively held within God’s general revelation.)
But what if you believe that these “humans” aren’t humans, and that God is calling Meiks, not to murder, but rather to engage in spiritual warfare? First, uh, we can see clearly that these are people. They could be demon possessed people, but they are people all the same. And how did Jesus interact with demon possessed people? He cast out the demon, and then cared for them. Asked for food to be brought, he asked that their chains be let loose. Etc. We don’t see here that Meiks is caring for anyone but himself.
But the Supernatural Man!
After Adam kills Doyle, a number of pretty significant things fall Adam’s way. We see the security camera footage obscure Adam’s face. We see several witnesses not recognize him. It’s as if Adam is protected by God. Well, we know from the previous section that it isn’t God who is protecting him. Are there other explanations for what we see here? Coincidence. It could also be that Adam is the one that futzed the security tape. Or, who’s to say that Adam is actually in league with demons himself? Could it have been a supernatural intervention by dark forces? Maybe. Who’s to say? But we do know that it wasn’t God looking out for Adam. Who do you think is looking out for Adam?
The Movie Frailty and its Clever Twist
Minus the fact that this is a fairly old movie, I found the twist intriguing. The slight of hand of Fenton being Adam shifts the narrative from beginning to end. It changes Doyle’s prospects in a heart beat from an investigator with a new lead, to a victim about to die at the hands of a psychopath completely deranged by his insane father. But seeing as though I had never heard of the movie Frailty before, I was pleasantly surprised at just how good it was. Thanks, Anderson, for the tip! What did you guys think of the movie?
Edited by, CY
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