Sam Childers was a Minnesota gang biker with a violent history of drug dealing, battery and prison time. He was a drug and alcohol addict and was fascinated by guns.
He became an armed guard for drug dealers and eventually wound up in prison; while he was there his wife, a stripper, was born again as a Christian.
When he was released, she took him to Assembly of God services where he says he experienced a “conversion” and on that same night, a pastor predicted he would go to Africa to do good.
Childers went to Sudan which was under the iron rule of the Lord’s Liberation Army and its murderous leader Joseph Kony; the LRA routinely kidnapped children and forced them into a life of war as soldiers. They were threatened and harmed, intimidated into staying.
Childers knew he had to help these innocent children and dedicated himself to saving as many as he could by any means possible.
After returning home to the US and selling his construction business, he came back to the Sudan and built an orphanage, which was, of necessity, protected by armed guards. He cleared the land, trained the builders and gradually orphans came to live there.
There were countless others to be rescued from Kony’s clutches so he began to lead armed missions to rescue children. He gave them a home, food and security; they gave him the nickname the Machine Gun Preacher.
To date, his Angels of East Africa has fed, housed and kept safe 1000 children. Childers describe his exploits I the book Another Man’s War.
Machine Gun Preacher, starring Gerard Butler as Childers, tells this fascinating story which as a piece of fiction would be hard to believe. As it is, it’s inspiring and uplifting. The film itself looks beautiful; the cinematography is glorious contrasting urban USA and the barren deserts of the Sudan.
The film contrasts the elements in Childers life as he struggles to create his orphanage and fulfill his destiny. A former criminal, now a savior to countless African children, his remarkable arc is an example of what we can do with our lives.
The performances are good. Butler is convincing as the unreformed Childers and the crusading Childers and Michelle Monaghan is equally stirring as his wife.
The film is fairly conventional in its approach and relies heavily on the story to carry it, there isn’t a lot of cinematic weight and the script is pretty light at times. It would have been good to know more about certain elements like Childers’ conversion in context.
We are shown that the mission remains Childers passion after 13 years but we’re not shown his weaknesses or temptations to give it up, normal responses someone might have to an overriding obsession of many years that asked so much of him.
Maybe it’s enough to see this man’s life work on the screen, drawn in by the presence of Butler and the rest of the cast. Whatever we might think of the movie as cinema, the story is golden.
Visit the movie database for more information.
35mm bio drama
Written by Jason Keller
Directed by Marc Forster
Opens: Nov. 18
MPAA: Rated R for violent content including disturbing images, language, some drug use and a scene of sexuality