I first heard about this movie last May, back when World Magazine did an article on Shane Harper and his acting career, including his new movie, God’s Not Dead. Instantly a fan of both Shane and the movie, March 21st just couldn’t come fast enough. My dad is a pastor, so when he got two free tickets to see an early screening of the movie last month, I begged to go. He ended up taking my mom and came back going on and on about how great it was. (This, from the guy who rarely enjoys movies!)
Some friends and I got to see it earlier today after our Bible study and… WOW. It blew me away – the quality, acting, sets… everything. It’s now one of my favorite Christian indie films.
“Present-day college freshman and devout Christian, Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper), finds his faith challenged on his first day of Philosophy class by the dogmatic and argumentative Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo). Radisson begins class by informing students that they will need to disavow, in writing, the existence of God on that first day, or face a failing grade. As other students in the class begin scribbling the words “God Is Dead” on pieces of paper as instructed, Josh find himself at a crossroads, having to choose between his faith and his future. Josh offers a nervous refusal, provoking an irate reaction from his smug professor. Radisson assigns him a daunting task: if Josh will not admit that “God Is Dead,” he must prove God’s existence by presenting well-researched, intellectual arguments and evidence over the course of the semester, and engage Radisson in a head-to-head debate in front of the class. If Josh fails to convince his classmates of God’s existence, he will fail the course and hinder his lofty academic goals. With almost no one in his corner, Josh wonders if he can really fight for what he believes. Can he actually prove the existence of God? Wouldn’t it just be easier just to write “God Is Dead” and put the whole incident behind him?
GOD’S NOT DEAD weaves together multiple stories of faith, doubt and disbelief, culminating in a dramatic call to action. The film will educate, entertain, and inspire moviegoers to explore what they really believe about God, igniting important conversations and life-changing decisions.” (from the official website)
The Cast and Characters
Josh Wheaton is a very solid character – unwavering in his beliefs, yet still fallible. One of the things I liked the most about him was the fact that he didn’t let anything get in the way of his relationship with God – even temporal things that he placed a lot of value in. (Trying to tiptoe around the details so I don’t give up any major plot details!) He feels God calling him to enter into this debate with his college professor, even though he feels totally inadequate, and defies anyone that would try to sway his determination.
Shane Harper is a Christian, and you can totally see that through the passion he puts into this certain character. Even the best actors on the planet wouldn’t be able to portray Josh unless they truly believed in what they were saying – and Shane does it perfectly. (See this article on him for more details on his faith.) On a side note, I’ve only seen Shane in Good Luck, Charlie, so it was interesting to see Shane in another role.
Jeffery Radisson is the professor of Philosophy who challenges Josh’s claim that God is not dead. At first, he’s only portrayed as a biased atheist. However, during the course of the film, you find out more details of Professor Radisson’s life, including the reason why he hates God and his connections with the many subplots that are woven into the film.
Kevin Sorbo depicted Professor Radisson nearly flawlessly. There were times when I sat back in my seat, completely taken aback by the professor – entirely because of Mr. Sorbo’s great acting skills. He showed the depth of the character ever so slowly, making the professor a very interesting character, instead of a run-of-the-mill antagonist.
As I mentioned before, there were several subplots interwoven throughout the main plot, all interconnected in a fascinating way. They made me think about the fact that it’s weird how much everyone on the planet is connected and how one person’s actions might effect the lives of many people around them – even people they don’t know. For instance, Josh’s decision to debate his professor impacts two sub-characters who he never actually meets – one, for good, and the other, for worse. Very intriguing.
A few of my favorite secondary characters were Martin, a Chinese transfer student, Ayisha, a Muslim girl who is questioning her faith, and Amy, a reporter who just heard some life-altering news.
This was a really clean film! The only scene that could possibly be objectionable is an accident scene towards the end where some blood is shown and several close-ups on the victim’s face while this character tries to talk through the blood filling in his lungs. Not too bad, though.
The Bottom Line
This movie is one of those (VERY) rare movies that you just want to recommend to anyone and everyone. I enjoyed it a lot, especially during the climax when Josh said a really good argument during the third session of the debate. Everyone started clapping and cheering and it was great. Also, at the end, there’s a very neat marketing/bring-a-smile-to-God’s-face thing that I absolutely LOVED. And I can’t say anything else without giving it up. You’ll have to see it for yourselves.