The Sound of the Spirit (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rivka and her father are Messianic Jews, but when her father dies, she must go live with her aunt and uncle, who still follow Orthodox Judaism and do not believe Jesus is the Messiah.  As the time approaches for Rivka’s Bat Mitzvah, she becomes increasingly divided as to which path she is supposed to follow.  As she meets different people and tries to keep ties to her father’s friends, she will have to decide if she will try to please her aunt and uncle or follow Jesus.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

The only two positive qualities in The Sound of the Spirit pertain to production, and they are the clear video quality and the pretty good camera work.  However, there is literally nothing else good to say about this movie.  The audio quality is deplorable, including a blaring soundtrack and loud background noises.  The sets and locations are very limited and cheap.  Finally, the editing is nonexistent as this two-hour film is filled with wasted time and the same things happening over and over again.  Unfortunately, the negativity doesn’t stop there.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As previously mentioned, it feels like the one-dimensional characters of The Sound of the Spirit continually have the same meandering conversations over and over again as literally nothing is accomplished for two hours.  Even so, the dialogue therein is disjointed and the subplots are very confusing.  Things happen because they need to as the viewer is forced to constantly witness obscure Jewish concepts and conflicts as the non-Messianic\Messianic Jew split is forced down your throat over and over again.  This could have been an interesting idea if the isolating ideas were explained better, but as it is, it’s very hard to follow or understand.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This cast is full of tons of offbeat cast members and unfortunate Jewish stereotypes.  Their emotions are incongruent and they constantly talk over each other.  Line delivery is either forceful or robotic to the point that it sounds like someone is dragging the words out of them.  Needless to say, this was a total fail.

Conclusion

The Sound of the Spirit had the opportunity to showcase a unique and intriguing topic in Christian film—Messianic Judaism.  But audiences will only come away from this film frustrated and some Jews may find it offensive.  We have no idea who these characters are except flat stereotypes and their conflicts are isolating.  We needed to be able to understand and appreciate their struggles, but we never got the chance.  It’s just another disappointing day in Christian film.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

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Priceless [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

James never intended to become a bad man, but he slowly slipped into a destructive lifestyle after his wife tragically died.  After losing custody of his daughter and being convicted of crime, James finds himself desperate for cash.  He agrees to help a ‘buddy’ out by hauling unknown cargo across the country to an unknown buyer, no questions asked.  But just before he reaches his destination, curiosity gets the best of him and he breaks the lock to see what is inside the box truck he has been driving for days.  Inside, he finds two young women in squalid condition and is faced with the ultimate moral choice: does he complete the job for the cash or does he break protocol and face consequences?

 

Production Quality (3 points)

It is refreshing and encouraging that there are new Christian film makers coming onto the scene every year to contribute to a growing army of creative minds ready to redeem the field once and for all.  2016 has been a year for many film makers to try to make their mark, but Priceless stands alone from them all, starting with exquisite production quality.  Shot on location (there’s a concept!) with professional camera work and angles, Priceless has all the goods.  Video quality is excellent, including diverse lighting done right.  Audio quality is flawless and the original soundtrack is an epic breath of fresh air.  Sets and locations are extremely realistic; outdoor scenes are executed well.  There are no editing problems.  There are few times we have an opportunity to say this: there are no production errors in this film.  The production is easily one of the best for a rookie effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Unlike the failed Caged No More, which portrays human trafficking in a far-off location away from ‘safe’ America, Priceless shoves the issue in your face—in the middle of small town America and American suburbia.  Though the beginning sequence is a bit rushed and the narration is heavy-handed, there are no errors beyond this.  The flawed character arcs are inspiring; we really feel like we can relate to the struggles of the characters.  Dialogue is effective in building the excellent storyline, as is the use of flashbacks.  The plot itself is very gritty and down to earth; there are no unbelievable elements or plot holes.  The Christian message is neither in-your-face nor muted, but is presented tastefully.  Edgy elements are handled properly.  The creators did all they could do with this plot, including a slight plot twist and an appropriate ending.  In short, except for some minor rookie errors, this is a plot to be proud of.  It not only presents the human trafficking problem to the audience in a realistic way, but it does so with authentic characters and an engaging storyline.  We can’t wait to see more from the Smallbones.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Taking a page from the Kendrick\Erwin playbook, the Smallbone team employed acting coaching and it paid off.  Though the cast is small, they carry the movie well.  In Priceless, Joel Smallbone finally became vindicated for past uninspiring performances that were likely the consequence of poor leadership in those films.  Bianca Santos is a very promising actress for the future.  Emotions are very believable and line delivery is on point.  Costuming is appropriate.  In short, there are no errors here.

Conclusion

Priceless receives an x-factor point for presenting a highly important issue in an exquisite manner.  While watching this film, I was reminded that this is why we do what we do.  Christian film makers who care use their God-given talents to create movies that make a difference in the culture.  Similarly, we feel God has called us to critique the Christian creative so that hopefully the field will improve as a whole.  Enslaved girls is why we do this.  Lost souls is why we do this.  Mobilizing activism is why we do this.  Making a difference is why we do this.  Under such films as Priceless (and other Hall of Fame films) can we unite for a common cause and no longer remember the days of failed low-quality Christian movies.  Budding film makers like Ben Smallbone and his team are lighting the way and giving us hope for a new day in Christian film.  Since this is how he has debuted, we cannot wait to see what he has to offer next.

 

Final Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points