Movie Review: Samson

My wife and I caught the Samson movie this week, and we were both pleased, although it was by no means a great production. I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to Biblically themed movies, and I’d prefer a movie that’s authentic and true to the historical narrative. But this movie- as with any theatrical interpretation of a written story- has taken plenty of creative liberty, changing the characters and scenes to fit the vision of the director, writers and studio.

Despite the artistic license, the movie was very close to the true events described in the book of Judges (chapters 13-16) where Samson was chosen by God to deliver his people Israel. And although it wasn’t as convincing as I’d like, I thought it was one of the better renditions of a Biblical story I’ve seen in recent times. I’ve always been a fan of the 1956 movie, The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston, and that has been my favorite Biblically based movie, by which I judge all others. Samson ranks far below that, but is certainly commendable for what it tries accomplish. Honestly, there aren’t many (if any) theatrical releases of Biblical stories that do justice to the Bible, or are worthy of elite movie status, and Samson is no exception, but, considering its obvious low budget, I found it to be entertaining and worth the price of admission.

The actor who played Samson, Taylor James, did a fine job and was a convincing character, drawing empathy from the audience and growing into the hero and judge he was destined to be. Despite his supernatural God-given strength, the character is riddled with weakness and has a habit of making poor life decisions. My wife liked his handsome looks and muscles, and I thought he was well cast for the role.

The antagonist is played by Jackson Rathbone; he portrays a ruthless Philistine commander and is the son of the king. Rathbone’s character, Rallah, is mainly a one-dimensional character, obsessed with ruling by fear and subjugating his adversaries.

As expected, there was plenty of violence, with Samson killing many hundreds and thousands of Philistines over the course of his life. The film avoided any gratuitous sex scenes by the womanizing Samson, only alluding to them, and there was no objectionable language. I think the movie is suitable for most audiences, although younger children may not be ready for the amount of violence.

And as with any low budget movie, the special effects were well under par. When the characters aged over time, fake beards were used, and I found that kind of annoying; the fight scenes could have been choreographed better, and it would have been nice to see the Philistine territories on a grander, more epic scale.

The movie was released on February 16, has been in theaters nearly two weeks and has grossed nearly $4 million, so it’s doing reasonably well for what it is, but if you want to catch it while still in theaters, make plans sooner rather than later. Otherwise it’ll be worth catching when it comes out on video.

The movie was directed by Bruce MacDonald, shot on location in South Africa, and produced by Pure Flix, which also produced movies like God’s Not Dead and The Case for Christ.

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