Plot: What’s it about?
Shit happens. I usually don’t use that sort of language in my reviews. So why use it with one that involves the main character confronting God? I don’t know. I guess it’s yet another notch in my belt on the way to hell. But it’s true. Bad things happen to good people every single day and there’s no rhyme or reason for it. Cancer, a car wreck of any of the other million ways to die take people we love from us every single day. Death is a part of life and it leaves the survivors asking the inevitable question – “why?” My response is that there is no reason. And another response is that “it’s all part of God’s plan.” Ok, I guess that can be construed as an answer as well. But to switch gears a bit, this film is based on the 2007 book by William P. Young and while probably a better novel than movie, it’s only speculation. But enough of my polarizing comments on faith.
Mack (Sam Worthington) has just lost his daughter and he’s overcome by a “great sadness” as he looks for a meaning in her death. His daughter has been adducted and later murdered when on a camping trip. Mack then receives a mysterious letter that draws him back to the same house in the woods (a shack) where he meets God. No, not figuratively, he meets God in the form of Octavia Spencer. God doesn’t travel alone, however, as Jesus is also there (Avraham Aviv Alush) as is Sarayu (Sumire Matsubara) who, it would seem, could or should be the Holy Ghost. Mack’s faith is tested and name the question is asked “how to forgive people of committing a crime like this?”
Look, I’m not the most religious person out there, but I don’t condone people who are. I grew up on the South so I’ve met my fair share of “Christians” (and I use those quotes intentionally). But I think if I did have the opportunity to physically meet God, my perceptions might change. I doubt that’ll ever happen, though. A member of my extended family is Methodist minister, so I did reach out to him to get his thoughts on this. He hadn’t seen the movie, but his synopsis of the book was that it was “Ok, but as a pastor it’s a good place to start a conversation.” Fair enough. The film was actually fairly successful, raking in nearly three times its budget. No doubt this was due to the success of the book and the marketing folks made sure to release this just short of Easter (nothing wrong with making a bit of profit on the precipice of the holiday, right?) Looking at this objectively, the movie falls flat and if looked at through a spiritual lens, it leaves a lot more open to interpretation. Odds are you already know if this film is for you or not.
Video: How’s it look?
There’s a very etherial look and feel to the film and it’s not by happenstance. I would have to imagine that if God came to Earth to meet me, there would be roses around and the skies would part and it’d look something like this. It’s a beautifully-shot film and I commend the filmmakers for such lovely images. The 2:40:1 AVC HD image positively oozes everything that Blu-ray is all about. The color palette is packed with blue and green hues. There’s a white haze around some of the key sequences. Again, it’s a lovely image for the majority of the film.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The voice of God has never sounded so sweet. Vocals in the movie are crisp and sharp, yet ever-so-gentle as well. This DTS HD Master Audio track has a lot going on in a few sequences, but mainly is there to provide some ambiance. Is there a right or wrong way to present the Creator? I doubt it. The front stage is where most of the action takes place, surrounds are present but not overbearing. It’s a good, solid mix that gets the job done.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – Director Stuart Hazeldine – I’ll be honest here, I didn’t listen to this track. After sitting through 132 minutes of the film I really had no interest listening to the director spout off. Fans of the film will likely be happy that this is included, though.
- Touched by God: A Writer’s Journey – Essentially a look at the book’s journey to the screen.
- God’s Heart for Humanity – The filmmakers, cast and theologians to discuss the movie’s depiction of God in human form.
- Heaven Knows: The Power of Song with Hillsong United – A music video for the song.
- Something Bigger than Ourselves: The Making of The Shack – The standard EPK with some interviews with the cast and crew about the film.
- Premiere Night: A Blessed Evening – A look at the premiere.
- Deleted Scene
The Bottom Line
I read a good synopsis of this movie in that it’s something that could strike up a conversation (in church, perhaps). But the movie is so forthright in its message that it’s more akin to someone handing you a pamphlet about God and then follows you down the street wanting to talk about it. Less if more, folks. Dreamily shot and with a decent selection of extras, true fans will no doubt love it, but for the rest of us…I guess hell awaits? Just kidding.