Academic Writing

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Salvation Boulevard

It’s no new thought that religious zeal makes people do some admittedly crazy things.  People get swept away with thinking that religious leaders are beyond mortal existence and seek to protect them at all costs.  Salvation Boulevard calls that unconditional trust into question.  The movie itself is all over the place, bombastic acting and choppy editing, but ultimately that is the message.  It also, and more successfully, calls into the question the sanity of those who follow these leaders.  In particular during this tumultuous election season which is rife with religious extremism and political leaders acting equally as religious pundits contesting the legitimacy of science and compassion for the sake of their religion, the message has never seem more relevant.

In Salvation Boulevard, Pierce Brosnan is Daniel, pastor and leader of “The Church of the Third Millenium,” a Megachurch with throngs of followers.  Carl (Greg Kinnear) is an ex-deadhead who is now a devout follower of Daniel’s who is vying to be in Daniel’s inner circle.  When he witnesses his leader commit a heinous act, he sees the powerful reach Daniel has at his disposal.  While in a private meeting with a colleague (Ed Harris), Daniel accidentally shoots him in the head, and soon after, instead of doing the right and noble thing, he starts to turn the tables back on Carl and blames him for his act.  Carl begins to question his unconditional devotion to “The Church.”  Concurrently, the narrative structure also creates a situation where the audience begins questions Carl’s reliability as a narrator.  As Carl goes on the run from the powers that be, and as he sinks deeper into a state of paranoia, a parallel narrative is suggested and the audience is unsure of whom to trust.

Contrasted with Carl and his questioning of the legitimacy of The Church is his wife, Gwen (Jennifer Connolly).  Gwen is an unswerving totally devoted member of the church.  When her sense of stability gets called into question when Carl goes missing as he’s on the run from Daniel’s thugs, her religious fervor manifests itself into what can only be described as crazy behavior.  Through Gwen, religious zealots are linked with mental illness.  To illustrate this, her coping mechanism in time of crisis is to isolate herself in her art studio.  Her paintings reflect her paranoia regarding drug dealers and the devil pulling Carl away.  This highlights that point and directly linked religious fervor with mental illness and socially deviant behavior.

If being suspicious of religious leadership is the message this film is seeking to get across, it succeeds.  The film is hard to watch despite the strong cast and often feels like these professional actors are overacting to convey a sense of campiness.  The message is an interesting one and one which is important to have as part of the national dialogue when religion is dangerously close to becoming how our laws are decided.

To get your copy of Salvation Boulevard you can get it here:

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