a very particular set of skills
so i went and saw the movie taken with liam neeson. its the story of a mans daughter being kidnapped and of his subsequent efforts to rescue her. heres the trailer…
heres neesons phone statement in case you didnt catch all of it.
i dont know who you are. i dont know what you want. if you are looking for ransom i can tell you i dont have money. but what i do have are a very particular set of skills. skills i have acquired over a very long career. skills that make me a nightmare for peope like you. if you let my daughter go now thatll be the end of it. i will not look for you i will not pursue you. but if you dont i will look for you i will find you and i will kill you.
and he proceeds to do just that.
[[[SPOILER ALERT]]][[[SPOILER ALERT]]][[[SPOILER ALERT]]]
(as if you dont know whats about to happen…)
after flying to paris he quickly tracks down the spotter and chases him to his death in traffic. then he proceeds to kill a buncha guys in a portable prostitution trailer on a construction site. the trail of bodies leads from one location to another as neesons character hunts down the man he spoke those words to and then tortures him to death.
but its not over.
theres one scene where neeson sits down to dinner with a french man he apparently worked alognside at one time in the past. the mans wife has prepared dinner but the food remains uneaten as neeson and his former associate get into a riff about the corruption of the local police force. as it turns out the frenchman is on the take and is indirectly receiving money from the very guys who run the kidnapping/prostitution ring.
so neeson shoots his wife.
its only a flesh wound mind you but after a bit of cursing and a threat to make the mans children into orphans he gives neeson a bit of info and is knocked cold. lucky guy. hes one of the only people in the movie neeson doesnt kill.
having still not found his daughter yet he proceeds to track down and kill a whole buncha other guys involved in the european sex-slave trade. one by one he knocks them off using his very particular set of skills until he finds his daughter on the yacht of a sheikh who he kills – securing the rescue of his kidnapped daughter.
they hug and cry and travel back to california where there is a happy ending. roll credits.
standing outside our little rangra theater after the flick ended i found myself pondering the broader implications of this movie. which is weird bc this is really nothing more than your typical shootemup.
but this movie stirs up a big murky cloud around the concept of justice.
the big issue that immediately arises is whether or not what neeson has done is right. the general pull of the movie and the complete lack of character development in any of the baddies makes you want to think so. but in truth neeson is nothing more than a vigilante subverting the established means at any cost to get back his daughter. at one point he even tells his former associate that he will tear down the eiffel tower to find her.
and its not that i dont understand the motivation. children are precious and we are given to protect them. theres no sin in that. however – does this justify killing busloads of people even if they are guilty? does it justify torture to the point of death? does it justify shooting an uninvolved person for the sake of info?
lets be clear. theres not an ounce of remorse or sorrow in neesons character. hes a killing machine when it comes to anyone not related to him who might stand in his way. and to be honest he has the mercy and compassion of a tyranical third world dictator.
but we want him to suceed.
time after time during the show when neeson would off a baddie with a flurry of fists or a well aimed blast of his acquired weapon the people in the theater would oooh and aaah. in one scene neeson wrecks shop on a roomfull of albanians. when another henchman bursts thru the door he sees them all lying on the floor neeson lift his arms from underneath one of them and puts a bullet in the guys teeth.
and the audience is all but cheering.
i cant help but wonder how christ-like is this? i mean seriously – place jesus in neesons role and what happens? the daughter vanishes into the sex-slave underground while jesus weeps? jesus dad gets in on the action and wipes out all of albania with a massive flood while sparing the girl in a boat made of gopher wood? roll credits?
i see evidence for both reactions in scripture. on the one hand you have god in the old testament using a massive flood to wipe out those he considers his enemies because of their sins. on the other you have god in the new testament telling his followers to turn the other cheek and refusing to go apenuts when his enemies beat him senseless and nail him to a tree.
and again in the ot we find god sitting by as all manner of evil is perpetrated on his people in egypt. for several hundred years he does nothing. then the exodus comes as god takes the life of every firstborn egyptian son including that of the pharaoh. and theres always the glorious picture we find in the book of revelation with jesus stomping his enemies into a bloody pulp that stains the bottom of his robe.
is neeson an imitator of god?
can you envision god telling pharaoh:
i have a very particular set of skills. skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. if you let my people go now thatll be the end of it. i will not look for you. i will not pursue you. but if you dont – i will look for you. i will plague you and i will kill your firstborn.
yep. pretty much. 10 plagues worth. it gets rolling in exodus 5 and comes to climax in exodus 11. check it:
so moses said: thus says the lord: about midnight i will go out in the midst of egypt and firstborn in the land of egypt shall die from the firstborn of pharaoh who sits in his throne even to the firstborn of the slavegirl who is behind the handmill and all the firstborn of the cattle. there shall be a great cry thru-out all the land of egypt such as there has never been nor ever will be again.
then in exodus 12 we find:
at midnight the lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of egypt from the firstborn of pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon and all the firstborn of the livestock. and pharaoh rose up in the night – he and all his servants and all the egyptians. and there was a great cry in egypt for there was not a house where someone was no dead. then he summoned moses and aaron by night and said: go out from among my people both you and the people of israel – and go serve the lord as you have said.
so god goes to great lengths to bring his children safely out of danger – even to the point of killing many who are not directly involved. which draws us to the real point of my pondering..
<<<<<who is justified in doing such things?>>>>>
despite our desire for justice and corresponding willingness to look favorably on vigilantes who pursue it to our liking i dont think we can justify neesons character bc he lacks the very particular set of skills that would allow him to be judge and executioner of these sinners. and the extent of his actions reveal that he is ultimately no different from them.
so what about god?
why is god the father justified if he takes life? bc he gave it. bc he sees our hearts and knows everything about us. bc his judgment is not based on whether or not we measure up but on jesus the christ. its thats simple. the son of god gave up his throne and put on skin so that after living a sinless life he could make the ultimate sacrifice and in turn eliminate the injustices of all those who put their trust in him to do so.
only the one who secured our redemption by taking all our injustice on his shoulders and paying the consequences for it is justified in retribution. and in the broken messed up situation mankind finds itself in its a good thing we can place our hope in jesus instead of liam neeson.