It certainly has been a busy summer for white people in movies, with all the saving of less fortunate African-Americans they've had to do. Gerard Butler is joining the group as Sam Childers, the motorcycle-riding, gun-wielding, drug-ingesting wild child that ends up saving Sudanese orphans. Starting out as a baddie just out of prison, he's the kind of guy that gets angry when his wife Lynn (Michelle Monaghan) gives up stripping because she has found the Lord (and a job less hard on the joints). However, he turns his back on the dark side quicker than you can say refugee, which serves as a metaphor for the way the script tells the story--quickly and without impact.
There is no denying that this is one amazing tale. The real life Sam Childers took all of his inner demons and channeled them into saving children's lives at whatever cost to himself and his family. There are few people in the world that would even come close to doing the same thing, and for that, he deserves to be honored by a better film. Gerard Butler does a respectable job of bringing him to life, navigating through Sam's emotional ups and downs and showing us that it's not easy being a hero. He even hides his accent most of the time when he's yelling.
It's not Michelle Monaghan's fault, either. She makes the most out of the little scraps the script throws her. Being the strong, determined wife of such a huge personality looks good on her, and what few moments she has in the film are well-spent. It's rare to see a couple that came together as lost sinners who find their way and become a strong unit despite the enormous and unique challenges they face, like saving a segment of an African country's population. Moments like those are lost in the movie, however, because it's covering too much ground in too simple a way.
I can continue to list the solid performances in the movie--Michael Shannon and Madeleine Carroll are always interesting to watch as little stars that orbit around Sam's gigantic planet. Unfortunately, I can't judge the performances of any non-American characters because the movie never really shows us who they are. This makes the movie feels paternalistic and banal when it should be inspiring.
Over the credits, footage of the real Sam is shown, which made me crave a documentary about him. I know that statistically that means no one would see it, but the real heart of the story lies with the man who went to hell and back for what he believes in. I want to watch him pump shotguns, play soccer with kids, and argue with his wife for two hours. I want to hear the real-life versions of these people talk about the horrors of war, and what it's like to have someone from across the world make it their business.