The Giver, a cinematic adaptation of Lois Lowry’s contemporary young adult classic, is great summer action-adventure entertainment. The film also serves as a terrific example for future moviemakers seeking to transfer themes of spiritual faith to celluloid without succumbing to preachiness and overwrought didacticism.
Yes, The Giver is yet another dystopian sci-fi adventure story featuring handsome young protagonists rebelling against established A-list Hollywood stars portraying adult autocrats. But, unlike the silly, over-the-top political media and often disturbing ultraviolence of The Hunger Games, The Giver delivers the action without unnecessary onscreen carnage. True – for the most part – the adults are still autocratic nincompoops, but the purpose behind their actions derives not from the comic-book arch-villain text book. Instead, the world depicted in the movie is closer to attempts at social engineering witnessed on a daily basis; from all-pervasive surveillance cameras to language policing and nanny-state enforcement.
Taking a cue from the original Star Trek television series, the setting of The Giver has, like Spock’s home planet, Vulcan, eliminated human emotion and biological passions in response to some catastrophe (presumably war). One individual is entrusted to all pre-catastrophe memories, the title character (Jeff Bridges). The Giver resides in an outpost on the edge of civilization, a bunker filled with books and a grand piano. He is charged with transferring his memories to Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), the state-designated Receiver of Memories. Like Spock, the Giver performs his own version of the Vulcan mind-meld for the transference of memories. (more…)
The film Lt. Dan Band for the Common Good kicks off with the Abraham Lincoln quote, “Honor to him, who braves for the common good.” The words are appropriate. In 2003, wanting to do even more for America’s service men and women, Gary Sinise formed the Lt. Dan Jam Band. The band name was easily decided because many soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen did not know Sinise by name and just called him “Lt. Dan.” The moniker is based on his well known portrayal of an Army lieutenant who lost his legs in Vietnam in the Hollywood film Forrest Gump.
Sinise likes to joke that expectations are low because the band leader is an actor, but in truth the band is made up of professional musicians. Director Jonathan Flora followed the band all over the world for two years as it performed for America’s military and charitable organizations that support the military.
The filmmakers focused a lot of the attention on all the band members and their commitment to those sacrificing for the nation. One touching scene comes on a bus when somebody off camera mentions that Sinise is a hero to the military and the moment leaves him visibly emotional. The film also includes interviews from Sinise’s wife and children and they share how much they miss having Sinise at home but are fully supportive and proud of his service.
Sinise, who was awarded a Presidential Citizen Medal by President George W. Bush in 2008, said in the film that after he started hearing casualty reports in the War on Terror, now almost ten years old, he had to do something. A 2008 Washington Times piece traces much of Sinise’s work with the military and the love and affection they have for him. Also quoted in the article is Deb Rickert of Operation Support our Troops. Rickert declared of Sinise:
In an age when the public often lavishes epitaphs of greatness on celebrities merely because they are famous, the military community bestows the simple title of friend on Gary Sinise truly because that is what he is to us.
While Sinise and the band members are visibly central in the film, many of the stories, tributes, and attention are reserved for the men and women in uniform and the first responders at Ground Zero on 9/11. Gripping testimonials are woven throughout the documentary, especially from family members of those who are deployed overseas in a war zone. An example of notable figures who offer words during the film include film actor Robert Duvall and American hero Colonel Bud Day, a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Most importantly, Lt. Dan Ban for the Common Good is simply a powerful reminder of what one can do when gifts and talents are put in service of others. Sinise is a natural because his heart and his authenticity shines. The director does a fine job of pointing out what is already widely known among the military and their families, that Sinise is known as somebody who genuinely cares about their service and circumstances and is not hanging around for a photo-op.
St. Ephraem declared, “Blessed is the soul that is adorned with charity.” For those who wear the military uniform Gary Sinise is affectionately known simply as “Lt. Dan.” But many others have rightly noted that he is the Bob Hope of this generation. Hope was the face of USO tours and he entertained service members for half a century. It is a serious comparison and if America’s military has anything to say about it, a deserving one.