10 Movies That ... Deal With Murder - 5th Commandment
Reformation Rush Hour
So you like movies? Here's a list of 10 movies that deal with murder. Listen to Pastors Ted Giese and Craig Donofrio talk about their picks on the Reformation Rush Hour program on KFUOam radio. Also these 2 lists of 5 movies are not necessarily always going to be recommendations, generally speaking this is a conversation about movies that delve into the topic of the 5th Commandment as found in Luther's Small Catechism, many/most of these movies are not salutary or beneficial. These two lists run the gambit from serial killers, to a famous historical drama about the Holocaust, to angry Nihilism! In addition to murder Giese and Donofrio will also be looking at the protection of life side of the 5th Commandment as well as Jesus' views on anger, and murder! Yup it's a full hour of two guys talking about and movies.
The 5th Commandment
You shall not murder. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbour in his body, but help and support him in every physical need. Get the app! Get the book!
Giese's List Of 5 Picks
First up for Giese is Fight Club a David Fincher film from 1999. Here's a movie that begs to be talked about! A movie that is a love letter to Nihilism: It's about the most brilliant and engaging film about a man's spiral down into depressing self erosion and misanthropy. At the top of the programme Giese reads Jesus' words from the Gospel of Matthew:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire."
Fight Club is a good example of a film that depicts how anger and violence just short of killing someone is still in the category of murder, just like Jesus says, and how such thoughts and actions will eventually if left uncheck lead to murder. There are a lot of big twists and turns in the film but this theme of physically fighting people to selfishly let out frustration, aggression, and 'social despair' also comes up in some of the film's more quiet understated moments like when Fight Club's central character, the Narrator (Edward Norton), while talking to his new friend Tyler Durden (Brad Pit) about who they would pick a fight with says they'd pick a fight with Ghandi (the pacifist) and Bill Shater (Captain Kirk). The film gives many instances where it's rather clear that breaking the 5th Commandment doesn't simply have to involve physically killing someone - beating them up and hating them counts.
Just for fun here's a clip of Bill Shattner as Captain Kirk fighting Spock from the original Star Trek TV Series.
4) Rear Window (1954) Rated PG
Giese's number two film is the Alfred Hitchcock's film Rear Window. Jimmy Steward, who a lot of people will know from the Frank Capra Films Mister Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and the Christmas time Classic It's A Wonderful Life, in Rear Window (1946) plays a photojournalist with a broken leg trapped in His New York City apartment. L.B. Jefferies (Steward) spends his time spying on the neighbours and his attention falls primarily on a traveling sales man (Raymond Burr) across the way and his wife. After witnessing what he's sure is a murder Jefferies attempts to look after the community at large by bringing the murder to justice. While he wasn't able to stop the murder from happening Jefferies shows a great deal of concern for his neighbour's physical needs, like the basic need to stay alive, by bringing the murder to justice. The trouble comes when it looks like the murder is going to get away with the murder. At one point Jefferies asks, "what do you need [to prove a murder] bloody footsteps leading up to the door?" At the heart of this classic movie is a desire to make sure things done in the dark are brought into the light and that the sin of murder doesn't end up going unpunished. The director Alfred Hitchcock is also known for movies like The Man Who Knew Too Much, Psycho, and many other movies that deal with the theme of murder.
3) Crimes and Misdemeanours (1989) Rated PG-13
In Giese's third pick, Woody Allan's Crimes and Misdemeanours, Martin Landau plays Judah Rosenthal an ophthalmologist and a pillar of the community who has a big problem: his mistress Dolores Paley (Anjelica Huston) has told him that he is to leave his wife and marry her. There are many ways to deal with this situation but Rosenthal chooses murder and contracts Dolores' murder. The clip from this film delves into the mind of the man after the murder is complete. He's telling an acquaintance, a film maker (Woody Allan), about an idea for a movie. The whole conversation is half confession half self-justification. Sin is clearly mentioned as well as the callousness of conscience that can come from a person believing that they've gotten away with a sin like murder and feeling as if no one knows. Hoverer what lurks in the back ground is the fear that the other shoe will eventually drop and the murder will be uncovered. This guilt is part of Rosenthal's life after the murder and Allan captures the mental gymnastics a person goes through if they have little to no hope of forgiveness. For the family of the murder victim the consolation in the face of such tragedy is that no one will truly get away with murder indefinitely, without repentance and forgiveness all sin including murder will be brought out into the open on the Last Day, the day of Judgment, and Allan has crafted a character in Rosenthal who is left worried about that possibility. A possibility that Christians and Jews believe is actually not just a possibility but an eventuality, a reality.
2) Children of Men (2006) Rated R for strong violence, language, some drug use and brief nudity
In Giese's fourth pick Children of Men by director Alfonso Cuarón, who people will remember from 2013's Gravity, Cuarón adapts the P.D. James novel of the same title into a gripping thriller/drama grappling with the value of life and the tragedy of death. Clive Owen plays Theo Faron a man without hope who is thrust, much to his surprise, into the role of protector of life. In the film the population of the world has become infertile and the reality that all the currently living people of earth will soon die because of human frailty permeates every decision and thought of every person all the time leading to a general hopelessness. A small group of people discover that one woman, Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), has conceived and is pregnant. Theo is tasked with the job of protecting the woman and helping her bring the baby to term amidst a slew of dangers. Throughout the remainder of the film Theo is the picture of an individual working hard to help and support his neighbour in every physical need, in this case to help and support Kee in her pregnancy and to help and support her baby in her womb. Lots of positive stuff going on in this gritty dark film. There's also a scriptural allusion in this film where all the hope of human kind is placed on the birth of a single child, just as all the hope of humanity in placed on Christ Jesus and His birth. In both this movie and in Scripture the birth of the child gives hope for the defeat of death.
Giese also thinks someone should make a Children of Men mash up with another Clive Owen movie Shoot 'Em Up (2007) which is about man named Mr. Smith who delivers a woman's baby during a shootout, and is then called upon to protect the newborn from an army of gunmen. Someone get on top of that and let Giese and Donofrio know when it's ready!
1) Schindler's List (1993) Rated R for language, some sexuality and actuality violence
Fifth for Giese is Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List a movie detailing one of the most harrowing stories of WWII. Liam Neeson plays Oskar Schindler a German industrialist and business man trying to save as many Jewish people as he can from a genocidal Holocaust being perpetrated by the Anti-Semitic Nazis. Ralph Fiennes plays Amon Goeth a Nazi officer bent on the destruction of the Jews. This film has both the breaking of the 5th Commandment and the keeping of the 5th Commandment. Schindler is trying to keep as many Jews as possible out of concentration camps and Goeth is trying to murder all the Jews he can get his hands on. This is a distressing film primarily because Spielberg is working with real history, it is also very uplifting because it depicts the length people will go to save the life of their neighbour in distress who live under the very real threat of death.
Donofrio' List Of 5 Picks
5) Jack Reacher (2012) Rated PG-13 for violence, language and some drug material
First up for Donofrio's is the Tom Cruise film Jack Reacher by Christopher McQuarrie about a U.S. Army Military Police officer's (Tom Cruise) investigation into the death of five people who look to have been shot by James Barr (Joseph Sikora), a former U.S. Army sniper. In this action murder mystery things don't end up being as simple as they first looked to be. The case against the former U.S. Army sniper at first looked to be a slam dunk and yet with Jack Reacher involved the truth will be revealed and justice will be served. This film is a thrill ride and the due to the kind of film Jack Reacher is while it highlights the importance of punishing murder and getting to the bottom of who is culpable for murders when they happen, the film also contains a lot of violence. Perhaps it fits best under the category of Jesus' warning, if a person lives by the sword will die by the sword.
4) Momento (2000) Rated R for violence, language and some drug content
Second up for Donofrio is the Christopher Nolan film Memento. People will know Nolan as a director from the recent film Interstellar and the Batman franchise and also his film Inception. In Memento Guy Pearce plays Leonard a man searching for the murderer who killed his wife. He wants to have his revenge for her death but he is challenged by short term memory loss. He simply can't form new memories and the last thing he remembers is his wife being killed. Leaving notes for himself and even tattooing his body with clues Leonard tries to seek out the murderer. This again is a murder mystery and like all great murder mysteries it has a really big twist. It's a great movie about the nature of guilt and the need for justice that drives people to seek out murders when the gift of life is prematurely taken away by sin. Noland doesn't want the viewer to be two steps ahead of Leonard rather Noland seems to want the viewer to walk with Leonard as he puzzles out just who it was who murdered his wife. Noland accomplishes this disorientation by showing a significant portions of the film in a reverse chronology.
3) Name of the Rose (1986) Rated R-Violent Content including Some Graphic Images, and a Scene of Sexuality
Based on a book By Umberto Ecco Donofrio's number three pick is Jean-Jacques Annaud's Name of the Rose a medieval detective story. Sean Connery plays William of Baskerville a monk visiting a Benedictine Abbey in 1327 during a rash of unusual death. On the surface they look like paranoid suicides but when looked at more closely by William of Baskerville it's determined that they are in fact religiously motivated murders. Eventually the detective himself ends up a suspect and in the end the truth is revealed. Name of the Rose is a murder mystery movie highlighting the fact that not all murders are crimes of passion acted out in the heat of the moment, they are not all motivated by love gone wrong, or misanthropy, in fact if left unchecked wrongheaded personal religious convictions can also be motivation for murder.
2) Silence of the Lambs (1991) Rated R for thematic elements, language, sexual dialogue/nudity and some strong violence
Fourth up for Donofrio is Jonathan Demmes' Silence of the Lambs a movie that deals with the darkness of humanity and the utter evil humanity is capable of. Even still there is a hint that redemption is possible for the most corrupted and debased of serial killers. The serial killer in the movie that gets the most screen time and leaves the most indelible mark on the film viewer is the cannibal and psychopath Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) who helps F.B.I agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) track down another serial killer nick named Buffalo Bill. This film fits into the category of 'it takes one to know one.' With the manipulative and often self-servicing help of Lector Starling is left racing to be the clock to try and rescue a missing woman believed to have been abducted by Buffalo Bill. Not for the squeamish and not for the faint of heart this is a well made but exceedingly dark movie.
1) Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) Rated PG (Canada)
Donofrio's number five is the Frank Capra film Arsenic and Old Lace staring Cary Grant and Priscilla Lane. In this madcap film adaptation of the Broadway play, Mortimer Brewster (Grant) is a newspaperman who stumbles onto the secret of his spinster aunts living in Brooklyn NY. The old ladies run a boarding house and quietly knock-off lonely destitute men, burying them in their basement. The movie is smart and a terrific comedy, albeit a very dark one, under the surface of all the laughs the question stands, 'does it matter if the serial killer is a well meaning one?' The answer of course is no it doesn't matter, pre-meditated murder is still murder no matter how kindly it is done, even if it's done very sweet little old ladies with hearts of gold.
Honourable Mentions -
During the course of the show one of the movies that was brought up was Clue (1985) based on the board game! Here's the trailer.
For current movie reviews of films in the theatre right now by Pastor Ted Giese check out IssuesEtc.org, Where Christianity Meets Culture IssuesEtc!
 Matthew 5:21-22
 Matthew 26:52