The film opens to a violent scene of rebels in southern Sudan, year 2003, taking over a small village, killing the adults and taking their children. One young boy is forced to choose, either he kills his mother or the rebels murder him and his brother, after a slash of a blade to his face he killed his mother to protect his brother.
A few years earlier in Pennsylvania, a drug dealing, alcohol drinking, waste of a life, biker, Sam Childers (Gerard Butler), do I hear Oscar buzz, is being released from prison. His wife Lynn Childers is waiting outside the gates to take him home to his daughter, Paige (Madeline Carroll) who is being watched by Daisy (Kathy Baker). Things have changed at the trailer park for the women in the Childers family, they found God and church and Sam is not too happy. As time goes on Lynn and the family are at church while Sam is out causing trouble and coughing up a liver until one night when he and his best friend Donnie (Michael Shannon) pick up a hitchhiker. Things get out of hand creating a turning point for Sam as he finally asks for help to wash the blood from his hands and seeks it along with his family at church.
He soon starts to clean up his life, not without temptations, but goes to work in construction until the economy halts his pay check due to a slow new housing market. Somehow though the Lord does work in mysterious ways and when Mother Nature sends tornadoes throughout the Harrisburg and Allentown communities, Sam soon opens his own construction business since over 600 homes were lost in the storms including most of his trailer.
Years pass and Sam has a new home, a grown daughter and a happy life. After watching a guest preacher at his family church talk about the situations in Northern Uganda and the help needed because of the rebel’s situation, Sam decides to visit the area. After meeting a freedom fighter named Deng (Souleymane Sy Savane) in Uganda he asks one weekend for his assistance in showing him the life in Sudan, the war zone. Death comes out in the villages at night, violent death in the small villages leaving many young children that have run into hiding to return to nothing. There are many horrific scenes throughout this film such as the young boy that chases after his dog into the African brush never to return.
One night while back in Pennsylvania Sam has had a revelation, a sign from God to build a church in his community for the unwanted souls like drug dealers, prostitutes and less fortunate people. He also informs his wife Lynn he is going back to Sudan to build an orphanage for all those children left without parents, family, love, since the rebels in the country continue to kill. Sam has found his inner preacher which he uses at his church in Pennsylvania when home and also in Sudan as he works diligently trying to make a difference in that other part of the world that most people do not see nor choose to see. By seeing this film you will be witness to the horror and maybe want to make a difference by supporting and praying that somehow soon this killing of thousands stops.
Sam, now known as the ‘white preacher’ in Sudan is continuing to build his orphanage but is in need of money. He visits his friend at the local bank for a loan of $5000 to buy a new truck to transport kids in need of his orphanage but finds no help from the wealthy banker Bill Wallace (Peter Carey). Instead Sam dips deeper into his own life at home jeopardizing his own family’s lives for the children in Sudan, a world unknown to most people in America, let alone the tragic events that take place there every day.
Back in Sudan, Sam learns there is a price tag out for his head by the rebels but this only makes him fight even harder. He meets with the SPLA Leader who is involved in peace talks who asks Sam to help him fight in the walls of legislation but for Sam he feels he’s needed more in the fields trying to protect the innocent children from being shot, mutilated or burned alive. He begins to question the where about's of the Lord with so much bad happening in the world. He ends up in a Johnstown jail, sells his business and overall has created his own wish to die. I can personally tell you though that God does have a way of sending his angels in time of need when it’s not your time to go like he did for Sam through the voice of a young boy with a slashed face. In a world so full of hate one must always remember not to let them take away your heart. Thankfully in my life I was given my mother’s heart that I cherish every day. I appreciate looking for the good throughout so much bad even when temptations by others that surround us every day try to weaken me as some people think they are better or more important for all the wrong reasons. Once you view this film and I hope you do, you’ll realize what truly does matter in life and it’s not the rebels here in America that are constantly trying to take you down but rather the rebels in the world that are trying to kill the young and innocent, children with no agendas in life other than to be happy, smile and enjoy life with the ones they love.
Even though the film is a bit raw with its photography at times it is nothing but a symbol of the realism that is reflected in this story of life in Sudan. Knowing that this is based on a true story it is hard to believe that life at all even exists in Sudan. Sadly this film may not see a huge box office return since the majority of people don’t want to confront the truth of what is going on in this world other than what’s right in their own faces. Hopefully word of mouth and the need for help in making this horrific act of violence, taking place in Sudan, will attract people to the theatre to watch a film that will forever change their lives in so many ways.
I’m sure it has forever changed the lives of the actors in this film to others native to Sudan and Africa. Butler though is truly worthy of an Oscar nod and based on so many other films out this year he stands a good chance of hearing his name at least in the nominations. Monaghan was a great support to Butler throughout this film and a good balance for him as his character travels the globe. Carroll does a nice job as the daughter with a sense of maturity and for the most part understanding of her father’s quest. Shannon succeeds as the temptation of evil over good in Sam’s life. Overall this film offers education, faith, action, violence, drugs, language and overall hope shat somehow more people will look for a way to pay it forward and make this world a better place for all mankind. Make sure you hang out for the credits since the film reflects many actual video segments of the real Childers family, life in Pennsylvania and the life of so many tortured souls in Africa. Even though technically it may not be the best film on the big screen but based on story and the content this film for me is at least three and half paws out of four, I’m Jon Patch.