A group of native Liberian missionaries make a desperate cross-country trip through their war torn country to save one of their own.A group of native Liberian missionaries make a desperate cross-country trip through their war torn country to save one of their own.A group of native Liberian missionaries make a desperate cross-country trip through their war torn country to save one of their own.
The film doesn't showcase much of the scope or background of the Liberian Civil War, but instead focuses on the experience of a handful of people trying to escape from it. Although these people are Mormons, and the film is targeted primarily at Mormons, the film's faith-affirming message is broad enough to appeal to believers of all stripes. More skeptical or atheistic people probably won't find it as appealing, which may partially explain why it was nominated for nine or ten Ghana Movie Awards but received many lukewarm or negative reviews in the U.S. Despite the missionaries' highly visible name tags, the film says little about specifically Mormon doctrine or practice, but preaches a generic message of hope and faith through adversity.
I found it to have a good mix of tension and humor that held my interest throughout. Some people say it's boring, and we'll just have to agree to disagree. Some have complained that graphic violence isn't actually shown on screen; I think this is a tasteful "less is more" approach that most modern filmmakers have sadly abandoned altogether in favor of shock value. I felt that the humor was used sparingly and wisely; it's not a hilarious movie by any means, but has some smile-worthy moments to reduce the tension. We don't learn much about the individual missionaries' backstories or motivations but their interactions with each other bring them to life as real, young, sometimes naive but goodhearted people. And of course the soundtrack, particularly the opening sequence and the recurring vocals, is phenomenal.
This was filmed in West Africa with almost exclusively West African actors - specifically Ghana, since the Ebola epidemic prevented them from filming on location. This is a unique and good move both for LDS and American films as a whole. It is, of course, based on a true story - which placed a lot of constraints on what liberties could be taken with the plot that some have derided - but it's one of those rare times when a film adaptation of necessity becomes *less* incredible than the reality. In the film, there are only seven people in the car, so as to fit the camera; in reality there were nine. In the film, they need to pass through three rebel checkpoints; in reality there were about fifty.
If you're not Mormon, I can't promise you'll enjoy this movie as much as I do, but if you're not anti-religious messages I encourage you to give it a shot.
- Jun 5, 2016