Unstoppable (2013)


It’s tempting to call Kirk Cameron’s Unstoppable a feature-length sermon, but even that’s being too generous. In actuality, it’s 80 minutes of incredibly facile Biblical literalism and made-up philosophy, tied together with a complete lack of coherence. Oh, and it also seems to suggest that the Christian god is evil?

Ostensibly a meditation on why there is suffering in the world if God is all-good and all-powerful, the film ends without providing a decent answer. His one answer boils down to “I don’t know and I don’t care”. He is satisfied that Jesus was good, so there has to be a reason for tragedy. He alleges that all tragedy is used by his god for good and suggests that when other people die, it makes those who loved them more compassionate toward others. Hence, the greater good is achieved! Cameron’s depiction of “tragedy” is almost entirely limited to the premature death of a young boy he knows, which he’s able to rationalize by finding joy in the communal air that accompanied his burial. Cameron doesn’t touch on rape, torture, slavery, spontaneous combustion, natural disasters, or his career. It’s difficult to find the silver lining to these less comfortable tragedies, so Cameron prefers to pretend they don’t exist. In short, he has nothing useful to say.

First, to explain the genesis of tragedy, Cameron turns to Genesis. He recounts for viewers the most elementary Biblical stories–about Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Flood–all conveyed through black and white shots of him speaking directly to the camera in his living room. It’s abundantly clear that he put little thought or effort into this project. He talks of Adam being made of dirt and we see a shot of him running dirt through his fingers like he thinks of it as his grandpappy; he talks of Eve being made out of Adam’s entrails and it’s clear he’s completely serious. For some reason, the movie splices in scenes of Cameron at an airport and getting on a plane while he’s telling this story. I couldn’t help but marvel at the way that he sits in a seat on a passenger plane, acting like a normal human being instead of the raving lunatic he is. This is a man entirely divorced from reality. How does he function at all in this world?

He goes on to say that Adam and Eve were told to be fruitful and multiply, and to take dominion over all Creation. Well, except for most of it (i.e. the rest of the universe). Suddenly, without any explanation, a serpent shows up and is evil. He entices Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, the blame for which Cameron lays on Adam. You see, Adam was supposed to protect Eve: he should have realized that, as a woman, she would be gullible and weak. Strike one, Adam. God casts Adam and Eve out of the garden, removes the fig leaves they’d been hiding their nakedness with, and clothes them in skins of beasts. Why skins of beasts? Consider this: it is a reminder of our sin because we fell for the trickery of a beast. Cameron goes on to speculate that clothing is the first mark of the beast. Whoa. That is mind-blowi– wait, what? Clothing is punishment? Is woven and synthetic clothing anti-God? And what does this have to do with tragedy, again?

Never mind that, let’s move on to Noah and the Flood. Surprisingly, Cameron acknowledges that the story does not make God endearing and therefore is a hard sell. “I’m a famous actor,” Cameron reminds the audience (I’m paraphrasing here), suggesting that the story of the Flood is so unmarketable that it could not be sold in Hollywood and therefore must be true. Cut to a fantasy sequence wherein he pitches the Flood to a group of “Hollywood executives.” There are four men positioned around a boardroom table, all of whom are thrilled to be performing the most grating, un-funny improv sketch ever committed to film. They get to guffaw and make suggestions to improve the story and ohmygawd they make you want to gouge your eyes out. When Cameron says that Noah builds a ship, one of them mugs for the camera: “Like a cruise ship? That could appeal to people! Who doesn’t like a cruise ship?” Cameron continues to deflect their alterations, telling the story as it is. God gets mad at humanity, decides to kill them all.

There’s a brief silence. One of the executives finally speaks up, “It kind of portrays God as the enemy here, is what I’m getting.”

Ah-ha, but here’s where Cameron’s thesis comes into play. With Adam and Eve, and with Noah, the stories actually exhibit God’s mercy because he was well within his rights to murder them. Well, when you put it that way… No, I get it. God is great because he refrains from murdering people (sometimes). I mean, he did murder almost everybody in the Flood, but he was merciful by only murdering almost everybody and not literally everybody. That’s a guy worth worshiping! And a better world was made through the tragedy in both situations. For instance, after Adam and Eve left the garden– uh, no, wait. It’s a worse world; one of Adam’s sons kills the other. Well, okay, but after the Flood–uh, well, things were about the same, I guess. And come to think of it, who was the cause of these tragedies?

Here’s Cameron again to finish the Flood story: after the waters subsided, God put a rainbow in the air to signify that he would never destroy almost all of humanity (with water) ever again. Cameron goes on to state that the rainbow is not some trifle for any dumb punk to mess with: it’s a war-bow of wrath pointed at the heart of God’s enemies. Wait, why does God need a war-bow? Is he fighting somebody we don’t know about? Apparently oblivious to the implication, Cameron invites viewers to consider the way this war-bow is positioned. If you were to shoot an arrow from it, where would it aim? Holy shit, Kirk Cameron. Are you telling me that GOD is the enemy??? The pieces are falling into place. We flashback through the previous scenes, watching them in a new light, realizing that God was the bad guy all along. He was behind every misdeed, using the serpent as a fall guy, encouraging Cain to kill Abel. The world spins around us as we suddenly understand everything.

Or, no, that’s just in my head. Cameron instead suggests that the rainbow is aiming toward Jesus. Oh Christ, Jesus was the bad guy the whole time? This is getting out of control! No no, wait, that’s not quite it either. You see, Jesus came to Earth as a human and took on the sin of humanity. He’s like a tick all fattened up on blood, only instead of blood it’s sin. The bow is pointed up at Jesus in the sky (because Heaven is literally above us, obvs) because he’s got all the sin inside him. I’ve never been clear on this part of the story, honestly. So, why is there still tragedy, then? Is it sin that causes tragedy? Is cancer and rape what you get for being a sinner? Oh wait, here’s Cameron again, maybe he’ll explain it to us.

The tower of Babel: everybody was working together, trying to build a tower to Heaven. God, in a fit of rage, disperses them and confuses their language, which leads to the Babylonians, Assyrians, etc.–cultures of death. Okay, I’m sorry, that doesn’t help. It really sounds a lot like there was peace on Earth and God intentionally wrecked it. Am I alone here–is anybody else hearing this? Cameron assures us God is good and hasn’t given up on his plan. So, God’s plan just keeps going awry… over and over again? So is tragedy God’s plan going off the rails yet again?

Okay, here’s Cameron to bring us in the home stretch. I’m sure it’ll all come together now. After Jesus was born in Israel (cut to a shot of tractors with a country music twang over it, because Jesus was born in Israel, Alabamer and don’tcher never let no Commie pinko tell yer diff’rint), he was killed by his own people. By being slaughtered, Jesus wins! He has de-fanged and neutered the Devil! Yay! Jesus did it! Jesus wo—hold on. I’m pretty sure you just asserted that Jesus won and the Devil is dead without explaining a goddamn thing. (By the way, the devil is dead? Can I quote you on that, Kirk?) He ends refusing to answer one of the basic questions at the heart of the movie: why doesn’t God heal people? He simply assures his audience, with no basis, that bad is actually good.

Kirk Cameron’s Unstoppable isn’t just dumb, it’s diametrically opposed to anything approaching knowledge, logic, reason, reality. It raises questions it either refuses to answer or answers with obvious nonsense. And on top of it all, Cameron couldn’t be bothered to even leave his house for the majority of the movie. It’s a potent image of how little he thinks of his audience. He might as well be in his pajamas, for how little effort he put into this simplistic garbage. It’s offensive because of it’s garbled Biblical literalist message, but perhaps even more so because it’s so apparent Cameron put almost no thought or effort into the finished product. He ought to be ashamed.


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