It was mildly entertaining to look up other reviews of Infidel (2019) after I viewed it this past weekend. I witnessed those who do not share the views of the main characters in it twist and turn trying to find nice things to say about the film. They do not like to give any credit to Faith. The first (and only) one I read was from Variety magazine, and I can tell you that their editorial bent is decidedly not pro-Christian. With phrases like “reasonably polished,” reviewer Peter Debruge says further, begrudgingly, that is “a rather straightforward Christian parable about standing up for what you believe in.” Kudos, Peter, but the rest of your article suggests that this is basically conservative dogma, relying on stereotypes to convey complex messages, but that it is exciting enough to carry the story. In the eyes of Variety‘s writer, Faith is no more than a character device that adds drama to the captivity scenes.
Captivity scenes? Yes, Infidel tells the story of software company employee and Christian blogger Doug Rawlins (Jim Caviezel) from Washington, D.C., being kidnapped by Hezbollah while in Cairo, Egypt. He is invited there to speak on Islamic television about the similarities between how Muslims and Christians see Jesus. The biggest difference, of course, is that Jesus is God, something Muslims do not acknowledge. It is his testament to this fact that gets the attention of Islamic extremists, and they kidnap him from his hotel room in Cairo. The kicker here, though, is that his wife Liz (Claudia Karvan) works for the State Department, and thus has some ability to track his movements. Shortly after settling into the place where he is first held in Lebanon, he is given a computer by his captors and told to write about his situation. Doug is able to use a device given him by his wife to encode a message to her telling him where he is and about those holding him. Unfortunately, this gets noticed by internet hackers (who seem to have nothing better to do than to scan random blogs for hidden codes) and it gets out about what has happened to him. Infuriated, Rawlins terrorist kidnappers move him to Iran where he is to stand trial as a spy. Liz decides to go there as well to plead for his release. Shortly after her arrival in Tehran, she is contacted by members of the Christian underground in the city, as well as secret Israeli Mossad agents who have slipped into the country to help. At first, Liz puts her trust in the trial that is about to take place, believing that there is no way her husband could be found guilty of something of which he is so clearly innocent. But when a former family friend and co-worker of Doug’s, Javid (Aly Kassem), testifies against him as a “loyal” Iranian citizen, Doug’s fate is seemingly sealed. What keeps him alive is the fact that the Iranians want him to admit to being a spy and basically repudiate his beliefs. This also gives Liz and the Mossad agents enough time to hatch a plan to effect Doug’s escape. This is where the “excitement” of the film comes in, and it truly does deliver. Thankfully it has a happy ending, because at one point I worried they were going to kill Doug in order to make him into some kind of martyr. Instead, the Rawlins make it to Jordan, and the film ends with a dedication to other Christians held in Iranian prisons.
Not to continue to pick on poor Peter, but he seemed to look at those behind the making of Infidel and wanted to see some overwhelming polemic against Islam, with Christians being the “good guys.” He labels director Cyrus Nowratesh’s earlier work, The Stoning of Soraya M, as “heavy-handed,” and accuses producer Dinesh D’Souza of being a “sensationalist.” There is also Caviezel, who played Jesus in the smash-hit The Passion of the Christ (2004), and is known to be a devout Catholic. Even I expected there to be some miraculous scene that would have, perhaps, made the film somewhat hokey. Please understand that I do wish to dismiss the miraculous, and there are moments in here that would fall under that category. But the film handles them in such a way that speaks to the kind of every day faith to which we can all relate, even if we are not bound in a dark Iranian prison. In the midst of his darkest moment, Doug peers through the bars of his cell at the night sky and asks God for some kind of sign. He receives it in the form of a letter from his wife that is smuggled in by sympathetic Muslim guards. Another is when, at the point of boarding a helicopter that will take Doug and Liz away, the pair is attacked by Doug’s long-time captor and sometime torturer Ramzi (Hal Ozsan). Doug manages to lob a grenade at Ramzi, which kills the English-born Hezbollah operative. Doug then risks recapture in order to hold Ramzi’s hand in his dying moment. Can God perform more “spectacular” miracles, like whisking Doug from his cell or making smooth his escape later on? Of course. The mystery, and it is good, lies in the relationship between Doug and God and what the Almighty wants of His servant. That is something for all of us to figure out on our own, or with the help of a spiritual director.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the audience for the showing of Infidel I took in to be almost triple what it had been for most of the movies I have seen since I started going to theaters again. The biggest I have seen thus far was for Fatima, and that was heartwarming in its own right. So instead of three there was about nine of us. Still, that is made even more significant when you consider that this was not even its opening weekend. Blame me being at Disney last weekend for me not seeing it sooner. All that said, it is still a rated R movie, so keep that in mind if you are planning to see it. I recommend it, and the swearing that Doug utters is understandable given the situation in which he finds himself. Who among us would not let loose a few f-bombs if we were being kidnapped by a terrorist organization? The point is, Caviezel is a typical Christian put into extraordinary circumstances, and God saw fit to see him through it all.