When his youthful ambition leads to a tragic marriage, the all-powerful Samson embarks on a quest for vengeance that brings him into direct conflict with the Philistine army. As his brother mounts a tribal rebellion, Samson's relationship with a Philistine temptress and his final surrender to God will help turn imprisonment into a final victory. (1)
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Hello, Movie Buffs!
Samson (2018) is a great film that is surprisingly accurate to the Biblical tale about the strongest man in the Old Testament. The scope of the film is epic with more character depth and realistic fight scenes that did not disappoint. The story of Samson is historically recorded in scripture, Judges 13, so while most people know the details of his story, this film takes the story takes it to a whole new level.
I understand that many Christians would be hesitant to see this film because of the possibility that it would not be portrayed accurately. What people have to understand is that the Bible is not written like a screenplay so if the story only consisted of Judges 13 – 16 then the film would have been short and lackluster. Inevitably with many books to film adaptations, even if that book is the Bible, some changes need to be made in order for the story to portray well on screen. In regards to any films based on scripture, I believe that it is okay if a film goes beyond the biblical text but it should never contradict it. Here the filmmakers made a few changes with some details but they did a good job in maintaining the core of the story and included all the major plot points. The few changes only further enhance the story’s drama, religious significance, and a message about the importance of one's destiny.
It is understandable why the filmmakers decided to condense the story’s timeline for cinematic purposes, especially since the audience would have lost interest easily. For instance, in the Bible Samson’s marriage feast took place over seven days where his bride (Frances Sholto-Douglas) frequently pestered him for the answer to his riddle. However, the film shows the marriage feast taking place in one evening and his bride did not pester him much. The same can be said for his conversations with Delilah, who is a reluctant pawn, later on in the story. In contrast, there is one scene in the film that implies that Samson does not always think things through when he makes a wager. However, scripture details that while Samson was angry at the Philistines he never reckless (Judges 15:7) and had a plan to pay his end of the bargain (Judges 14:10-19). In other words, the pacing and timeline were different from scripture but it worked in this film.
The only issue I have with the timeline is the period between when Samson was captured after his hair was cut (Judges 16:18-21) and when he asked God to give him the strength one last time (Judges 16: 28 – 31). In the film, his cut hair is almost shorter than his ears but by the end of the film, his hair has grown to his shoulders. Now I know from scripture that Samson was kept as a prisoner for some time, which allowed for his hair to grow (Judges 16:22), rather than what appears to be a few days or a week. I think that if the film specified that some time passed, not necessarily how much time, then the overall timeline would have made sense. Because one moment we see him with almost buzzed hair and the next his hair is touching his shoulders.
Samson is a biblical story that is rich in spiritual content. As mention before, Samson has been called by God since birth to be a champion for the Israelites but he is upset at the idea that his destiny in life has already been decided. The film holds to the truth that Samson’s great strength comes from God and that not cutting his hair is part of his vow as a Nazarite rather than being the sole source of his strength. In other words, when we make a vow to God, whether it’s from birth or later on in life, opens a door to let God move into our lives and to use us as a willing participant. So when Samson’s hair is cut he becomes vulnerable but, as proven in earlier moments of his life, whenever Samson needed to fulfill his destiny he would pray to God to be filled with his (God’s) strength. On the other hand, the Philistines are confirmed Dagon worshippers who mock the Israelites for their religious beliefs. However, not even King Balek (Billy Zane) buys into his kingdom’s religion by explaining that gods are just symbols and that they have no power. Instead, he sees them as a way to control his people and possibly even his enemies. Overall, this story is filled with spiritual content both good and bad.
The film handles the violence quite well. See when you have a story that centers around a hero who’s most notable ability is his strength then you are bound to come across some violent and bloody moments. Like when Samson kills 1,000 Philistines with a jawbone (Judges 15:12-20). However, the film keeps the gore and blood in check while still keeping the violent scenes violent by bringing in non-biblical moments of violence and carnage.
Throughout the Bible, whenever the enemy got too big for his britches, God always had a champion – a judge or even a king – destined from birth to show the enemy who the true God is. For this story, “the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord so the Lord delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for 40 years” (Judges 13:1), but God did not leave the Israelites’. He prepared a way to deliver the Israelites out of hands of the Philistines and for this case it was through Samson (Taylor James), who he called before birth to be a Nazarite and would save Israel from the Philistines. Nazarite comes from the Hebrew nazir word meaning consecrated or separated. A Nazarite vows to abstain from drinking intoxicating liquors (plus: eating or drinking anything from the vine), cutting their hair, and touching corpses or graves (including family members). This vow is to be kept for a specified number of years depending upon the person, in Samson’s case his vow was for life (Judges 13:2-5,8).
In the Bible, we never really get to see what kind of person Samson really is. We see a muscle man that is a womanizer, can’t seem to grow up, and who almost has as many failures as he does victories. And while the Samson in this film is portrayed similarly to the version in the Bible, here he is more sympathetic. He is unsure of who he wants to be and would prefer there to be peace between the Israelites and the Philistines. Of course, we all know that when God calls you to be someone no one can change that, not even yourself. And after a series of events makes him the Philistines’ most dangerous enemy, Samson has to accept his destiny in order to protect Israelites from the wrath of King Balek (Billy Zane) and Prince Rallah (Jackson Rathbone), who is even more unhinged than his father. The women in Samson’s life are portrayed quite well in this film, especially Delilah (Caitlin Leahy). I know a lot of people might hate her for what she did but this film humanizes her and shows how her decision quite possibly affected her both mentally and emotionally.
Overall, Samson (2018) remains faithful to scripture and takes advantage of some extra details in order to fill out the story and characters historically. Before birth Samson was set apart and given the gift of God-like strength. Samson is a womanizer and a reluctant hero but the film suggests that his attitude is the result of youthful exuberance and headstrong arrogance, and he matures overtime. The blood and gory were restrained but the violence was never shortchanged, and the acting was excellent. I highly recommend this film to everyone who enjoys Biblical stories that are thought provoking and inspirational. Do not let the critics deter you from seeing this film otherwise you might miss out on a great story brought to life.
NOTE: The end of the film suggests that there is a possible film about David in the works, and I would be thrilled if they made such a film.
"Lord, give me your strength one last time... Let me die with the Philistines."
Worth Seeing: 8 of 10 stars
Worth Buying: 8 of 10 stars
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David and Goliath (2015)
Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)
Genesis: Paradise Lost (2017)
God the Father (2014)
Joseph: King of Dreams (2000)
The Nativity Story (2006)
One Night with the King (2006)
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Paul, Apostle of Christ (2018)
The Prince of Egypt (1998)
Son of God (2014)
The Young Messiah (2016)
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