REVIEW: ‘Samson’ is an impressive Bible adaptation
February 15th, 2018 / By: Michael Foust / comments
Old Testament movies on the big screen don’t have a solid track record in the modern era.
The 2014 film Exodus: Gods and Kings got a lot of things right but also largely omitted, well, God.
That same year, the movie Noah took so many liberties that by the end of it you were left wondering: Was that supposed to be a Bible story?
Which brings us to the new film Samson (PG-13), which is out in theaters this weekend. Made by the faith-based studio Pure Flix, it stars Taylor James (Christmas Eve) as Samson, Caitlin Leahy (Black-ish) as Delilah, Golden Globe winner Rutger Hauer (Batman Begins) as Samson’s father Manoah, Billy Zane (Titanic) as King Balek, and Jackson Rathbone (The Twilight Saga) as Rallah (Balek’s son).
It tells the story of an Israelite gifted by God with supernatural strength whose own weakness to sin led to his downfall. But in the end, God still used him.
Samson surprised me. I went in with low expectations and with the assumption that I wouldn’t like it, but walked away impressed. It’s one of the best Old Testament film adaptations of the modern era, combining biblical accuracy with solid acting and impressive action scenes.
That’s no easy accomplishment when considering the story of Samson: He slayed a lion with his bare hands (Judges 14:5), killed a thousand men with a jawbone (Judges 15:16), and burned the countryside by fastening torches to fox tails (Judges 15:3-5). The Pure Flix filmmakers could have skipped those incredible feats, but to their credit, they left them in the script, and the movie is stronger for it. The film does a nice job of bringing Samson’s quirky exploits to life.
He essentially was the world’s first superhero -- a Rambo before there was a Rambo – who credited God for his abilities.
“Our God is not weak!” he shouts at the beginning of the film.
Samson takes some creative liberties but keeps God at the center of the plot. Still, it’s not a perfect film. More about that in a moment.
Warning: minor spoilers!
Moderate/excessive. Although it remains largely bloodless – similar to a modern-day Marvel movie. Soldiers pull people from their homes, looking for Samson. We see a soldier stab someone from behind with a sword, killing him. A Philistine beats up several men before Samson shows up and saves the day. A male character (not Samson) threatens a female character with violence. We learn that Samson’s wife was killed. Samson fights (and whips) Philistines several times, killing some of them. Samson witnesses one of his family members killed. Samson kills solders with a jawbone. A member of the royal court stabs another member.
Minimal. Samson is seen shirtless several times throughout the film. We see him kiss women about four times, but it remains relatively tame. The film contains no nudity or bedroom scenes. The Samson-Delilah angle stays family-friendly.
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Throughout history, Christians have considered Delilah as a cunning woman – the woman you would never want your son to marry. The Zondervan book All the Women of the Bible even calls her “one of the lowest, meanest women of the Bible—the female Judas of the Old Testament.”
Yet in the movie Samson, Delilah is portrayed in a positive light, as someone who truly loved Samson and who regretted her actions.
The movie gives us lessons on temptation (Samson), consequences (Samson), regret (Samson), trusting God (Samson) and redemption (Samson, God).
At first blush, the story of Samson is one of failure. Think about it: He was chosen by God to help deliver Israel but ended his life in chains – all because of his sinful lust.
But dig a little deeper, and Samson’s story is one all of us should embrace. It’s a tale of God’s love and discipline (Hebrews 12:4-11), and of God’s power (Judges 13:5). It’s also a story about how God accomplishes His will through sinners like us. Even after Samson succumbed to sin and abandoned God countless times – and even after he was blinded and chained – God used him to “save Israel from the hand of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5).
“His God is with him. He’s invincible!” the Philistines says during one poignant moment.
God uses sinners! For that, we should be grateful.
What I Liked
The action scenes. The way the film credits God for Samson’s strength.
What I Didn’t Like
The characters are too groomed and wear too much makeup. More dirt and messy hair, please! To the defense of Pure Flix, though, lots of history-based mainstream movies also are too clean and crisp.
Additionally, the film would have benefited from more Middle Eastern-looking actors and actresses.
- Why did God give Samson strength one more time?
- What can we learn from Samson’s story about sin? About temptation? About consequences? About second chances?
- What did you think about the film’s depiction of Delilah?
- What was the purpose of Samson’s long hair? Why was he forbidden to cut it?
Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Samson is rated PG-13 for violence and battle sequences.