Free Burma Rangers (Movie Review)
One of the most powerful movies ever made.
About the Film
Two provocations: 1) Free Burma Rangers is one of the most powerful movies ever made, and 2) its very power should keep certain demographics away from it. As a film critic, I have engaged with the most outrageous b-movies, the most controversial art films, and the most demanding cinema both foreign and domestic, but I have never seen a film as enervating, enraging, and enthralling as Free Burma Rangers. It’s a mind grabber—it hasn’t let go of its grip on me in the month since I saw it during its brief theater run before the cineplexes shut down due to the 2020 coronavirus.
The story of Free Burma Rangers is simultaneously true and farfetched, and if it had not been filmed, it would be hard to believe. In fact, further reflection on the film results in the realization that certain elements are intentionally underplayed which would otherwise seem extraordinary and fantastical. The content of this movie is better experienced than described, so instead, here are a few musings offered simultaneously for the demographics who, without question, should see this movie—and those who should not.
On the Surface—(Profanity, Sexual content, violence, etc.).
Profanity: The cinematic version captured a brief “oh my g—” uttered by a Muslim in a warzone. Otherwise, the language is remarkably clean not only of profanity but of coarseness, especially given the extreme circumstances.
Sexuality: Brief nudity is censored with black bars in a photograph documenting sexual violence.
Violence: Numerous corpses—of actual civilians—are shown onscreen, including the bodies of children. The onscreen violence shown is not as gory as horror films, but it is far more distressing because it is real.
Beneath the Surface— (Themes, philosophical messages, worldview, etc.)
1. Sacrifice is both real and worth it.
Free Burma Rangers is a diamond mine of a movie, and unlike watching many flicks which offer nothing beneath their surface, choosing a couple areas to discuss here feels like picking only two aspects of Michael Jordan’s skills to evaluate. Like a river connecting a nation though, the theme of sacrifice runs through this film in smooth, subtle, and yet extremely powerful ways. Be watching for the sacrifices, big and small, and you will be rewarded.
2. At the Cliff: Willing to Jump?
Seeing the Free Burma Rangers in action is likely to cause audiences to ask themselves hard questions: Am I willing to do what God wants even if it puts me in harm’s way? Does Jesus’ injunction to make disciples of all nations include those ravaged by warfare? Would I be willing to lay down my life so that a stranger might live? People sometimes talk about living life “on the edge,” but the Free Burma Rangers went up to the edge, saw that people were drowning in the waters below, and leapt off with life preservers. In watching this, you will be challenged.
Free Burma Rangers is one of the best Christian movies ever made, and yet it is never “preachy.” One hopes it is the vanguard of a Golden Age in Christian movies, indicating that Christian filmmakers are embracing the wildness of God and not settling for simple “John Doe had problems but then he became a Christian and his problems were solved” plotlines. Christian cinema, if it follows in Free Burma Rangers’ bootsteps, can grow beyond Hallmark-plus-Jesus sentimentality and into a uniquely affecting artform which viewers can never forget.
Recommendation: Sensitive people, including all children and many women such as “sweet old ladies in church,” should under no circumstances see this movie. Grown men will be shaken. And yet I can’t recommend it enough.