Note: the following post will spoil the movie endings for Slumdog Millionaire and Gran Torino.
In Gran Torino Clint East plays Walt Kowalski, a racist Korean War veteran, who becomes increasingly unhappy at the influx of Hmong people to his neighborhood. After he catches Thao, a teenage Hmong neighbor, attempting to steal his 1972 Gran Torino as part of a gang initiation, the boy is forced by his tradition-oriented family to work for Kowalski in penance.
Estranged from his children and grandchildren, and having just lost his wife, Kowalski gradually becomes friendly with Thao and his family, learning about Hmong culture. He attempts to protect Thao and his sister Sue from the gang.
Slumdog Millionaire is the story of Jamal Malik, an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, who is about to experience the biggest day of his life. With the whole nation watching, he is just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India's "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" But when the show breaks for the night, police arrest him on suspicion of cheating; how could a street kid know so much?
Desperate to prove his innocence, Jamal tells the story of his life in the slum where he and his older brother, Salim, who is both his guardian/protector and antagonist, grew up - of their adventures together on the road, of vicious encounters with local gangs, and of Latika, the girl he loved and lost.
I haven't seen many movies in the past year so I found it interesting that the two most recent movies I saw had similar themes. In both movies the characters of Walt and Salim are hard-nosed, heartless men that hate people and would kill anyone that got in their way - Walt killed in the Korean war and Salim killed gangsters and crime lords from the time he was a child.
Yet both films offer incredible stories of sacrifice, redemption, freedom.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
[ John 15:13 ]
In Slumdog Salim helps Latika (his brother's lost love) escape from Javed (the crime lord he works for) and allows himself to be killed in a bathtub full of money after shooting and killing Javed. Salim's last words are "God is great", which is a Muslim prayer.
In Gran Torino the Hmong gang that keeps pressuring Walt's young neighbor Thao to join them find Thao alone, mug him and burn his face with a cigarette. Walt confronts and beats up one of the Hmong gang members in retaliation. The gang returns days later and shoots up Thao's home, wounding Thao in the neck. Sue (Thao's sister), who had left for her aunt's house before the shooting, returns, beaten and raped. Walt confronts the gang about the shootout and rape. He waits and watches as some neighbors witness the confrontation. He takes out a cigarette from his jacket, puts it in his mouth, and asks the gang for a light. Then Walt reaches for a lighter in his jacket, and the gang unleashes a hail of fire upon him in fear, thinking Walt is pulling out a gun. Walt is killed.
Both Walt and Salim sacrificed their lives for others. And interestingly, both men planned and prepared for martyrdom - Walt by attending confession prior to his demise and Salim by praying to God.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
[ 1 John 3:16 ]
There is a huge difference between suicide martyrdom and laying down your life. Christ died so that we don't have to. Walt and Salim reminded me of this.
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.
[ 1 Peter 3:18 ]
And it was for freedom that Christ has set us free. [ Galatians 5:1 ]