Monday, October 28, 2013

Why LDS Young Men Serve Missions: Movie Review of The Saratov Approach

Have you ever wondered why Mormon (LDS) young men and women leave their family, friends, and educations to serve missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for eighteen months to two years at their own expense? 

If you want to know the answer to that question, you really need to see The Saratov Approach. This true story about two LDS missionaries who are kidnapped in Russia in 1998 is a great film, whether you are LDS or not. The screenplay is exceptionally well written--poignant and heart-rending with just the right touch of humor and terror. The pacing is perfect, the acting believable, the story spellbinding. Though replete with action and suspense, the parts that touched me the most were the emotional and spiritual trials these young men had to face in addition to their physical ones. The ethical question of self-preservation versus sacrifice for the good of all (other missionaries or travelers) made for serious contemplation. And although the movie touches on the missionaries' crises of faith through the ordeal (how could it not?), the movie does not sermonize or manipulate the viewer to believe what they believe--it simply shows the missionaries' conviction and explains how they could endure such a traumatic experience.

My only criticism was the camera shake, especially at the beginning of the movie. It was difficult for me to overlook it and concentrate on the story line; eventually, however, it calmed down when the main characters were no longer traveling or confined in a small area.

Overall it was a fantastic movie that I hope everyone--member of the LDS faith or not--takes the opportunity to watch. If you are the parent, friend, or family member of a currently serving missionary, you might be a bit hesitant--I know I was. Although it is a bit scary to think that things like this actually happen, watching the movie actually made me feel more at peace with the potential dangers out in the world than before I watched it, mostly because of the way the characters dealt with the situation. This movie rivals any higher-budget, widely marketed film and needs to be on everyone's must-watch list.