Quiet Courage, Not Machismo, is What Makes ‘Dunkirk’ So Compelling

The story of Dunkirk is remarkable. Civilians sailed their fishing boats, pleasure yachts, and trawlers across the English Channel to France to attempt a rescue mission for 400,000 British and French soldiers encircled by Hitler’s Wehrmacht—the German army—in 1940.  If those men were captured, England would have effectively been knocked out of the war. In … Continued


Are We Overusing the Word ‘Hero’?

In the 1994 Robert Redford-directed Quiz Show, professor Charles Van Doren confesses in testimony before Congress that he had knowingly participated in the rigging of a TV game show which led to a shocking national scandal. The charming Van Doren, played by Ralph Fiennes, is so sincere and humble in his mea culpa that the … Continued


What Jason Bourne Could Learn from C.S. Lewis

Last week my wife and I enjoyed a mid-week date night. “Jason Bourne is still in theaters. I’d love to see that,” she said. So we did. The final shaky-camera-car-chase nearly made her throw up. And I had to close my eyes as Jason, again, brutally beat then strangled his nemesis. No music, just gasps. … Continued

Entertainment, Movies

‘Deepwater Horizon’ and Everyday Heroes

The climactic images of an American flag rippling against darkness and fire in the brilliant new film Deepwater Horizon recall many a war film, or indeed the writing of The Star Spangled Banner itself, near Fort McHenry as the War of 1812 raged. But this is not a war film. Or is it? The civilians … Continued

Entertainment, Movies

Who’s the Real Hero? Sully vs. Snowden

For more than fifty years, going back to John Ford’s revision-minded 1962 Western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, in which a political grandee’s career was established under false pretenses because everyone believed he killed an outlaw who was in reality slain by someone else, Hollywood has been advising us to be skeptical of heroes. … Continued

Entertainment, Movies

Heroism, Not Politics, is the Message of ’13 Hours’

Michael Bay, like Rodney Dangerfield, don’t get no respect. Despite his movies raking in nearly six billion dollars worldwide, he is often dismissed as the man responsible for the cartoonish Transformers franchise and the legendary debacle that is Pearl Harbor. But with the just-released 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Bay has transcended himself … Continued

Entertainment, Movies

How Have our Heroes Changed?

The fourteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks this past Friday was a somber reminder to Americans of the first responders and their heroic sacrifice on that terrible morning. Three hundred and forty-three firefighters perished that day, as well as sixty police officers and eight paramedics, all rushing to the aid of others with a disregard … Continued

Books, Culture

Holding Out for a Hero

Every culture ends up with a hero that defines it. From the trickster Odysseus of Homeric Greece to the chivalrous Lancelot of Arthurian romance to the lone lawmen of Hollywood westerns, heroes reflect the values and ideals of their time and place. But who is the heroic icon of 21st century America? Who defines us? … Continued

Celebrities, Culture

‘The Equalizer’: Heroism in a World without Knights

Action flicks these days aren’t solely the domain anymore of chiseled, one-note actors like Van Damme, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Statham (although those icons have found a home in The Expendables series). Now the leading men of the best “actioners,” as they’re known in Variety-speak, are heavy-hitting thespians like Liam Neeson and Denzel Washington, whose acting … Continued

Entertainment, Movies

A Humble, Heroic Tom Cruise in “Edge of Tomorrow”

Edge of Tomorrow remains one of the top summer blockbusters at the box office, and is there any surprise why? Grossing more than $239 million worldwide, it’s one of those films that have it all. It has action. It has a catchy premise, featuring the day-starting-over glitch we’ve loved since Groundhog Day. It has top-notch … Continued

Entertainment, Movies