"For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the sea, and the flood enveloped me..." Jonah 2:4
Predators is basically a cinematic cage match - between a team of extraterrestrial creatures and a collection of the most dangerous humans on earth. For fans of this science fiction franchise (myself included), it is a welcome return to a great monster movie experience.
At the heart of all monster movies is the feeling of being cast deep into a frightening world. "This has got to be hell," remarks one of the characters in Predators as he looks around at the alien landscape in which he and the other humans have been literally dropped.
Of course this sentiment seems fitting, considering who these people are. The leader of the group, Royce (Adrian Brody), is a mercenary killing for money and sport, while the rest of the crew include an American serial killer, a Mexican drug cartel enforcer, a Sierra Leone death squad officer, a Yakuza assassin, a Russian commando, as well as the black ops sniper Isabelle (Alice Braga). Deep down, many of them feel that this alien situation is just punishment for their crimes on earth. It might as well be hell.
In a way, if this is indeed punishment, it is quite fitting for this band of killers: for a group of people who preyed upon the fears of their own people and who felt no remorse over murder at their own hands, they must now face what it is like to be hunted down by something even more menacing than they could ever imagine.
Making us, the audience, connect with these criminals reminds us that we are all sinful people. To varying degrees, we stumble and fall in our lives, causing us to fall deeper into sin. But what matters most to God is how we crawl out of our sinfulness, how we reconcile with those we have hurt, and how we resolve to do better in the future.
In Predators, most of the band of killers are not interested in penance. Their focus is on survival in an alien wilderness. In a way, when we, too, fall into sin, we can make hundreds of excuses to avoid true reconciliation - claiming that surviving the day-to-day grind is our first priority.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, the prophet Jonah thought much the same way. He wanted to hide from his sinfulness and prejudices - and in the process was cast into the deep to be swallowed by a large fish. Finally, in the belly of the monster, he understood - and in the worst situation imaginable, cried out to God for forgiveness: "For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the sea, and the flood enveloped me. All your breakers and your billows passed over me... But I, with resounding praise, will make a sacrifice to you. What I have vowed, I will pay, for deliverance is from the Lord." (Jonah 2:4,10)
When we find ourselves in the midst of sin, what do we do? Do we wallow in our misfortune? Do we avoid facing our victims? Do we forget it, hoping others might forget, too? Do we focus on surviving, regardless of who we hurt along the way?
Or do we seek out goodness, compassion, and humility, vowing to put right our wrongs?
In Predators, each of the characters (including one of the alien creatures) has an opportunity to made amends for their crimes. Some take that gift, while others squander the moment. In our own lives, God gives us plenty of opportunities - from sacraments to chance encounters - to ask for forgiveness and to do good towards those we might have hurt. When the time comes, what will we choose to do?