Monday, October 18, 2010
"Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions." Joel 3:1
Despite the heavy violence in this film, what was most captivating on my trip to the movies to see Red, staring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, and Helen Mirren, was the audience sitting around me that evening.
Unlike the predominantly young crowds filing into Jackass 3D next door, the people who occupied these seats were an intergenerational collage. There were teens and young adults, as well as middle aged adults and elderly couples. And as the movie ended and we spilled out into the lobby, it was a welcome sight to see groups of folks in their 50s and 60s laughing and carrying on while 17 year olds were racing past them, late for Johnny Knoxville's Jackass film.
What brought these otherwise disparate generations together? It was an 100+ minute spy caper and action adventure romp. But instead of young guns stealing the show, Red featured a group of retired CIA black ops agents (deemed code "RED" - meaning "retired, extremely dangerous") defending their lives and their country once again.
In this exciting story, Willis plays the aptly named leader of the group, Frank Moses - who can escape death miraculously (and with great wit and planning too). Hoping for a quiet retirement in the arms of the youthful, 46-year old Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker), Moses and his former teammates (and anyone connected to him, including a bewildered Sarah) is unexpectedly targeted for extermination. Moses must use all his old tricks to defend his life and save those closest to him.
What follows is the enjoyable reunion with a fun cast of characters: the terminally ill yet still randy Joe (Freeman), the paranoid yet often accurate eccentric Marvin (John Malkovich), the lovesick former Soviet operative Ivan (Brian Cox), the now rich and powerful mastermind Alexander (Richard Dreyfuss), and the classy gun-shootin' dame Victoria (Mirren).
Together, these retirees outsmart and outmaneuver those who are decades younger. With their wisdom, experience, and skills, they make youthful CIA agents pale in comparison.
In an era today that not only respects youth, but sometimes worships it at the expense of older generations, Red is an excellent counterweight. It causes us to reconsider the values of earlier ages when years of wisdom were the highest value. It leads us to the Scriptures, written in a time when the elders were given great authority - and respect was demanded for parents, family, and the mentors who traveled the road before us.
Seeing Red, and most especially seeing the mix of people who came to see Red, I am reminded of the prophets Isaiah and Joel whose visions of the future were intergenerational.
When looking ahead at the end of the Babylonian exile, Isaiah proclaims God's hope "to create new heavens and a new earth... No longer shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days or an old man who does not round out his full lifetime; he dies a mere youth who reaches but a hundred years and he who fails of a hundred shall be accursed." (Isaiah 65:17a,20)
And the prophet Joel foresees a time when "your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions." (Joel 3:1,2a)
The brightest future, according to these prophets, is one where the young and the old are regarded equally, where both are given their due credit, and where both are honored and respected. Sociologists tell us that generations are widely different from each other - and sometimes one age group develops its habits out of a violent reaction to the previous one. These innate trends and our penchant for being divisive can lead to generational isolation or even conflict. In the 20th and 21st centuries, we are in danger of obsessing too much over youth that we forget about the greatness of our elders.
So, from time to time, we need to course-correct - to be more in line with the visions of Isaiah and Joel and the Reign of God ushered in by Jesus, where old and young alike stand side-by-side before God and all creation. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that being younger does not mean being better (or vice versa).
And a film like Red is a chance for us to realize that action heroes aren't always teen or 20-something heartthrobs (and aren't always men either... thank you very much Ms. Mirren).
Let us pray to be open to generations other than our own - and to work in partnership with those older and younger than us for the building up of God's kingdom on earth.