Saturday, September 10, 2011

Movie Review: The Ledge

the ledge

The Ledge is a flawed but legitimate attempt to tell a story exploring the relationship between faith and reason – from an atheist perspective.

The story opens with Gavin (Charlie Hunnam) standing on a ledge on a tall building clearly planning to jump. Hollis (Terrence Howard) is the police officer in charge of talking Gavin down. In a series of flashbacks, we find out that Gavin has been having an affair with Shauna (Liv Tyler) who is married to Joe (Chris Wilson). Shauna and Joe are fundamentalist Christians. The mystery is what has brought Gavin to the ledge willing to jump – and it is not what you might think it is.

The writer and director, Matthew Chapman, to his credit, wrote the script and planned the movie determined to do it the way he wanted to – fully expecting not to have the movie made because of that. But it got made and it provides for thought provoking viewing even if it is somewhat amateurish in its execution.

The major problem with the movie is that it has a “preachy” flavour like so many Christian movies that offer black and white answers for complex questions. The dialogue is forced and some of the acting is artificial, although Wilson and Howard just about rescue the film with their interpretations of their characters.

Another flaw is that both the fundamentalist Christians and the atheist characters are too simplistic. The film overall is too dogmatic in its view of both and does not reflect the nuanced best of these antagonistic views. The premise of the story is brilliant and it had the potential to be a very profound piece of cinema. But, as Chapman has indicated in an interview I heard on Point of Inquiry, he wanted this to be an explicit argument from an atheist perspective. And that is what it is – an overt argument about faith and reason with cardboard stereotypes and simplistic reasoning. The “philosophical” agenda of the writer has overshadowed the story and made creative writing and professional production a secondary concern.

As a vehicle to stimulate some discussion around a number of issues, the movie has some value and there is a certain level of entertainment. But given the movie had such well known stars and was clearly backed by commercial support it is surprisingly amateurish. And the “winning” side of the argument is rigged from the beginning by comparing the best of atheism with the worst of Christianity – a poor thinking move itself.

For me, the most significant theme in the movie is whether people need God (or a belief in some external authoritative revelation of morality) in order to live good lives. I get very frustrated when I hear some Christians saying how atheists cannot have a system of moral values because they don’t believe in God. Clearly, many atheists do. They have reasons for living well and, sometimes, those reasons are based more in a care for humanity itself than some Christians who seem to merely be obeying the laws of God (as they define them) to avoid God’s displeasure. The gospel of grace subscribed to by most Christians should free them from serving for any other reason than love for fellow humans. And there is absolutely no reason to think that an atheist cannot do that.


Positive Review
'Chapman coaxes good performances from his cast, especially Wilson, who makes Joe's immense conflicts a matter of empathy as much as abhorrence.' – Peter Rainer/Christian Science Monitor

Negative Review
'There's nothing wrong with establishing a field of unlikable characters, but The Ledge not only relies on paper-thin stereotypes, it keeps its allegiances clear from the beginning.' – Jesse Cataldo/Slant Magazine

Content Advice
sexuality, language and some violent content



  1. Interesting... I had never heard of this movie. I am surprised it had some well-known names. Was there mention of Jesus, or did it avoid the subject of salvation?

  2. Oh yeah, it avoided Salvation. Lets face it, Satan is the father of all lies. Morality is from God. The only reason that Atheists to control themselves is because deep down the part that is the image of God when he created man via Adam is there. However it didn't stop Hitler amongst others. It is so much more and so typical of secular cinema to paint a picture of a christian that has nothing to do with the Bible. Marriage is tough sometimes, but lived in obedience to God it is a taste of Heaven on Earth. Individuals in a marriage have to get past themselves. It is about giving up your lifein regards to your selfish desires and having your own agenda or moods for your partner and knowing God will bless that. Prayer. Check out Much more uplifting. We are to abstain from Evil, had to fast forward most of the content of the film. No discretion. Much like watching a debate with Richard Dawkins, film makers don't know God or the Bible. As said so much more. God doesn't not break hearts.

  3. I watched this movie last night... In response to the salvation question... I do remember the two guys during a conversation, Gavin says to Joe something like "So.. a Catholic (after he names every other faith) can't go to Heaven because they aren't "saved" and Joe says yes, that's right... so, they do briefly talk about salvation. I found the movie to be very sad... Sad because a lot of Christians act ridiculous like this Joe character, so it's not that far fetched.