‘Burden’ Paints a Possible Path Out of Hatred

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CREDIT: 101 Studios

Starring: Garrett Hedlund, Forest Whitaker, Andrea Riseborough, Tom Wilkinson, Crystal R. Fox, Dexter Darden, Tess Harper, Usher

Director: Andrew Heckler

Running Time: 120 Minutes

Rating: R for The Prosaic Evil of Hate Groups

Release Date: February 28, 2020 (Limited)

Reformed Ku Klux Klansman Michael Burden has the sort of name that only the hackiest of screenwriters would christen one of their fictional characters. But as an actual person, his moniker is a gift to someone crafting a based-on-a-true-story feature. For every living person in this world, a great deal of existence is about carrying burdens, and for Michael Burden, that truth is especially heavy. An orphan who was raised by Klan members from a young age, all he’s ever known is hatred. When he is finally able to pull himself away from that, he keeps buckling under the weight he has to bear: from the manipulation and emotional abuse he has endured and must still contend with, to the guilt from all the wrong he’s done and must atone for, to the general knot of anger at the pit of his soul.

Burden the film asks the question: is it worth the effort to rehabilitate someone who has left an ideology of hate? The example of Michael Burden (portrayed here by Garrett Hedlund) shows that it is possible, but where does that responsibility fall? In this case, the burden of Burden is transferred particularly hard onto his girlfriend Judy (Andrea Riseborough) and her young son, who somehow see a decent soul begging to break free, as well as the black Baptist Reverend Kennedy (Forest Whitaker), who interprets Burden’s predicament as a sign from God but risks alienating his wife and son with his offers of fellowship to a man they fundamentally do no trust. Taking on this burden leads to lives nearly getting ripped apart because of it.

Writer-director Andrew Heckler has presented us with a striking portrait of faith. Judy and Rev. Kennedy face intimidation and rationalization, but they carry through believing that their efforts are worthwhile. That faith is not simple nor is it easy. On the contrary, it is often frighteningly challenging. But something must be done to stem the intractability of discord. Burden zips through a few beats on its way to get to a fulfilling ending, but it is ultimately a valuable testament to the power of redemption and forgiveness.

Burden is Recommended If You Like: Places in the Heart, Dead Man Walking, the power of faith

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Deers

This Is a Movie Review: ‘The Death Cure’ Wraps Up the ‘Maze Runner’ Trilogy with High-Octane Action and Personal Battles of Class Warfare

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CREDIT: Joe Alblas/Twentieth Century Fox

This review was originally posted on News Cult in January 2018.

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Dexter Darden, Rosa Salazar, Giancarlo Esposito, Aidan Gillen, Ki Hong Lee, Will Poulter, Patricia Clarkson, Walton Goggins, Barry Pepper

Director: Wes Ball

Running Time: 142 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Zombie Makeup, a Few Puncture Wounds, and Some Explosions

Release Date: January 26, 2018

Readers, I must be upfront with you: The Death Cure is the only Maze Runner movie I have seen. I was not yet on a regular reviewing beat when the first two came out, but as the trilogy comes to its conclusion, the assignment has fallen to me. Now, I suppose I could have made time to get caught up on the first two, but I often contend that viewers can watch multi-chapter entertainment properties in whatever order they feel like. The Maze Runner franchise is probably not the best choice for doing so, as it is the type of film series that doesn’t waste any time playing catch-up for newbies. But I decided to experiment a bit and see if any enjoyment could be had amidst the confusion.

The good news is that The Death Cure’s spectacle is exciting and well-crafted enough to be enjoyed devoid of context. The opening action chase sequence of vehicles barreling towards a cliff plays like a postapocalyptic cross between the opening of Fast Five and the tank chase from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It is not as death-defying or as instantly iconic as its predecessors, but it sets itself apart enough to not be overly derivative. Director Wes Ball’s only three feature films thus far are the Maze Runner trilogy, but he has proven himself technically capable to fill in any openings that may exist in the action genre.

As for the story, I was generally able to fill in what must have happened in the first two enough to follow along, and it is not exactly what I was expecting. Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his crew are dealing with the aftereffects of a virus that has infected most of the world’s population, leaving many zombified while those who are well-off wall themselves in the Last City. Thomas is one of a few who are immune, and he could be instrumental in developing a cure, but he does not exactly agree with the methods of those dedicating themselves to finding one. There is plenty to be gleaned here about the struggle between the 99% and the 1%, and I appreciate that that point is not underlined too hard.

It is also welcome that this series (or the conclusion of it anyway) is not too beholden to the stereotypical “chosen one” YA narrative. Sure, Thomas holds the key to saving humanity, but that fact is accidental, and it does not really have anything to do with what makes him a good leader. As for a (good) quality of this genre that The Death Cure does play into, there is its surplus of quality adult actors (Giancarlo Esposito, Patricia Clarkson, Walton Goggins, Barry Pepper) popping up in supporting roles.

Ultimately, The Death Cure is a bit too long. There is no need to flirt with two and a half hours when much of the last act involves one group chasing after another, and then that second group chasing after the first, moving along in a constant struggle to get to the last stand. But while it is a bit thick with narrative, it never lags. This is not particularly groundbreaking cinema, but it is also no cheap knockoff. It is unique enough and content enough to explore its own little world to make it worth a visit.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure is Recommended If You Like: The Hunger Games, I Am Legend, The Action Sequences of the Indiana Jones and Fast and Furious series

Grade: 3 out of 5 Infection Checks