The reviewer nails the fact the story only presents the dark side of the gospel, something I told director John Curran when I had lunch with him. Here are the significant graphs:
Throughout the film, we hear snippets from the steady diet of talk radio Jack favors during his commute. Prognosticators offer doom-and-gloom assessments of the moral and financial health of the United States. A preacher speaks about man’s inability to save himself, quoting Romans and Revelation. What Jack’s listening to is going to his head.
Early in the film, he tells Stone that if he wants to be released, he needs to go through Jack. Pointing to the world beyond the prison, Jack shouts that he’s the door to the outside: “I’m that door! You will go through me!” Late in the film, the radio preacher quotes Rev. 3:20, in which Jesus says, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in.” When Stone challenges Jack to stop judging him, Jack brushes it aside.
There will be justice for Jack, but watching his life crumble provides no comfort or message of hope. In the end, Stone comes across as deeply cynical about religious faith. It’s true that, as the radio preacher says at one point, none of us can choose to be born again, but watching a man’s life slowly unravel because of his lack of true faith doesn’t offer many moral lessons. True believers succumb to temptation all the time, but they know the answer is to repent and renew their commitment to their Creator. Watching a man who doesn’t understand this spiral out of control may be one way of displaying the gravity of sin’s consequences, but it’s only one side of the coin. As it is, Stone feels like a half-truth, and that’s not good enough.