"Savior of the World"
CHANGING LANES is a redemptive drama starring Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck as two men in New York City, who engage in a battle of wills when a traffic accident on Good Friday entangles their lives together. Brilliant scriptwriting, direction and acting bring to life the moral themes in this Christian morality tale, which includes several positive references to God, Jesus Christ and prayer.
It is very rare in today’s Hollywood thrillers to have any positive mention of Jesus Christ or Christianity. Imagine our surprise, therefore, to discover Jesus Christ playing a positive symbolic role in a thriller like CHANGING LANES, a new drama from Paramount starring Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson.
At the height of this edge-of-your-seat drama, Ben Affleck’s character goes searching for God during a Roman Catholic mass where a priest is calling attention to Christ’s death on the Cross as he carries a replica of the Cross down the aisle. Christ is the “savior of the world,” the priest proclaims. Later, Samuel L. Jackson’s character has an important conversation with his wife where a small wall painting of Jesus hangs in the background. These images of Grace set the stage for the movie’s denouement where these two men, who have been at each other’s throat for virtually the entire movie, finally come to terms with their own personal moral responsibility.
A very well-written drama and thriller, CHANGING LANES takes place entirely on Good Friday, during one fateful day in New York City. Gavin Banek (Affleck) is racing to a court appointment where he is supposed to defend his Wall Street law firm’s takeover of a multi-million dollar charity. While frantically trying to change lanes, Gavin accidentally hits another car driven by Doyle Gipson (Jackson), who’s racing to court for a custody hearing between he and his estranged wife over their two sons. Gavin insists on writing a check then and there, but Doyle, being an overly proud man, and a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, insists on doing things the “right” way by exchanging insurance information. Gavin can’t be bothered, however. “Better luck next time,” he shouts to Doyle as he drives off in the middle of negotiations, leaving Doyle alone with his flat tire.
Doyle gets to court too late to stop the judge from giving permission to Doyle’s wife to move their kids to Oregon with her, 3,000 miles away. Meanwhile, Gavin realizes that, in all the commotion over the traffic accident, he left an important file at the scene. The file contains an important document to support the claim of Gavin’s firm that their fraudulent takeover of the charity was a legal one.
Thus begins an exciting, dramatic war of nerves between the two men for control of the file. When Doyle refuses to return the file, despite Gavin’s apologies, Gavin decides to hire a shady computer hacker who makes it look like Doyle is bankrupt. The problem is, Doyle is trying to buy a small house for his estranged wife so that she and the kids can stay in New York. Now, because of the phony bankruptcy, the real estate deal has turned sour, and so has Doyle’s angry disposition. Everything escalates from there until the movie’s climax, when the two men finally begin to realize that, perhaps, they’ve taken things too far. Can they stop their macho one-upsmanship before someone really gets hurt?
Ben Affleck finally gets a chance to show his acting chops in CHANGING LANES. Before this movie, Affleck’s performances seemed to lack conviction. Jackson is also superb as the tightly wound, passionate Doyle. Helped by a nuanced, brilliant screenplay, director Roger Michell manages to create sympathy for both these characters, in spite of the bad things they do. Both men have become lost in a private hell of their own making. Regrettably, their misguided, sinful actions lead to much pain, for both them and the people around them. Michell concentrates as much on the drama of this situation as upon its suspenseful, thrilling aspects.
Because of its positive allusions to Jesus Christ and Christianity, as well as its morally uplifting ending, it is easy to think of CHANGING LANES as a Christian morality tale. In the end, the two protagonists learn the error of their ways and decide to take responsibility for their actions. Doyle’s wife prods him to change his angry ways. When Doyle’s sponsor at AA, played by William Hurt, learns what Doyle’s been doing all day, he gives Doyle a brilliant dressing down. You’re not addicted to alcohol, the sponsor tells Doyle, you’re addicted to chaos. Hurt gives such a powerful performance in this scene that it brought many claps of approval from the audience at the screening.
Chagrined by his sponsor’s admonishment and that of his wife, Doyle decides to change course and do the right thing. His action spurs Gavin to make some interesting, moral changes in his own life. As Gavin notes to Doyle at one point, some days are like a crossroads in life, where one decision can change everything. The end result of all this is a positive experience that will leave many viewers with a good feeling as they leave the theater.
CHANGING LANES is a different kind of dramatic thriller for discerning adults who are looking for a more redemptive experience at the local multiplex. It reminds us that only in God and Jesus Christ does our true redemption lie.
(CCC, BBB, Pa, LLL, VV, A, D, M) Very strong Christian worldview contains very strong moral elements and includes references to Jesus as the Savior of the World and a situation where God appears to answer a man’s prayer; marred by some moral relativism and questioning of God’s Plan; 21 obscenities (including several “f” words), four strong profanities and three mild profanities; moderate violence includes auto accident, man punches two men in face, threats, security guards wrestle man to the ground, and man deliberately damages wheel on man’s car, resulting in car crash; no sex but married man kisses former mistress or girlfriend’s cheek; no nudity; alcohol use and AA meeting briefly depicted; smoking; and, lying, fraud and deliberately setting off sprinklers in office building.
CHANGING LANES takes place on Good Friday, during one fateful day in New York City. Gavin, a Wall Street lawyer played by Ben Affleck, is in such a hurry that he leaves an important court document at the scene of an auto accident with Doyle, an insurance salesman played by Samuel L. Jackson. Because of Gavin’s rude behavior, Doyle misses an important custody hearing with his wife for their two sons. Doyle refuses to return the file, so Gavin hires a shady computer hacker to make it look like Doyle is bankrupt. The situation escalates from there until the movie’s climax.
This description doesn’t do justice to Chap Taylor and Michael Tolkin’s brilliant script, nor the nuances in Jackson and Affleck’s performances. Despite some strong foul language, this provocative, exciting movie ends on an uplifting, moral tone of forgiveness, charity and reconciliation. Even more importantly, the filmmakers place their moral ending within a Christian context. There are several important references to God, prayer and Jesus Christ, including Christ’s sacrificial death. CHANGING LANES is a different kind of dramatic thriller for discerning adults who are looking for a more redemptive experience at the local multiplex.