God’s Slave

In 1994, there were bombings that took place in Buenos Aires. God’s Slave is inspired by those bombings. It follows two different people, one on each side of the, uh, law, I guess, and essentially involves a race. Will the good guy find the bad guy before he can blow himself up? Or, that’s what it initially looks like. I’ll explain.

One of our leads is Ahmed (Mohammed Alkhaldi), someone whose parents were murdered when he was just a boy, so he was taken in by some Islamic terrorists and told to go into hiding under a fake name. He can start a family, work as a doctor, and so on. But when they call — when it’s “his time” — he needs to be ready to carry out the mission for which God has chosen him. Most of the film takes place in 1994, which is when that phone call finally arrives. He’s taken from his home in Venezuela to Argentina, along with a couple of other people, and then they sit around and wait for the time to come.

The second lead is David (Vando Villamil), one of the main people in an Israeli intelligence office. His job is to prevent terrorist attacks. He remembers every single person who has been involved in suicide bombings, because that’s how hard he studies them. Yes, he’s a little obsessed, because as a child, he, too, experienced loss. His brother was killed in a suicide bombing. So, he’s made it his life’s goal to stop any and all terrorists. That’s a noble goal, even if it alienates himself from his family, who are scared by the entire situation.

It seems, initially, that everything is clear-cut. The good guy is obviously good, the bad guy is bad, and they’re going to clash and then one of them will win. But it’s not quite as simple as that. Well, maybe it is from David’s perspective, but not from Ahmed’s. He’s a more complex person than terrorists are usually painted. He has thoughts, feelings, and genuinely loves his life. He doesn’t know if he wants to go through with this. He’s devoted to God, yes, but he’s also devoted to his wife, whom he told he’d see in a week. And his children. Oh, his children! Can he do this?

Maybe this is why we never get films from the perspective of the terrorist, especially not in North America. The government wants to paint them as 100% evil, when in reality, they’re likely people who have second thoughts, and were brainwashed at a young age. But you don’t want people to think that way. You don’t want to show them the complexity of the situation, or how they’ll sit around, play cards, and joke around like normal people.

That depth is perhaps the only real reason to watch God’s Slave. It’s not anywhere near as intense of thrilling as its rapid cutting and sense of urgency wants it to appear, and while the religious aspect gives its characters shape, they’re otherwise uninteresting. You’re here just to see a criticism of religious extremism, and also maybe to see some stuff blow up, assuming you’re an awful person. I’m kidding. But you do get to see things blow up. At least, a few things. There are explosions, anyway.

Both of our leads are good. Mohammed Alkhaldi portrays the more morally complex character, and really does a great job at making the choice of whether or not he’s going to blow himself up in the name of God a tough one. Vando Villamil exists more as a calming presence; he’s someone who knows what he needs to do from the first moment, even if the film sometimes criticizes him for it. Bad acting could have ruined the film — as it often can — because we’d be making light of the situation thanks to the actors. But everyone is super serious and pretty good.

If you ever wanted to see a movie from the perspective of a suicide bomber — and for some reason didn’t see Uwe Boll’s Postal, which has a couple of scenes accomplishing many of the same goals that this film does — then God’s Slave is a film you should watch. It focuses on creating characters whose religion chooses their actions, but they’re not quite sure if they want to go through with those, because the consequences they have are less than ideal. It’s interesting, but it’s not anywhere near as thrilling or exciting as it wants to be.

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