7 Things That Make Warrior One of My Favorite Movies
Last July I was a part of the Institute for Cultural Communicator’s PREP team. Although PREP team was a lot of hard work, it was an amazing experience. Every Friday, for example, we had “guy night.” Basically, all of the guys on the team would pool a bunch of their money to buy tons of soda, candy, etcetera, and then we would spend the entire evening doing “guy stuff.” The unofficial rule was that whatever happened on guy night stayed on guy, so I can’t share too much, but one night we decided to watch a movie. I heard that the movie was about a couple of MMA fighters, so I immediately expected some boneheaded, testosterone filled, low quality film.
However, when Warrior began and I heard the lyrics to Start A War by The National playing, I knew that I was in for something good. In fact, by the end of the film, I had completely fallen in love with it.
Why did I fall in love with the film?
1. It’s not actually about fighting.
Although the movie is packed full of great fight scenes, it really is not about the fighting per se. Instead, the movie is about the characters’ inner turmoil, which spills out into the external world through confrontations and fighting. Even from the onslaught of the movie, it is evident that the characters face many demons.
In the opening scene, for example, Tommy (Tom Hardy) is seen downing pills with alcohol. Just minutes later, we learn that Tommy’s father, Paddy (Nick Nolte), was an alcoholic and had been abusive to Tommy’s mother. Their family was completely torn apart by substance and physical abuse. One of Paddy’s sons continues the cycle by resorting to drug and alcohol abuse, while the other, Brandon (Joel Edgerton), does his best to break the cycle and completely walks away from his father.
This film may appear to be about MMA fighting at first, but it is barely relevant to the true struggle in the film. The real struggle was the struggle with brokenness, repentance, forgiveness, and love. It is about inner struggles, and they just happen to manifest themselves in the external world through fighting.
2. It’s about forgiveness.
It can be hard to forgive, and this movie does a stellar job of depicting the challenge. The characters in this story have no shortage of sins to be forgiven, and the process of forgiving them takes the characters through so many struggles, cuts open so many old wounds, and batters the characters to the extent that it is a miracle that they can stand. If you want a story about repentance and forgiveness that shows the real world difficulty of such endeavors, this one does a first rate job.
3. It’s about real problems.
Anger, bitterness, grief, repentance, forgiveness, and love all play major roles in this film. An abusive, alcoholic father drives his wife and one of his sons away. The one who stays does so because he has found the woman that he wants to raise a family with, and he wants his family to bear no resemblance to the one that he was raised in, so he cuts all ties to his past. Tommy, who left with the mother, feels betrayed by Brandon, the brother who stayed behind, and when the mother dies, the anger, bitterness, grief, betrayal, and rage were cemented into the Tommy’s very essence.
Overcoming these struggles, not the fighting, is what this movie is about. Of course, the anger and bitterness are externalized through drug use and emotional jabs. Tommy also constantly reminds his father of the pain that his abusiveness caused, and he even disowns his brother.
4. It’s about the characters.
Forget the movie’s plotline. Seriously. The plot is super predictable and rather cliche. However, it is made believable, beautiful even, through the sincerity and authenticity of the characters. The plot in itself isn’t really even the true plot. The movie isn’t about a series of events. It is about characters, their feelings, beliefs, and stories, and how those things collide and conflict to create a larger story, one composed of people, not events.
5. It’s about brotherly love.
Perhaps one of the reasons that this film resonated so deeply within me is that it delves into brotherhood. I have four sisters, and all of my brothers are over the age of thirty, so they aren’t really my peers. They are brothers, but not the kind that you grow up playing alongside.
I’ve always wanted a brother. Ever since I was little, I have always wanted one. When I was ten and I finally got a nephew, I was so excited to have a boy to play with. Granted, he is a lot younger than me and he isn’t actually my brother, he and I are somewhat like brothers.
In a way, I have always idolized brotherhood, and when this film showed brothers who were so estranged that when one shows the other pictures of his kids, the other basically says that they mean nothing to him, that they ware strangers, and that he isn’t even really their uncle. However, at the end, when the brothers leave hugging each other, I almost cried. I never cry in movies, but I came close to it.
6. It’s about failure.
Paddy fails as a father. Tommy and Brandon fail as brothers. Tommy fails as a fighter. Paddy fails as a redeemed man. Basically, failure is everywhere throughout this movie.
This failure does teach us some important lessons, though. Although Paddy cannot go back and redo his younger days, he can try to redeem himself now. Although Tommy and Brandon fail as brothers, they can learn to see through the walls that years of brokenness have built between them. Although Tommy fails as a fighter, he finds something more valuable in his defeat than he would have found in victory. Although Paddy fails as a redeemed man, he can still try to reconcile himself.
7. It’s about sin and redemption.
Although this is definitely not a Christian film, I find it, in some ways, to do a better job of showing the suffering caused by sin and the redemptive power of Christ than some Christian films. Early in the film Tommy says, “So you found God, huh? That’s awesome. See, Mom kept calling out for him but he wasn’t around. I guess Jesus was down at the mill forgiving all the drunks. Who knew?” The look that passes over his father’s face when he says this really conveys more than words can say. Paddy knew the hurt, the pain, the suffering caused by his sins, and he was sincerely penitent.
There are a few Christian themes, I believe, throughout this movie that should be noted. There is the theme of forgiveness, which is perhaps the most explicitly Christian theme. However, the film also accurately portrays sin and evil. Actually, this film does a superb job of portraying evil.
For example, Tommy is constantly trying to drag his father back into his sinful state. At one point in the film he states, “I think I liked you better when you were a drunk.” Even though Tommy knows the heartbreak and suffering caused by immorality, he still seems determined to drag his repentant father back into the mire of sin, something that evil seems to do quite often. It’s like a dog returning to its vomit. Tommy knows firsthand the evil of drunkenness, yet he is determined to see his father return to it. In fact, he eventually succeeds when his father gets drunk after one thousand days of sobriety.
When Paddy stumbles and gets drunk, I think this paints an accurate picture of man in a fallen world. We have a perfect example in Christ, but we cannot achieve perfection in our fallen state. We will slip and fall, no matter what. As long as we live in this world, some remnants of sin will remain.