Seven Pounds (2008)

Rated: PG-13 for thematic material, some disturbing content and a scene of sensuality.
Length: 123 minutes
Grade: BCBB=B
Budget: $55 million
Box Office: $189 million (70 U.S., 99 Intl., 20 DVD)

Written by: Grant Nieporte (First movie)
Directed by: Gabrielle Muccino (Pursuit of Happyness)
Starring: Will Smith and Rosario Dawson.

An IRS agent behaves mysteriously as he meets seemingly unconnected people, all of whom are suffering from major health problems.

Entertainment Value: B
Okay, here’s the problem for me. This is a movie predicated entirely on a mysterious ending which you’re supposed to spend the duration figuring out. Unfortunately (I guess) for us, we figured it out after about 30 minutes. I don’t know whether they gave us too much information (probably) or whether we just got lucky, but I really spent the rest of the movie feeling basically like I do when I go to watch a Cardinals game that someone has ruined by telling me the final score. It’s a fine movie, but I would have liked it better if they hadn’t disclosed so much so early. The premise is certainly interesting enough to merit a movie, and Will Smith is obviously one of the best actors in America.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity C, Violence C, Language C, Illegality C
The characters drink alcohol a few times. There are a handful of scenes with partial nudity and one extended romantic scene. Language is fairly mild for PG-13. But the likely concern here is with some of the violence, including a graphic suicide, serious car wrecks, and surgical scenes. PG-13 is correct.

Significant Content: B
Okay, there is no decent way to review this movie without revealing the basic plot premise. Since the movie does an inadequate job of shielding this from you, I don’t feel as obligated to protect it. But if you intend to watch the movie and want to see if you can figure it out for yourself, read no further. That said, this movie is entirely a matter of guilt driving a man to try to make the world right by giving life to as many deserving people as he killed. Atonement, guilt, redemption, evaluating people’s lives, and personal sacrifice are therefore clearly the major themes.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
Despite the twist being too easy to figure out (excuse my repetition of this if you did not figure it out when you watched it), the basic idea is still fascinating. There are plenty of discussion questions to be had on the movie and specifically on Ben’s choices. One question I never got answered was why this movie was shot with a handheld camera rather than on a stand.

Discussion Questions:
~If you were one of the recipients of Ben’s gifts, how would you feel about the gift? What if you were Emily? Does his choice create a community of gratitude? In what ways is this similar to Christianity?
~Compare Ben’s sacrifice with the sacrifice of Jesus. In what ways is it similar? In what ways is it different? Was Christ driven to the Cross by his need to redeem himself? Would it be fair to say that Seven Pounds represents the very best version of secular salvation imaginable (as in, not really good enough at all)?
~Ben seems to believe that he will be able to make up for the bad he feels responsible for by doing some compensatory good deed. Is this impulse a correct one? What does the Bible have to say about restitution? Is his form of restitution praiseworthy?
~Would it make a difference if Ben had been killed by a doctor against his will rather than voluntarily sacrificing himself? Is there an ethical difference between a soldier who throws his body on a grenade in the foxhole and what Ben does? What about a soldier who simply agrees to a dangerous mission in order to win a war and save lives? If you were Ben’s friend or family member, would you encourage or discourage his choice? Would God approve of his decision?
~Ben clearly wants to pick beneficiaries who seem morally deserving to him. What do you think of his judgment in this regard? Does God evaluate this way? Consider the way he provokes people to see what they're really made of or how he watches them secretly. Compare his actions to a wealthy benefactor who selects needy families on the basis of their virtue rather than only on the basis of need.
~What would happen if we took all our good deeds so seriously?
~How does Ben’s knowledge of his future choice affect his willingness to put himself at risk and break rules now? Would you call him a vigilante? Agent of justice?
~What is harder to live with, suffering that has no explanation, suffering you brought upon yourself, or suffering that you know you inflicted upon others?
~Do you think Ben will go to heaven?
~Why is the music off-key?
~What does the title mean?

Overall Grade: B
Will Smith apparently loves playing Christ figures: this, I Am Legend, Hancock, etc. This movie is worth seeing, but the others are better, and this one would have been better without the opening scene essentially giving it all away.

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