My Name Is Paul
Directed by: Trey Ore
Starring: Andrew Roth, Vanessa Ore, Davis Osborne, Abigail Rose Cornell, Michael Joiner
In his debut feature film, director Trey Ore sheds some fascinating light on the apostle Paul’s conversion. He does so partly by telling this 2,000-year-old story in a post-apocalyptic setting, reimagining the Biblical saint as a futuristic assassin.
In this near-future society, a totalitarian government is in power, and state persecution against Christians is in full swing. Churches lie in ruins, believers have been driven into hiding, and chief government enforcer Paul Cambio (Andrew Roth) takes great personal pleasure in hunting them down. Taking out the influential Stephen Martyr (Davis Osborne) will be a big blow to this fugitive movement knows as The Way. But Paul has even bigger fish to fry.
His latest assignment is to find and eliminate their leader, Peter (Elijah Chester), who apparently is in possession of a certain valuable map. But a mysterious accident stops Paul in his tracks, a blinding encounter that leaves him a radically changed man, facing the biggest test of his life.
It’s an intriguing plot, well crafted around the Biblical narrative, with a clever twist in the tale. But the plot is merely a hanger for the really illuminating stuff that Mr. Ore and his writers (Tara Lynn Marcelle and Vanessa Ore) are doing here. And that’s reading between the lines of the New Testament account, fleshing out what we only get a glimpse of in the book of Acts. Namely, what it must have been like in the aftermath of Paul’s conversion — for Paul himself, for his former partners in persecution, and for the believers who suddenly found themselves sharing their homes with a man who had torn their lives apart.
Two moments in the film stand out. In the first, Paul unknowingly visits the grave of one of his victims — where the dead boy’s little sister talks to him about Heaven. It’s a sad and lovely little scene, played with perfect subtlety by Andrew Roth and the wonderfully talented Abigail Rose Cornell. It’s closely followed by Paul’s moving confession to the boy’s mother Priscilla (Vanessa Ore), who’s struggling in her grief not to hate the man responsible. You can see here how it might just be that — as is suggested elsewhere — the infamous thorn in Paul’s side was the memory of his past. And we are reminded again that the men and women of the Bible were not some kind of spiritual superheroes. They were as weak and conflicted as the rest of us, capable of nothing in their own strength.
These are just some highlights of what is genuinely an outstanding film, a production of immense quality all round. Trey Ore directs with confidence, style and pace, but also has a fine knack for how and when to let the camera linger. Cinematographer Christian Simpson captures the actors and their desolate scenery with flair and imagination. And driving it all is a stirring score by composer Jurgen Beck, some of the finest film music you’ll hear anywhere.
The cast does a good job, too. Andrew Roth is superb in the lead role, commanding and menacing as Paul the executioner, subdued and vulnerable as the broken future missionary. Vanessa Ore is excellent as Priscilla, Davis Osborne makes a fine impression as Stephen, and Michael Joiner chews the scenery all round him as the seething Supreme Leader, reminiscent of the great Terence Stamp in full flight. Catherine Trail and Torry Martin provide moments of welcome comic relief, and Mark Jeffrey Miller gets a few laughs too as a dancing tramp who’s been hearing more than just the voices in his head.
There is some violence in My Name Is Paul, a number of intense shooting and execution scenes. These are not overly graphic but parents should be aware that the film is perhaps not entirely suitable for younger children.
For everyone else, it is highly recommended. A sequel is planned, to which there is only one thing to say: Bring it on. Soon.
My Name Is Paul (DVD) is currently in Christian book stores, and available in Walmart on April 8. The soundtrack is out now on iTunes.