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To Save a Life (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 22, 2010 by  



Not your usual type of Christian film.  “To Save a Life” accurately depicts teenage high school life and the film doesn’t shy away from showcasing teens who drink, have sex and do drugs and also teens who are contemplating suicide.  “To Save a Life” is an inspirational film that I can easily recommend to parents and their older teens.  Inspiring, entertaining and definitely recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2010 New Song Pictures. All Rights Reserved. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: To Save a Life

DURATION: 120 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), English, 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Affirm Films/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (For Mature Thematic Elements Involving Teen Suicide, Teen Drinking, Some Drug Content, Disturbing Images and Sexuality)

RELEASE DATE: August 3, 2010

Directed by Brian Baugh

Written by Jim Britts

Executive Producer: Scott Evans

Producer: Jim Britts, Steve Foster, Nicole Franco

Co-Producer: Christina K.Y. Lee

Music by Christopher Lennertz, Timothy Wynn

Cinematography by C. Clifford Jones

Edited by Dan O’Brien, Sarah Sanders

Casting by Elizabeth Lang

Production Design by Rachel Britts

Art Direction by Sarah Sanders

Costume Design by Christi Cecil Stewart

Starring:

Randy Wayne as Jake Taylor

Deja Kreutzberg as Amy Briggs

Joshua Weigel as Chris Vaughn

Steven Crowder as Doug Moore

D. David Morin as Mark Rivers

Sean Michael Afable as Jonny Garcia

Bubba Lewis as Danny Rivers

Robert Bailey Jr. as Roger Dawson

Kim Hidalgo as Andrea Stevens

Arjay Smith as Matt McQueen

Orin Mozon as Billy

Lamont Thompson as Clyde Williams

Trinity Scott as Kelsi

Jake is the most popular kid in school and has a promising future, but his world is rocked when tragedy strikes his childhood best friend. Now Jake is forced to ask “Could I have saved him?” With help from a few new friends, he embarks on a journey to live a life of purpose, knocking down the sacred social barriers of high school life and befriending a loner, Johnny Garcia. But When Johnny’s life soon spiral’s out of control, will Jake have what it takes to stop him from the same tragic end? Can one person really make a difference?

Trailer

Driving and Lines

Coming Together

Once in awhile, you catch a film that you find very inspiring and a film that just makes you think and know that there are many kids who are lost, their parents unaware of how their life is going and for many teens, they choose to end it all by taking their own lives.

“To Save a Life” is a film by director Brian Baugh and a screenplay by Jim Britts and a Christian film that was made for around $1,000,000 and earned over $3 million in the box office.  The film is probably the first Christian film that I watched that is PG-13, includes sexual innuendo, drug use, teenage drinking but I felt was a very important step for a Christian film company to break out of the paradigm and showcase how teenagers are these days.

This is not a story about preaching about God or a storyline that is in-your-face about why one should change their life for God but it is a film that was created for the sole purpose of helping kids who are seen as outcasts, kids who are in pain and don’t know where to turn.  If anything, an inspiring film that shows that today’s kids, no matter how rough things are in their personal life, there is always hope.

“To Save A Life” is about a popular basketball player named Jake Taylor (played by Randy Wayne).  When Jake was younger, his best friend was Roger Dawson (played by Robert Bailey Jr.).  Together they had fun playing around until one day, when Jake was about to get hit by a car, Roger pushed him out of the way and took the hit and damaging his leg.

From this point on, Roger will never walk normally or take part in sports ever again.  Meanwhile, Jake began to excel in sports and Roger couldn’t do anything.  But yet the two maintained their friendship until freshman year in high school.

Jake became a popular basketball player, began dating the popular cheerleader Amy Briggs (played by Deja Kreutzberg) and because Roger was not popular, Jake ended up ditching his best friend and started hanging out with the jocks of the school.

Throughout the next few years, Roger became a loner and was made fun of by other students because of his permanent limp and Jake just watched from afar.

With several months left of their senior year, Jake is preparing to attend the University of Louisville and his girlfriend is to follow.  But things change…

One day, Roger went to school with a gun, shot a few rounds into the ceiling and killed himself in front of his old best friend Jake.

Because the whole school looked at Roger as a loner, everyone thought of him as crazy.  But for Jake, he feels guilty for not being there for his friend and he starts to see things differently as he sees his jock friends mistreat other loners at the school.

Jake meets a Christian youth pastor named Chris Vaughn (played by Joshua Weigel) who also is saddened by the death of Roger, because days before Roger died, he tried to join the youth group and talk to Chris but because things got busy, Chris was unable to have a full conversation and by then, Roger had left.

One day after a hard night of partying and a night where police had busted other teens for drinking, Jake who is slightly drunk, tries to make calls to his friends to pick him up but with no one available, he contacts Chris and from then on, Jake starts to talk to Chris about how he is feeling and how he could have prevented his former best friend’s death.

As for Chris, he does his best to introduce God into his life without preaching to him.  Giving him the choice to accept him or not but also giving him a chance to be part of the youth group that he teaches.

Slowly, Jake starts to accept Christianity and the more he reads about Roger’s loneliness and thoughts on his social media page, he learns how Roger was alone but also realize that there are other people who are hurting just like Roger and so Roger begins to extend his friendship to his new friends at the youth group and those who are seen as loners.  Meanwhile, his girlfriend and his jock friends are dismayed by the changes that Jake is going through.

But as Jake starts to accept being a Christian and slowly begins to believe in God, his life doesn’t get any easier, in fact, life becomes even more complicated and he begins to question if God is really out there.

VIDEO:

“To Save a Life” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1).  The film features a lot of outdoor school scenes and during those scenes, plenty of vibrant colors and for the most part, the picture quality showcases the detail around the various surroundings.  Skin tone is natural, blacks are nice and deep especially during the night time scenes.  A Blu-ray that features solid visuals and saw no compression artifacting or blemishes.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“To Save a Life” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  The dialogue is clear and understandable.  I didn’t notice too much of surround usage but there were times of segments with crowd ambiance, so pretty much “To Save a Life” is front and center-channel driven.  The film does sport a good amount of music, especially hip hop and rock music.  Bass was nice and deep for the music segments via lossless but for the most part, this film is purely dialogue driven.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“To Save a Life” comes with the following special features (in HD, English Stereo with English subtitles):

  • Commentary with Director Brian Baugh, Writer/Co-Producer Jim Britts and Producers Nicole Franco and Steve Foster – Audio commentary by the director, writer and producer with explanation of certain scenes and how they filmed it, working with the various talents for the film and more.
  • Deleted Scenes – (9:41) A total of eight deleted scenes.
  • Gag Reel – (5:58) The bloopers and outtakes from the film.
  • To Save a Life: Behind the Scenes – (12:18) The making of “To Save a Life”, interviews with the producers, director and cast members.
  • Music Videos – Featuring two music videos: “Bounce” by J-Rus and “Sunset Cliffs” by Paul Wright.
  • Previews – Previews for “The Karate Kid”, “Fireproof” and “Facing the Giants”.

“To Save a Life” is an inspiring film that I hope many parents and their teens will watch and hopefully somehow will make a difference.  May it inspire one to change their life or one to help others who are in need.

In today’s world, we hear about escalating numbers of teen suicide and even unfortunate and tragic situations that happen in school.  There are far too many children who are hurting and feel they have no other option in their life but to end it.

Granted, there are going to be many people who will not accept Christian films and there are many who have a wrong idea of Christian films as stories that are in your face about going to church, accepting God into your life and some may feel that the message and the people who try to get them into religion are being  preachy.  But I can tell you right now, “To Save a Life” is not one of those films.

Having reviewed my share of Christian films throughout the years, never are these characters depicted as perfect. In fact, many start out as having some troubles in their life but managing to overcome it due to their faith.

What makes “To Save a Life” so different is that it doesn’t preach to anyone.  Nor does this film tell the viewer of what they must do or should do when it comes to God.  But one will notice it’s PG-13 rating and its because the film accurately depicts teenage high school life and what happens at these teenage parties or the things that some teenagers do.

If anything, “To Save a Life” accurately captures teenage life.  May it be from the underage drinking, teenage sex, teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drug use, things that you just don’t usually see in a Christian film, let alone a Christian teen film.

The characters of Jake the jock, Amy the cheerleader, Doug the jock/party boy, Andrea the teenager who has found Christianity and then the various students who are often alone or seen lower than those who are popular.

There is no sugar coating how teenage life is or the peer pressure that exists in this film.  If it happens in real life, the filmmaker, writer and producers wanted to capture that.

But the center of this film is the character of Jake Taylor, played by Randy Wayne.  Jake is a guy with a good heart but like many people who excel in sports, you become a jock, you hang out with the athletes and popular people of your school and your old friends, you end up separating away from them.

In this case, it hits Jake very hard because not only was he there when his former best friend Roger kills himself, the last few years, he saw Roger being ridiculed because of the way he walks.  An injury that he suffered because he saved Jake’s life.  But it’s that guilt of not doing anything, not saying anything and it’s guilt that hits him hard until it was too late.  This gives Jake a new outlook in life and gives him a new outlook about his current friends, including his relationship with Amy.

When Jake meets the youth pastor Chris, Chris doesn’t tell him that he must believe in God, nor is he preachy.  He just tells him to show up to the youth classes.  He doesn’t have to but he can check it out if he wants.

It’s that journey of discovering what he really needs in his life is what I found so inspiring and to see how he starts to share his life with others and how it starts to impact their lives positively.

Aside from the previously mentioned, teenage activities, It’s also important how even at the youth group, there are students that Jake sees at school who are doing drugs and yet come to the youth group classes and in Jake’s words “are fakers”.  To show that problems can happen to all families, no matter what financial status they are.  Even in this film,  the head pastor is unaware of how his own son is a “faker” and a stoner.

For anyone who has gone to Sunday school or youth class, many teens know that some look at these classes as an excuse to get away from family and hang out with friends at night.  And just because you go to church or a Christian youth group, doesn’t mean these kids are perfect Christians because there are kids “faking it”.  And it was interesting at the same time, was happy to see a film that shows that this does happen.

“To Save a Life” is an inspiring film, an entertaining film and yes, it’s  a Christian film.   It’s probably one of the better Christian films I have seen in the last two decades.  It was well-written, the acting and the talent were not wooden and if anything, everything seemed to go quite smoothly.

So, in many ways, I think a lot of parents and older teenagers can watch this film and possibly be inspired to take a proactive approach in helping those in need.

So, overall, I do recommend “To Save a Life”.    I’ve read some calling this a “Christian film disguised as a teenage drama film”.  I’m not sure if disguised is a good word for it but I will say that Christian films are typically not like “To Save a Life” but perhaps this is the beginning of something new for Christian filmmaking and if anything, I feel when does this way, accurately depict life as it is, it’s easily accessible for those who are not Christians.

But granted, I understand if non-Christians will want to stay away from this film but for parents and teenagers who know of teenagers who are hurting, who need some help and need some guidance, I recommend giving “To Save a Life” a try.  It’s inspirational, dramatic, well-performed and entertaining.

A film that is definitely recommended!

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