For the sake of Cover Him With Darkness, I'm chasing up angel memes in film and TV. So here's a movie you probably haven't caught (or even heard of), but actually is well worth a look on DVD.
Gabriel (2007) is a low-budget Australian fantasy about good and fallen angels battling it out for the future of Purgatory, and all the unclaimed souls trapped therein. It stars the gorgeous Andy Whitfield (yes, Spartacus: Blood and Sand) as the titular archangel, who is having a really crap time whilst rocking those cheekbones and a huge tribal tattoo.
Purgatory, btw, is envisaged as a grey city where it never really stops raining - which, obscurely, I suspect is taken from C S Lewis, as that's how he pictured it in The Great Divorce.
Made on a budget so miniscule that the director had to work a second job in a call centre to pay the crew, Gabriel is (thankfully) short on CGI and big on character. It's gritty and grimy and quite violent. Discussing the plot would spoil things, but here's what I liked:
- The cinematography was really inventive and stylish. I loved the use of doorways in the brothel fight!
- Gabriel's character-arc is well handled, psychologically.
- Unlike most other angels v demons tales, the Big Theological Questions (such as "Who has free will?"and "WTF are you playing at, God?!" are not dodged or ignored. Since that is something that normally drives me into a frothing atheist rage, I was really pleased.
I don't want to give you the impression that this is a great movie (though it certainly is better than a whole lot of the stuff I've seen on the big screen this year). So that you know in advance:
- The actors were all but unknown when this was filmed. Some of them are good - Gabriel and Uriel and Asmodeus are really well-played, I thought. But some of the actors ... aren't that great. In particular the Big Bad Sammael, rather unfortunately, looks like a really shit Alice Cooper impersonator and acts like a low-rent Kurgan.
- Have I mentioned the fact that it was done on a shoestring budget? There are a few places where you feel that if they'd had more time and money they would have done something different. You have to cut them some slack.
- The female roles are one-dimensional and essentially passive.