NOTE: This review was written under a previous rating system. Some of the older reviews may express opinions and judgment calls that are not in line with our current standards.2010
Little Crew Studios
Many things can change in the life of one family over the course of two years—where we live, where we work, and why we work. Belief systems can change very quickly. Priorities shift. Fortunes are made or lost. We age, we mature, we acquire new skills and knowledge, and in two years we could be doing things we never imagined we’d be doing. But going from being very inexperienced in film work to, two years later, being the makers of one of the best Christian movies created during the first decade of the third millennium, A.D.—that’s unusual.
The Runner from Ravenshead is unusual, too. Drawing from the rich, age-old heritage of Christian allegory, as well as from personal creativity and imagination, the Steege family has developed a plotline that brings together tribal skirmishes, jail breaks, the relentlessness of the human conscience, the danger of false religion, the mercy of Christ, and rocket cars—a unique combination made even more extraordinary by the fact that it actually works.
The movie’s story is the story of a convict—Sam, the runner from Ravenshead. Her escape from prison was easy. It’s what comes next that almost breaks her… in a couple of different senses. Henry is a guide sent to help her safely to the City of Refuge. That’s the idea, anyway, but, eh… things don’t go so smoothly for Henry this time. Or any other time, for that matter. Ordinarily he’s the mop and bucket kind of a guy—a janitor, if you want to be plain—but with more and more runners needing help, guides are scarce. Henry’s a last resort. And it doesn’t take Sam long to figure that out and reject his assistance. Henry, however, knows how to evade the Wardens, despite his clumsiness—which is something that Sam can’t do. No matter where she goes, or how fast she runs, her Warden is always right behind her—never stopping, never resting—and he’ll keep pursuing her until she breaks and gives up hope… or until she reaches the City of Refuge. That’s where the rocket car comes in handy.
The plot and characters are very engaging, the set is fantastic, the camera work is excellent, as is the acting—and none of this is taking into account the inexperience of the filmmakers… or the fact that the entire cast ranged from two to nine years of age at the time of filming… or that the cast was made up of only five children. Now, ten years ago—or five years ago—okay, honestly, up until the year this film was made, you would have been completely within your rights to roll your eyes and pass this one up on principle. Really, a Christian allegory with little kids wearing fedoras and trench coats… that actually only makes you laugh when it’s supposed to? The Runner from Ravenshead is a first, I admit. And, I admit that, despite being generally optimistic about the movie, I was still a little skeptical about how engaging it would be for grown-ups. As it turns out, though, a good deal of the action and humor is going to be appreciated more by adults than by children—and some scenes may not even be entirely comfortable for the littlest members of the family. Of course, The Runner from Ravenshead wins my wholehearted recommendation, and I’m going to label it as appropriate for all ages, but there are actually a few things that parents might want to keep in mind when watching it with young children.
A number of scenes involve violence—in the form of explosions, earthquakes and hand-to-hand combat (mostly fist fighting)—or intensity—as in the tribal scene, the relentless pursuit of the grim-faced Wardens, and the extremely convincing crying scenes—some or all of which may be alarming for very, very young viewers. Those who are especially strict about language may notice the (as best as I can tell) etymologically insignificant phrase “Oh, man!” And, for those of you who are inclined to turn a movie off when a character presents a wrong worldview, you may be concerned when you hear the word “luck” and “The one thing I’ve learned is you’ve got to believe in yourself,” but rest assured, the problem with those statements is brought to light later in the film. Children who are prone to envy may find the rocket car a serious stumbling block.
With those minor, minor caveats for families with sensitive little ones, The Runner from Ravenshead is a movie that truly is recommendable for the entire family. It more than makes up for the hesitations we may have had about the genre-blending and the all-child cast, and I think the Steege family can be confident that their future film projects won’t be met with skepticism by any of us who have seen The Runner from Ravenshead, no matter how far Christian creativity might take them—or how fast.