The Italian Job – movie reflection

A couple of posts back I quoted a segment of a theological reflection that I wrote on the movie ‘The Italian Job’. It was the 2003 remake of the movie. It was part of a seminar from a decade ago when I looked at the way movies capture biblical themes. Here it is.

John Bridger (Donald Sutherland): Charlie, there are two kinds of thieves in this world: The ones who steal to enrich their lives, and those who steal to define their lives. Don’t be the latter. Makes you miss out on what’s really important in this life.

Know your thief! The film The Italian Job (the remake) was the fourth and final film in our second seminar. 

 The opening heist scene in this movie serves to illustrate the ‘beware of the thief’ surprise which is found in the New Testament (see for example Luke 12:38-40 or 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3). Christians are called to stand as faithful servants in a dark world and Jesus warned his followers the arrival of the Son of Man would be as sudden and unexpected as a ‘thief in the night’.

Jesus instructed his disciples that there would be great times of pressure for his followers and he warned them about being deceived. The betrayal of Jesus by Judas is one such example of this treachery. As the cross drew near, Judas chose the way of darkness, whereas Peter, though exposed by the cross, found it to be the very essence of his faith (Luke 22:31-32).

In The Italian Job, after the heist, the team discover that there is a traitor, Steve, in their midst. Steve’s role is played by Ed Norton and it serves as an illustration of the man who chooses to serve money rather than God.  The bible makes plain that we are all sinners, or in the movie’s parlance ‘all thieves’, but a distinction is made so that there are good and bad thieves/sinners. Norton is only out for himself, and cannot stand to see praise and adulation go to another. The parallel warning for us as Christians is that we are to be on the watch lest we be deceived by evil – both within our own hearts or without, in our allegiance. There is a curious father-son analogy in the film, for Norton kills the father and the adopted son is the one who captures and defeats the traitor. It is worth pondering upon the manner in which Paul wages war and anything that is set up against God (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). When we live with the Spirit of the risen Christ then our boast will only be in the Lord and it is his glory we will seek (2 Corinthians 10:17-18).

The “Norton-type” Christians only seek for their own glory and security and so remain in the darkness. The film also plays upon the lack of creativity which such people have, as Charlie puts it: You’ve got no imagination. You couldn’t even decide what to do with all that money, so you had to buy what everybody else wanted. 

This theme captures another truth of Scripture namely that the father of lies is always a poor mimic of the Creator God. The very story of the Bible and the evidence of Creation bear witness to the thoroughly limitless and boundless creative wisdom which marks the living God. (This contrast was drawn out by CS Lewis in the Narnia series – the winter of the Witch versus the flourishing spring life of the great Lion Aslan.) The evil one is always such a dismal alternative, but we are warned by Jesus to watch out for good reason. As the apostle Paul noted:

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

And so to return to the start of our seminar night. There is a dark side to humanity but Christians have found the truth which is Christ Jesus. In a world of need here is the only certainty, and the very pressures of the world serve to reveal that truth and light residing within our hearts. That is, of course, the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of our inheritance. And so we too can declare: I trust everyone. It’s the devil inside them I don’t trust. But as our Saviour warned, the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night and so we are called to be ready. This means faith, hope and love are our marks – for they are certainly not characteristics of the evil one – which means that we live as those who belong to the day. In the words of Paul:

But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11).

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