Freedom & Forgiveness Inside
When Titus Freeman (Jason Sims-Prewitt) killed a cop he found himself on death row but determined to not only work the system to secure a release but he didn't need no support or sympathy from the other prisoners in there with him. That includes Clayton (John Eric Bentley) who once was a soldier but who turned to drug dealing before ending up accidentally killing someone, which is how he wound up on death row. But whilst Clayton may be confined to a cell he has freedom having accepted Jesus in to his life and asking him to forgive his sins, which, despite the mocking and anger of those around him, he feels a calling to try and help his brothers on death row. Meanwhile the wife of the cop Titus killed has become withdrawn from her life and only determined to make sure Titus never gets out, that is until she faces up to some thing which was eating her away inside.
I have to be honest as "The Last Appeal" has left me in two minds as to whether it is a good movie or a great movie and that really comes down to what sort of person might watch it. Let me start with the movies look and "The Last Appeal" is made by the Eastern Sky Theatre Company and you can see that this clearly originates as a play. In fact after a few scenes I was guessing that this was made in a warehouse or on a soundstage where there was no real sets, beyond a series of cells, and so still has a stage-play feel to it. It is a feel and look which initially I didn't like but then grew to appreciate although was left with a big question as to whether others would warm to the look and feel in the same way or whether it would be a stumbling block when it came to getting in to the story.
But then there is the story and the evangelical side to the movie and "The Last Appeal" is one of the most evangelical movies I have watched with the character of Clayton being the embodiment of what a Christian should be. Here is a man who lives with joy in his heart despite his situation, he has compassion and patience for others, he wants to share the good news of Jesus with others and seeks guidance in doing so. As a Christian I found this evangelical side and the performance of John Eric Bentley as Clayton beautiful, powerful and inspiring. But of course as a Christian my heart and mind is already open to all what is shown in "The Last Appeal" when it comes to God's forgiveness and I wonder whether a non Christian audience would connect with it. It is hard to say, although as a Christian the character of Clayton is a great reminder as to how we should behave towards others.
There is though one thing and it is a part of the reason why I am still working out how I feel about the movie and that is the symbolic ending to "The Last Appeal". Now I am not going to tell you how it exactly ends but it is one of those things where the intentions are undoubtedly good but it comes across as a little cheesy. And the cheesiness comes from the same problems which a lot of Christian movies suffer from, and that is fake smiles but also in trying to show Jesus. It is again one of those things which as a Christian I understood but wonder whether those who are not Christian might find it, well as a I said a little cheesy on a visual level.
What this all boils down to is that "The Last Appeal" is an extremely powerful piece of Christian cinema which is certainly evangelical as well as a reminder to Christians as to how we should be towards others. But it is a movie which has not only a distinct look but also an ending which might not work for those who are not receptive to it being an evangelical movie.