Tonight I had the opportunity to attend an advance showing of the new movie “Gordon B. Hinckley; A Giant Among Men” which will release to theaters and video on November 25th. Produced and distributed through Living Scriptures, this new movie was filmed and directed by renown cinematographer T.C. Christensen who also filmed The Work and the Glory, Praise To The Man, The Testaments, and Lewis & Clark (IMAX) among many others. Here is my review.
This movie does not attempt to retell the entire story of Gordon B. Hinckley’s 97 years of life. Rather, it focuses upon those persons and events which had a profound impact upon the boy, and later the man, who would become the 15th President and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The film highlights key events and human moments in his life.
Director Christensen carefully and tenderly dramatizes stories of Hinckley’s youth and missionary experience. Many of these scenes are beloved stories which President Hinckley often told from the pulpit. And from time to time, audio clips of President Hinckley’s voice are allowed to narrate his own story as it is re-enacted on screen. This adds great poignancy and realism. The film also includes a few nice archive video clips of Hinckley’s later years.
One of the greatest strengths of this film is the cast. Not only are the scenes portrayed believably, but all of the seven actors chosen to depict Hinckley (spanning from age 5 to 95) stunningly look the part! It certainly helped that each of the “young Gordon’s” were conveniently cast from the same talented family (most of whom were attending the movie preview to the delight of the audience). A few of the young stars graciously posed for MoSop, after the show.
Actress Lauren Brady gives a masterful performance of Hinckley’s mother, Ada Bitner Hinckley, who was Gordon’s first, and arguably most powerful, teacher and guide. Depicted are the hours Ada spent reading to Gordon, and the many teaching moments she employed which gave her young son Gordon a solid foundation for the rest of his life. The movie highlights several instances of her loving but firm discipline, which also includes many humorous moments. Ada’s pleading prayer of faith offered over her feverish children during a flu epidemic is an especially moving scene, which underscores the power of motherhood.
Particularly charming is Tamilisa Wood, portraying Gordon’s future wife Marjorie Pay Hinckley. She perfectly captures Marjorie’s intelligence, wry sense of humor, and gentle strength which encouraged and supported Gordon’s success. Wood’s smile and sparkling eyes beautifully light up the screen each time she appears, and it is regrettable that we don’t get to see more of her.
Levi Larsen admirably portrays the adult Gordon, taking us through his high school, missionary service, and early years working for the church and railroad. Larsen has an engaging stage presence and was very believable in look and mannerism as Hinckley. He handles the role with great dignity. Portraying famous persons is always a daunting task for any actor, and yet Larsen balanced both Gordon’s serious side and humorous nature with grace and ease. He allows us to see the growth and maturing of Hinckley over the years. Larsen and Wood have a delightful chemistry on-screen, which adds a welcome depth and charm to the important relationship between Gordon and Marjorie.
Christensen effectively employs the family library as the focal point of the film, returning the viewer at the beginning and end of each ‘chapter’ being portrayed in Hinckley’slife, while projecting famous quotes that foreshadow the upcoming events, or epitomize the lessons learned from the past. This gives an epic documentary feel, and reminds the audience that we are watching a retelling of a true story. Those familiar with the stories which President Hinckley liked to share, will be especially delighted to see so many recreated on the big screen.
Christensen’s cinematography creates beautiful lasting images. My ‘stage eyes’ appreciated the extra care which was taken with costuming, hair, makeup, and the intricate set dressing in order to realistically transport viewers back in time. Of particular enjoyment was when the camera focuses tightly on the workings of an old manual typewriter as Hinckley composes one of his many articles. Scenes of Gordon and his little brother Sherman working and playing on the family farm are absolute treasures, and beautifully captured. Precisely because of the high level of authenticity Christensen achieves with this work, there is a much greater risk that anything slightly off will be jarring. There was only one brief scene which I personally thought fell short. When Gordon’s bishop calls him into his office for ‘a chat’ (to serve a mission) the words and mannerisms used by the bishop’s character are much too casual and seem out of context with the carefully constructed time period. This is a minor hiccup as the film flows majestically onward.
The music chosen is tasteful, and adds beauty and depth to the scenes. In tribute to Hinckley’s many years serving as priesthood adviser to The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, there is a special musical highlight in the film. Movie-goers will also want to remain in their seats during the final credits, which includes a touching epilogue.
I am delighted with this new film, not only with the quality artistically and inspirationally, but also with the perspective it offers. It helps us realize that the great man we knew as a global leader and prophet, was also once a little boy who loved to play in the mud, tease his younger brother, and needed to learn and overcome weaknesses. He was a young man who experienced fear and frustration when embarking overseas into missionary service. And later, he was a man desperately in love with the girl of his dreams, who felt awkward and inadequate. He experienced times of great joy and crushing sorrow, which all viewers can personally relate to.
“A Giant Among Men” reminds us that God creates each of us as human beings with weaknesses, yet capable of accomplishing great things. This film does a masterful job showing how a boy named Gordon Bitner Hinckley was prepared from his youth to become a special witness of Jesus Christ, and prophet of God. I came away refreshed and inspired to reach a little higher, and to try a little harder each day to serve others, as Hinckley did.
Each one of us will face choices in our life which will either send us down the right road, or derail our progress. The movie Gordon B. Hinckley: A Giant Among Men gives a beautiful illustration of how one man successfully stayed on the right track drawing nearer to God, and then humbly invited all to follow. You don’t want to miss it!
UPDATE 11/10/2008: A Family Home Evening Lesson and short video which includes scenes from this movie can be found at LDSFamilyFun.com. The video is extremely small. If anyone can locate a larger version, please let me know and I will post here.
UPDATE 11/18/2008: The full movie website is up and running! Click here to watch the trailer, and get more details about the film. Under REVIEWS, you will also see MoSop quoted and a link back to this page (Thanks Living Scriptures!).
Just for the record, I gave full permission for L.S., Inc. to use my review as an unpaid endorsement. Let’s support quality family entertainment. Spread the word!
Wow, I can’t wait to see it! Thank you for the well-written review.
Thanks for your kind words!
The movie sounds really good. Hopefully it will hit theaters in AZ. I would love to take my family for FHE.
Michelle – Thanks for reading
Levi – It’s very cool to have a celebrity stopping by and leaving a comment! Congrats again on a very fine performance.
Rebecca – I don’t know if it will make AZ. But you could order it online for less than the theater. It will definitely be a great investment for FHE! Check out the FHE Lesson Link.
Thank you so much for sending your review my way. What a lovely, well written piece it is.
You picked up on several nuances from the film. I was especially happy that you caught the importance I tried to give to the library in the Hinckley home… playing it as the most sacred part of their home. I did that because that is where Gordon’s knowledge and principles were primarily learned. (at least it is in the film)
Like you, I also had a wonderful time Saturday night. Thanks for making it even better.
Wow! Thank you for your response. I know how busy you must be. I also heard from Levi which was really fun.
If you have time – here are a couple of questions I have received from my readers:
1. “I was surprised that I could not find an official website for the movie with a preview clip and cast listing/photos/bios. Are there any plans to put one up?”
2. “Where will the movie be released? Will it stay in UT or go to other places?” (specifically requested so far has been CA and AZ)
Thanks! – MoSop
Here’s answers to questions—
Their website is Hinckleymovie.com
However, right now it is only an order site. The TV spot and other information will be posted next week.
The theater showings will only be Provo to Ogden (on Nov 25th). It will be released in LDS bookstores at the same time.
Thank you for your wonderful comments! I am very touched by them.
Thank you for your wonderful comments and review from the premier of Gordon B. Hinckley—God Makes a Giant Among Men. As the host of this premier and the executive producer, T.C. forwarded your review and website to me. I just wanted to respond personally and thank you for you kind comments and powerful review. We couldn’t write better copy for promoting this film than what you have written.
We would like to use excerpts and provide a link to your complete review and website. We have created a 15 second and 30 second ad that will run on television as well as Deseret Book and Living Scriptures’ sites. We would be happy to forward it to you in the next few days.
Also, many thanks for linking the LDSFamilyFun.com site as well. We have worked hard to provide this resource for customers and non-customers, especially those who may not have our newly enhanced interactive DVDs from the complete learning system.
Thanks again for your eloquent and insightful review.
Jared F. Brown
Living Scriptures, Inc
Thank you for a review that not only communicated the content of the movie, but, as T.C. acknowledged, you seemed to get the intent of the story. I think that intent — as well as the acting by the cast — gives a warmth that makes this special, even with all the media that have been produced about Pres. Hinckley.
T.C. also created our “Praise to the Man” film. It’s a wonderful film about Joseph Smith and has a unique story arc involving the writing of the namesake hymn. But it is difficult, perhaps impossible, this long after the martyrdom to approach the story with the humanity, warmth and accessibility that T.C. was able to accomplish with the “Gordon B. Hinckley: A Giant Among Men” film.
“Praise” is a well-received film to be sure, yet it is also a tribute to President Hinckley’s character that he touched people in his own unique and endearing way. Having worked with the creation of many products in the Living Scriptures library, it was a joy to sit in the theater with the audience and see them respond to the humor _and_ spirit. There was a solemnity, yet afterward we felt completely at ease to applaud what was special about President Hinckley — that endearing combination that T.C. aptly captured.
Would you mind writing to me at the address I’ve left? I would like to ask you about obtaining permission for the possibility of quoting you.
Lauren, Great to hear from you, and Thanks for sending your pretty head shot!
Jared and CD, wow. I am truly honored. Thank you for wanting to quote me, and leaving your kind comments. I’ll be in touch.
Your review made me very interested in checking out this movie when it comes out! Thanks for sharing.
I am so happy to have read your review on this Movie. After watching it a few times I was able to feel the spirit even stronger. This movie really was made for a reason. I am so happy to have had President Hinkley as my prophet. This movie just showed a few things that I hadn’t known about him. I enjoyed watching it at the Premier. And as soon as I got home from the Premier I set up a time to show it to some of the students in my ward kind of like an FHE for us students. It was an incredible experience that I would share with anyone looking to know that our prophets are just like us in so many ways but called to lead the world. I really think that this movie will bring that reality to so many people. Thank you again for your review. I will have to refer more people to your site. Good luck with everything. And keep spreading the word. Gordon B. Hinkley is a Prophet of the Lord who believed in using the Media to spread the Gospel.
Thank you so much for your review! Thank you for your comments that were so very nice.
Wow sis!! Love the review. Can’t wait to see the movie. Sounds wonderful.
I’m so glad that you have my email. Thanks for letting us know about such a wonderful film. I will be sure to put it on my calendar and advertise it on my blog by adding a link to your review. I can’t wait to see it.
Congratulations on an awesome review. It is brilliant.
Thank you for letting me know about this movie. I don’t watch too much TV, so this is great. Thank you!
Thank you for letting us know about this great review. We look forward to seeing this film.
My father, Austin Garner, portrayed the Prophet at the end of the movie in his 95th year. My father is 89, lives with us, and works in the Primary in our ward. The children have always thought he was President Hinckley. It is a very sweet and touching scene when Pres. Hinckley goes to Marjorie’s grave. We feel so blessed to have this tender little piece of history in the film as our sweet dad portrays a prophet we all loved so dearly. The film is wonderful. Thanks to all involved. We will cherish it. Debi Day
Jodi, Jarna K, Ann-Marie, Janet, Daliny, Mormon Women – thank you for reading and for your comments.
Tamilisa, Great to have you visit! I am very appreciative of your talent, and wish you wonderful things in your acting career.
Debi, thank you for sharing about your Dad. He did a beautiful job. That scene was extremely touching. He really does look like Pres. Hinckley, too!
I never thought I could be 100% satisfied with a film on Gordon B Hinckley, we loved him so much, but this film did it! We saw the theater screening on Nov 25 and I wish EVERYONE could see it on the big screen. It was so beautiful and so reminiscent! We loved it. I was surprised to learn that the graveside scene wasn’t really the prophet.
I received this video as a Christmas present from my sweet wife Linda. I watched it Christmas morning. I could not control the tears that constantly came to my eyes as I watched it. What a remarkable movie!!! I can’t tell you how much I appreciated it. Rarely has any movie touched me as this one has. Please know how much I appreciate the work you have gone to to make this such an inspiration! It’s a testimony to me that such men (prophets) as President Hinckley have not accomplished such great things without the humility and perseverance that our Savior asks of us, and that his legacy did not come without such trials that come to each of us in order to accomplish worthwhile works as well. Thanks again. I wish I could personally meet you and shake your hand to extend my sincerity.
Does any one have photo of Austin Garner as president hinckley at this premiere that i could find?
Hi Jake – Unfortunately, I do not have a photo of Brother Garner. Perhaps one of our readers will come forward.
Grandpa was not able to attend the premiere. My husband and I attend in his stead. We really wish he would have been able to be there.
Granddaughter – Thanks for posting. I also wish he had been able to attend. It would have been wonderful to meet him. Glad you were there on his behalf.
Gordon B. Hickey a great prophet!
He still is!
And here I thought all prophets were great.
I guess Hunter wasn’t in office long enough, Kimball was obsessed with sin and stuff, and Benson was an invalid for a lot of his term. Can’t make a movie about them, even though they deserve it more. They never shied away from “telling it like it is.”
Howie, of course all prophets are great. Your comment reminds me of a petulant child who when their parent compliments a sibling, immediatly takes it as a personal slight.
Not to just blatantly self-promote, but to answer Howie’s issue raised: The Gordon B. Hinckley movie is included in a Living Scriptures series called The Modern Prophets. Films have been made about 15 Presidents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (so far) including Kimball, Benson and Hunter. Not all have been made by the same directors, but each captures the personality of the life and person — as well as the ministry and faith-building stories — of each prophet of God.
Creative Dad, Great info! Thanks
Why was Austin Garner not there? Was he sick because of his old age? Or was he at the hospital or at his home?
Jake – don’t know the specifics. However, his daughter posted a comment earlier saying he was sad not to be able to attend.
I already read her comment. I just want to know why he was not able to attend this movie premiere.
Can any one tell me why Austin Garner was not at the premiere?