It’s Christian vs. Atheist in a new thriller released Friday.
Except the Christian is the bad guy. And atheists are saying this film could be their “Brokeback Mountain,” which broke down barriers for gays six years ago.
The atheist director of “The Ledge” is hoping to start a similar conversation on behalf of non-believers.
“Really, The Ledge is at the beginning of a movement toward more open discussion of atheism and agnosticism,” says Matthew Chapman, who also wrote the film.
In Chapman’s cliffhanger, Christianity is wielded as a weapon. And the hero may be Godless but he’s not gutless.
There’s a lot to like, for the organizer of Houston Atheists.
“I'm just excited that it's going to be showing an atheist in a positive light,” says Staise Gonzalez. “Films don't do that. Ever.”
But the film is taking flak from religious groups, including the Catholic League.
“People of faith, especially Catholics, are used to being trashed by Hollywood,” said Bill Donohue, the organization’s president. “But they are not accustomed to films that promote atheism."
"The Ledge" has a simple plot. An atheist seduces the attractive wife of a Christian fundamentalist. The husband, a crazy fundamentalist, lures the atheist onto a ledge and threatens to kill the wife if the atheist doesn't jump from a ledge at a certain time.
Of course, in Christian theology, murder is forbidden in the Ten Commandments. But "The Ledge" ignores this obvious fact, portraying the fundamentalist as driven by his faith to blackmail the atheist into suicide, and the atheist as a heroic character willing to die for another person.
Along the way, the film discusses questions of God and faith - from a radically atheistic perspective. Reviewer Greta Christina, an atheist who gave a rave review of the movie, grudgingly admitted that "the conversations about religion often play like a bit like a comment thread in an atheist blog." The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt was blunter, writing that "The characters, unfortunately, exist merely for the sake of these [atheist] arguments."
More disinterested reviews of "The Ledge" have generally been negative. All six featured reviewers on rottentomatoes.com/m/the_ledge/reviews/ (as of June 28) panned the movie, with varying degrees of disgust. Indiewire.com's seven reviews of "The Ledge" were also uniformly negative.