If you want to watch a thriller that revolves around the mingling of the devoutly religious and the disillusioned, I would recommend tracking down Witness, with Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis. (And Kingpin because Bill Murray is an entertaining villain.) In The Ledge, which was filmed in Baton Rouge, the battle of faith versus atheism is writer/director Matthew Chapman's point. He manages to fit in arguments about whether the world must be ordered by a supreme being, and whether people should abandon or take up faith because of great disappointment or uncertainty in life. But the film suffers from some overly simple plot devices. The sexual affair between Gavin (Charlie Hunnam) and his married neighbor Shana (Liv Tyler) is about as inevitable, although not quite as quick, as it would be in a porn film. The battle between Gavin, the atheist, and the husband Joe (Patrick Wilson), an extremely dogmatic evangelical Christian, is sort of the opposite of seduction. The more Joe talks about his faith, the harder he pushes Shana into Gavin's bed — or beds, he runs a hotel. The ensuing confrontation between Gavin and Joe somehow puts Gavin on a rooftop, where a police officer spends the movie trying to talk him down. It would work better if less of the action happened in flashback as we wait to hear just how he got to the edge of the roof, but instead, he's up there for the whole movie. Review here.
Chapman has called Gavin the first openly atheist hero in a feature film. He hopes The Ledge will be secular humanism's Brokeback Mountain. If nothing else, it drew a firm but not particularly biting rebuke from the Catholic League. On his own website, Chapman identifies himself as a great-great grandson of Charles Darwin, and he has authored a couple of books, one about the attack on evolution and science by Christian fundamentalists. The Ledge does not get into issues of science and science deniers.
The story is not resolved by the battle of creeds, so fortunately, the conclusion is not predictable. The debate might be more compelling if Joe were less of a monster (selfish, obsessive, judgmental, unforgiving, etc.). But no one goes out on a ledge or conjures an Old Testament-style of wrath for the cause of moderation.
The film screens three-nights only at Chalmette Movies. (7:30 p.m. Aug. 21-23).