Friday, May 15, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: The Cokeville Miracle by Excel Entertainment

I had the privilege of attending a prescreening of The Cokeville Miracle by Excel Entertainment and was impressed with the spirit of the film.  Here's more about the movie which opens officially on June 5th:


From T.C. Christensen comes The Cokeville Miracle, the remarkable true story of a town facing a terrible tragedy, and the Sheriff’s investigator who struggles with his faith as he gathers evidence that defies easy explanation.

Cokeville Wyoming, a town of just over 500 people that sits near the Utah-Idaho border, is not known for much beyond it’s strong family values, but in 1986 Cokeville made national headlines when a madman and his wife entered the elementary school with guns and bomb. They gathered over 100 children and teachers into a small room, and made a demand: $200 million dollars for the lives of the children—but then the bomb went off…

The Cokeville Miracle is not just the story of a hostage crisis, or a terror attack on American soil. It is not just the story of a bomb that could have destroyed an entire generation, and ripped a town apart. The Cokeville Miracle is about what happened instead. How did a bomb that should have leveled the room take only two lives that day, the madman and his wife? Each child, each adult who made it out of that room has a story to tell. Follow the Sheriff’s investigator Ron Hartley as he pieces together the evidence, including stories of prayer and divine intervention from multiple witnesses. Gather the evidence and decide for yourself. Do you see coincidence, or do you see miracles?

Check out the website for more information about the movie, including cast information and fun facts.


Society as a whole has gotten so used to high budget films with lots of high-priced actors and special effects that sometimes lower budget films get overlooked.  And while the acting and production don't particularly stand out, the story and the message does.  The spirit of the film is what really struck me.  The story is told through the lens of the small town sheriff who is having a crisis of faith.  As a cop he has seen some bad things and it has made him rather jaded.  Then the Youngs take over the Cokeville Elementary school leaving a lasting impression on the whole community.  No real reason is given for why the Youngs do this which is reasonable since they both died there is no way to really know what they were thinking.  All there is to go on is the fact that David Young was once the town sheriff who was fired for misconduct and a paper he left behind about believing he had found a mathematical way to reincarnate himself.  Both ideas are incorporated into the film but not dwelt on.

After the bomb accidentally detonates the town, including the sheriff is left to pick up the pieces.  As the investigation unfolds, the sheriff discovers that many in the community believe that a miracle occurred, allowing everyone to leave the scene alive, except for the perpetrators.  But the wounds run deep for the sheriff and he struggles to accept that heavenly intervention occurred.  But as he listens to different accounts from survivors, including his own children, he begins to realize that a miracle really did happen.

As I mentioned earlier, while the production itself was adequate it's the explanations of what did and did not happen that gave me chills and even brought some tears.  I recommend viewing the film simply as a way to remind oneself that despite the evil in the world, beauty can come from ashes.  I was especially touched by the fact that survivor photos were shown during the credits along with the survivor's and their spouses and children.  I have the privilege of knowing a couple of the survivors and the world really wouldn't be the same without them.  And while all the survivors were left with scars of one kind or another, it's clear that Heavenly Father heard and responded to the many prayers that were offered that day.  A wonderful feel good film that makes a good counter balance to the many dark, depressing films of today. Note: There is violence because of the nature of the story, please think carefully before taking your children to see this film.

Here are some photos from the film provided courtesy of Excel Entertainment:

David and Doris Young played by Nathan Stevens and Kymberly Mellen

Kids praying
Narrow escape!

This teacher  refused to leave the room until all the students were out.

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