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Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Prophecy - A Film Review

The Prophecy is a 1995 fantasy-thriller film written and directed by Gregory Widen, and featuring a stellar cast: Christopher Walken, Eric Stoltz, Elias Koteas, Virginia Madsen, Adam Goldberg, Amanda Plummer, and Viggo Mortensen. The film begins with a prologue of the First War between Heaven and angels, where fallen angels who refused to accept God’s elevation of mankind above all others were cast out and lost His love; the creation of Hell and Lucifer’s fall from grace, and the angels who have remained loyal to God and are protectors of mankind, and trying to be brothers again. It’s a fascinating film about faith, Catholicism, and questioning God’s presence and love, as both the angels and mankind have felt abandoned by His voice and feel lost and confused without Him.

                The film’s story begins with Thomas Dagget (Koteas), who is about to be ordained as a priest, but receives horrifying visions of angels warring with each other, and is traumatized. He loses his faith, and several years later, has become a police detective with the LAPD. Meanwhile, two angels have fallen to Earth. Simon (Stoltz), is an angel on mankind’s side, and warns Dagget of coming events. The other angel, Uziel (Jeff Cadiente), is described as having the “strength of God” and is a lower soldier angel and Lt. to the archangel Gabriel (Walken).Uziel tries to kill Simon, but Simon overpower him and destroys him. His body and death is investigated by Dagget, triggering his memories of the Church and a missing passage from the Book of Revelations about a second war Heaven by the fallen angels, and a prophecy involving the use of a “dark soul” that will be used as a deadly weapon. The dark soul to be used is the soul of a recently-deceased Korean War veteran named Hawthorne, who had a dark and disturbing past from the war. Gabriel wants to use his soul to fulfill the prophecy, but Simon has stolen it, and is determined to keep Gabriel from reaching it, in any way he can.

                Stoltz gives a great performance as Simon, portraying as an angel who is good-hearted, but tired of fighting the battle constantly with the fallen angels. He plays him more like an actual person than like an ethereal figure, and combined with his long dark coat and shaggy hair, looks more grunge than angelic. When he is injured and hiding in a school, he meets a little girl who finds him while she’s playing with her friends. When he asks her name and she states, “Mary,” he repeats her name to himself with a sarcastic tone of voice to himself, as in, “Of course, out of all the girls in this town, I meet the one with the same name as her.” It’s a wry and funny moment, and all coming from Stoltz’s knowing delivery.

Christopher Walken plays Gabriel with a mix of menace and dark humor. He is often impatient with people, and treats people like they are gnats in the way of his course, through knocking humans out with a light touch to the forehead or ripping out the hearts of angels trying to stop him. His dark humor mostly comes from him teasing humans for being naïve, innocent, or immature, and not worthy of the unconditional love that God has bestowed upon them. He uses suicide victims (Goldberg and Plummer) as his human helpers, keeping them in limbo between life and death, and a lot of dark and sick humor comes from their interactions and the helpers being in obvious resentment of this angel keeping him alive just to drive him around and do his errands.

In Gabriel’s exchange with Simon during a battle scene, he speaks of the pain and anguish that he has felt since God has cast him out, and wanting to return to paradise:

                Simon: I’m so tired of this war.
                Gabriel: Reject the lie, Simon. Join us! Help make it like it was before the monkeys. You remember? We cast out Lucifer’s army, you and I. We threw their rebel thrones from the wall.
                Simon: They wanted to be gods.
                Gabriel: I don’t want to be a god, Simon. I just wanna make it like it was, before the lie. When he loved us best.

                Although Gabriel has a cold demeanor about him, in that moment, he does become a sympathetic character, a person who is devastated about being banished and not hearing God’s voice anymore. Simon says to him, “Oh, Gabriel. When was it that you lost your grace? I’d like to help you, but I’m not sure who’s right or who’s wrong. It doesn’t matter. Sometimes you just have to do what you’re told. That’s who you are.” It is a powerful scene full of loss and regret of losing friends and the love of one’s creator, and Walken and Stoltz play the scene magnificently.

                Dagget has been struggling with his Catholic faith and being abandoned by God on the day he needed him most, so his loss of faith and confusion parallels with Gabriel’s need to reach Heaven and win back God’s love. It is prevalent through the film, as he is emotionally exhausted, and searching for answers. Koteas delivers an understated and heartfelt performance in this film, as he often looks drained and worn-out in trying to understand why he has been brought back into confronting his faith and overcoming his past struggles to re-gain his faith. His faith is what makes him human, what makes him have a soul. And at the same time, the angels have faith too, yet they do not have souls like humans. Koteas doesn’t play the role like a macho hero, nor is he jaded about life. He is just understandably confused about why God’s voice wasn’t there for him, and why the angels need him now. There’s a great moment where he is speaking with Katherine (Madsen) about the real purpose of angels outside of their innocent and holy image:

                “Did you ever notice how in the Bible, whenever God needed to punish someone, or make an example, or whenever God needed a killing, he sent an angel? Did you ever wonder what a creature like that must be like? A whole existence spent praising your God, but always with one wing dipped in blood. Would you ever want to really see an angel?”

                It is a fascinating take on the stories of angels, and seeing angels not as innocent guardians but as warriors sent to do God’s bidding on missions that may involve punishment and murder. Dagget also states that in a verse from St. Paul, there was one line that always stuck with him: “Even now in Heaven there were angels carrying savage weapons.” It is a haunting line that carries resonance with the film.

One of the best performances in the film belongs to Viggo Mortensen, who appears late in the film, with only three scenes as Lucifer, but delivers a scene-stealing and mesmerizing performance. He is calm, collected, and captivating on-screen. He plays Lucifer like a beast, with lowered, glowering eyes, predatory stances, and a low, intimidating purr in his voice. Even him just plucking a flower while speaking shows an utter disrespect for life. He doesn’t give a damn about any of the humans, he is only getting involved because Gabriel wants to turn Heaven into another Hell, and that is Lucifer’s domain. Mortensen’s performance is brilliant, especially in delivering lines like, “Humans – and how I love you talking monkeys for this – know more about war and treachery than any angel,” or “God? God is love. I don’t love you,” said with cold eyes and a hiss.

                The film, while not well-remembered today, was a box office success, earning twice its budget in revenue, and mixed reviews from critics. It has a stellar cast, and is an interesting story about angels warring with each other, and the humans that get caught up in the crossfire. I highly recommend it.


  1. I haven't seen The Prophecy but I thought Elias Koteas was brilliant in The Thin Red Line. He's a criminally underrated talent.

  2. He really is great. I always like seeing him in movies, even if it's just a cameo. He always seems so relaxed with himself in his roles, and has a cool vibe about him.