HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: 90 Minutes in Heaven
HTS Overall Score:72
I’m overly skeptical when it comes to Christian films, being one myself. I guess it comes with the territory of being on the “in club” with the source material, or genre. Cops are usually very critical of movies about cops, Nurses with movies that portray nurses and so on and so forth. They usually fall into two categories. Films made by Christians that end up beating you over the head with the message as the acting and directing fall by the wayside, embarrassing themselves along the way. The second is a Christian themed film written and directed by secular people, which ends up giving a wildly inaccurate result. “90 Minutes in Heaven” seems to lean a bit more towards the former, as it chronicles the supposedly wild experience of Pastor Don Piper. Some parts of it are surprisingly decent and show better cinematography and storytelling than most religious films, but still the inexorably slow and bitter slide to being beaten over the head with the message once again reigns supreme.
Adapted from the book of the same name, the story chronicles the experience of Southern Baptist preacher Don Piper (played by Hayden Christensen). After visiting a conference some cities over in Texas, the Baptist minister is plowed head on by an 18 wheeler and called dead upon the spot. For some reason a minister by the name of Dick Onarecker (Michael Harding) feels compelled to pray over the dead man’s corpse, only to watch as Don draws in a breath and returns to the land of the living. As incredibly miraculous as that is, Don isn’t out of the woods just yet. His body has been broken and shattered in so many different spots that he may not even live out the night. However, after careful work by his doctor and some prayers, Don pulls through. Now he has the incredibly painful and terrifying process of rebuilding what’s left of his limbs. His left femur is missing over 4 inches of bone and his arm isn’t much better. After a dozen surgeries there isn’t much hope, but the doctor authorizes an experimental leg attachment that very well may save his limbs. The downside to this procedure is that the pain is amplified, making it almost unbearable for the struggling pastor.
Don’s wife Eva (Kate Bosworth) is the anchor in his life. Giving up EVERYTHING, and working at her teaching job to maintain their insurance, she bows her head and continues on to support their rising medical costs. However, Don seems to reject her and everyone around him. Bitter and angry at having been brought back as a burden to his loved one, he refuses to cooperate with his therapy at first. Don just sits there (or lays there really) and begs for death, whimpering about what he’s given up. We as the audience KNOWS why he’s depressed and what he’s given up, but it takes until the end of the film for the information to be said. He’s been to heaven and anyone who’s ever seen the glory of what WILL come is going to have a harsh reminder of his situation when he was rudely brought back.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=60642[/img]“90 Minutes in Heaven” is a laborious film, but not as painful as other blatantly Christian movies I’ve seen. The acting and casting is surprisingly decent comparatively, and while the writing is overly flowery and syrupy simplistic, I’ve watched a LOT worse. With that being said, there was not a lot of good to this movie. It had its moments where I said to myself “this could actually be good”, and then it just dive bombed into bad writing and a complete lack of focus. Don’s stay in the hospital takes up 90 percent of the movie and with the movie trying to keep the REASON for Don’s depression a seeming secret for the majority of the film, it ended up being a labor of patience for us. By the time he DOES get out of the hospital and reveal his big secret to his wife and friend/confidant it’s too late. The emotions are fake, the reveal rushed, and we really don’t get to focus on the effects of his coming back from the dead. Instead we watch an hour and a half of his recovering in a hospital. There’s no real internal struggle about his conflicts with actually living his life vs. the longing for the pearly gates like “Heaven is for Real” did, with much better results. I’m rather skeptical of Don Piper’s claims due to some denominational differences, as well as some fact checking that has come up over his claims, but I’m more than willing to realize that my experiences are not absolute and am willing to consider that an experience like this COULD take place, but still, the story just did not convey any meaningful experience. Instead trying to hide the actual meat of the story until the very end when viewers have all but given up.
As I mentioned the acting cast was a step above your average religious themed movie, but not by a whole lot. Hayden Christensen proves once again that he can’t act, confusing mumbling and whining with emoting and actual acting (much like he did in “Star Wars”). Kate Bosworth wasn’t giving it her all, and actually coasted through most of the film, but she was still the best part of the movie, especially when she was off by herself grieving. She was actually able to show some real and pertinent emotions in the film rather than the sad narrative by Hayden overlaying the whole movie with his bad southern accent.
Rated PG-13 for intense accident and injury images
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=60650[/img]The 2.40:1 AVC encoded transfer for “90 Minutes in Heaven” is honey golden and sunny warm all over. White levels are pushed high to give a haloing, blooming effect and the honey colored grading added to the overall warmth of the picture. Primary colors are strong, with good saturation levels and look just as comforting and calming as the yellows and soft whites throughout the film. Fine detail is good, just covered with a soft look that permeates the film from beginning to end. There are some scenes (such as the one where Don gets tagged by the 18 wheeler) where clarity is RAZOR sharp with no signs of softness, but that soon comes back. Blacks are good, with solid shadow detail and impressively lacks any major banding or other artifacting in those dark sequences.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=60658[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is just what one would expect from a very dialog centric film like this. The front 3 channels really take much of the weight as it is a very front heavy mix. Dialog and vocals are crisp and clear, except of course for Hayden’s incessant mumbling, and they balance well with the fronts and occasional rear support. There’s some mild panning effects in the front and surrounds when the truck smashes into Don’s car, and some solid low end support there, but for the majority of the movie it’s really a dialog fest. It’s good and nothing wrong at all with the track as it does what’s required of it, but it just isn’t going to compare to an action film etc. Solid entry.
• Meet the Real Pipers
• The Making of "90 Minutes in Heaven"
• Giving Films
“90 Minutes in Heaven” is a depressingly slow and depressingly vapid film about a rather interesting topic. The inclusion of Hayden Christensen is poor mistake number one, and mistake number two is stringing the audience along for 90% of the film without giving them what they came for. That is, his story of going to heaven and back. I hate and I mean HATE to be so critical of a film that is about my personal faith, but I firmly am behind C.S. Lewis when he was talking about Christian writers (as it applies to film as well). He once said when asked what he felt about Christian authors “I feel we need less Christian authors and more authors who are Christians”. When your production and storytelling ability is so poor the message can get lost amongst the brazen failure of the product. Skip it.
Starring: Kate Bosworth, Hayden Christensen, Hudson Meek
Directed by: Michael Polish
Written by: Don Piper (book), Michael Polish (Screenplay)
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 122 Minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: December 1st, 2015
Buy 90 Minutes in Heaven Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Skip It
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