Faithful to Its Fathers.
Originally broadcast as an A&E television movie based on Arizona Senator John McCain's memoirs, Faith of My Fathers will be released on DVD this month (August), and it's not a moment too soon. Unlike so many made-for-television projects that just miss the mark, this film is a true gem.
From McCain's true-life story, viewers learn what courage is -- that it's not just guts, gritting your teeth and bearing what life tosses you. Courage is something a lot deeper. It's the acquired skill to stand tall and firm and fight to survive even when experiencing pain, humiliation, and physical torture.
The mental wearing down of a person is what does them in, and John McCain ( Shawn Hatosy) certainly knows about that. He never gave in when ordered to confess war crimes if he wanted to escape with his life, let alone receive treatment for his injuries and ailments. As a POW in the worst hell hole know to man, he would rather be denied those luxuries we take for granted than be ethically and morally defeated like some of his commrades.
McCain has a remarkable ability to remember and recall facts no matter what situation he is in. He communicates with fellow prisoners through cups held up to the wall. Because the men know he can remember facts, they try to ensure he earns his ticket out of prison first so he can send details about other prisoners to the United States government once he's released. They believe this will increase the chances that the others will survive.
No matter how many times he is beaten, spit upon, kicked and harrassed by his keepers, McCain never backs down to the captors' demands and abuse. It's usually the mentality of those who are suffering that causes them to give up, but McCain fights a strong and silent fight, ever vigilant to thwart mind control tactics being used on him.
McCain comes from a family of military men. His grandfather served with Admiral Bull Halsey in World War II, and his own father was a submarine commander, so it's no surprise that he was thrust into the military by a father determined to straighten out his son, a poor student and wayward to say the least. McCain gets no special treatment for his impressive military heritage. Instead, he receives a lot of grief from his drill officers and peers.
Finding himself in a strange new world of bombing missions over North Vietnam in 1967, McCain is shot down and captured in hostile territory. He is forced to live in horrible conditions with a broken leg nobody will treat unless he confesses. He's given two choices -- confess your sins or die. MCain chooses neither option. Even when physically drained, he's sharp as a tack and able to memorize stories and recall every event that ever happened to him.
The movie is beautifully rendered with flashback scenes showing how McCain evolved into the man he is today. By drawing on the strength of those who taught him and his heritage, he makes a wise decision when forced to choose between his duty to America and his survival.
I'm happy to give Faith of My Fathers my highest recommendation. It should be required viewing for young people who need to develop a strong sense of character at an early age. Regardless of your politcal affiliations or what you may feel about the individual, McCain's life story is a valuable teaching tool about morality, mental power and strength of character.
As an added bonus, the DVD includes an enlightening interview with Senator McCain about this movie.
(Released by Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment and rated "PG-13" for intense depiction of wartime imprisonment and brief sexual content.)