In 1986, a lunatic named David Young took the faculty and student body of Cokeville Elementary School hostage. He had a bomb and several guns, and demanded 200 million dollars for the hostages’ release. The film The Cokeville Miracle dramatizes the events from beginning to end, when a troubled police officer attempts to make sense of the aftermath and how it relates to his diminishing faith in God.
While the film works hard to tone down any overt expressions of the Christian faith, this is definitely a religious-themed movie, tackling themes of loss of faith, the power of prayer, and celestial/supernatural phenomena. Anti-theists will not find much to like about this film, but the rest of us will find it enjoyable and thought-provoking.
Jasen Wade as the protagonist Ron Hartley turns a decent performance as a man troubled by what he’s seen on the job. Police officers often have to deal with the worst in humanity, and this exposure conflicts with his life as a church-going family man. He’s losing his faith, and as the hostage crisis takes place over the course of the film, this diminishing faith is further tested: his children are in the school, being terrorized by the bomber. His personal agony is clear in the performance, if a bit one-note at times.
Later, after the crisis is over, his investigation uncovers some very unusual circumstances. What really happened in that classroom?
Overall, The Cokeville Miracle is an earnest movie, and raises important questions about the nature of an interventionist God. Why does He seem to intervene in one event and not another? What’s the difference between coincidence and divine intervention?
Like so many films in which children are put in peril, this movie will be particularly poignant for parents (alliteratively speaking). We send our kids to school, figuring they’ll get through the day just fine.
Until they don’t.
I award this film 4 out of 5 stars. Give The Cokeville Miracle a try and let me know what you think.