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  • Writer's pictureThomas Bonifield

Review: "Palau: The Movie"

The life story of the great international evangelist is sure to inspire the faithful.

The actual Luis Palau studies a map of Colombia in a scene from the movie.

Palau: The Movie is an ambitious endeavor to capture an 84-year life lived for Christ in a two-hour movie. It tells the true story of Luis Palau's journey of faith from a little boy of 10 to the 84-year old man fighting stage four lung cancer he is today. Tremendously powerful in many places, its reach does, however, exceed its grasp in spots.

The film starts with still photos of Palau rallies and superimposed information about the Argentina-born evangelist, e.g., 50-plus years in ministry in 75 countries. It also features an interview between Luis Palau and the actor who plays him, fellow Argentine Gaston Pauls, discussing the movie-making process and issues of faith.

Once the picture begins in earnest, we are treated to some quality period-piece filmmaking, particluarly in the first act and the back half of the movie. The action opens in 1944 Argentina - much of the film was shot in that country - with Palau as a boy from a devout, prosperous Christian family.

Though they fall on hard times after his father's death, young Luis does not waiver in his faith. On the contrary, a Billy Graham radio broadcast convinces him that he, too, should become an evangelist. The film then fast-forwards to 1955. Palau, now a young man, is a banker working to support his mother and sisters. Still determined to become an evangelist, however, he starts a Christian radio show and takes up street-corner preaching.

That's how he meets his future mentor, American pastor Ray Stedman, who invites him to attend seminary in the US. The action shifts forward to Portland, OR in the mid-1960s where Luis - played in his adult years by Gaston Pauls - is studying and already married to wife Pat, who is played by Australian actress Alexandra Bard.

We felt things became stilted during this portion of the film. It was a challenging time in Palau's life and he clearly felt some impatience as he waited to take up his calling as an evangelist. Writer/director Kevin Knoblock endeavors to give a sense of Palau's frustration, but the movie really plods through this phase and does not communicate the underlying tension effectively enough in our view.

Fortunately, Knoblock gets it back on track once Luis Palau arrives in South America as a missionary. This is the strongest portion of the film, and Knoblock and cast deliver some moving scenes, particularly at a Bogota church service and when Palau is reaquainted with a friend who has fallen under the sway of the cult of socialism.

Luis Palau's devotion to the Lord and his faithfulness in sharing the Gospel of Christ are quite a legacy. That comes through in this film and will no doubt motivate believers. Much more is done well, including the nearly seamless back-and-forth between Spanish and English, the transitioning through multiple characters playing Palau at different stages of his life, usage of archival footage of actual events, and the palpable sense of apprehension because of pervasive political violence in Colombia during his first mission.

Christian Film Blog believes this movie is worth seeing and we rate it a 6.5 out of 10. We would have rated it much higher had it not been for the US-based portion of the film, which, as mentioned, drags. A final point: you have just one more opportunity to catch this film. Palau: The Movie will play again only on Saturday, April 6th, so plan accordingly.


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