To Save the Children (1994)

saveOften, when I read a book that has been made into a movie, I hunt down the movie as well. This was the case with “To Save the Children.” Immediately after finishing the book “When Angels Intervene to Save the Children,” I went to Netflix and put the movie in queue.

Richard Thomas plays David Young, a man with startling intellect and wild ideas. David believes that if he kills himself along with several children, they will all be reincarnated and he will become their god in the next life. His wife, Dorsie, has always gone along with his schemes, believing that he wouldn’t really do anyone harm, and thinks that this plan of his is just a passing fancy.

As David prepares for “The Big One,” as he calls it, we see children in the small Wyoming town of Cokeville getting ready for school. Their day starts out normally, with breakfast and chores, and then they head off to class. Shortly after lunch, they’re all invited to go into classroom #4, where they see a strange man lugging around a bomb on a shopping cart, and he tells them they can’t leave.

As word of the children’s abduction spreads, brought at first by Young’s daughter, law enforcement goes into high gear, contacting the Governor, the FBI, and everyone else they can think of. Their hands are tied, however—David has rigged the bomb to his wrist. If anything happens to him, the bomb will detonate, taking the entire school with it.

Teacher Jake Downey (Robert Urich) knew David from nine years earlier, and tries to use their previous relationship to soften David up. But the longer the siege goes on, the more David’s diabetic condition renders him out of control, and soon nothing anyone tries is working. Finally, needing to use the bathroom, David ties the trigger to Dorsie’s wrist, and with an innocent gesture to brush the hair out of her face, the bomb goes off.

This movie was well done. I’m amazed at Richard Thomas’s acting ability—one day we see him as the innocent and harmless John Boy, and the next, as a madman, ready to kill over a hundred and fifty people in his quest for eternal life. Robert Urich did a fine job as well, although for some reason, his character was based on a real-life figure but didn’t bear the same name. The only thing I found to fault? The part of the book that touched me most was when the children recounted how angels came to help prepare them for the detonation of the bomb. No mention of that was made in the movie. However, at the very end, as the children survey the clear outline of a person with outstretched arms on the wall, Urich’s character makes the comment, “Maybe that’s where God stood.”

Whether you read the book, see the movie, or do both, as I did, you will be touched by the events that took place at the Cokeville Elementary School and will feel, most surely, how God reached in and saved those children.

This made-for-TV movie was not rated.

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