Killing the Buddha, a Heretic's Bible

Job, The Movie

This Time It’s Personal

The Book of Job could be a movie starring Stallone. No, really. An excerpt from Killing the Buddha.

Peter Trachtenberg

Job could also be a movie. It’s a hard pitch, I know. The story’s sort of a down, and there’s no action in the second act. Here’s my idea: Move the story from Uz—where the hell is Uz?—to Washington. Make Job a CIA agent, played by Sly Stallone; Sly could use a comeback role. He’s a “black op” who goes behind the lines, in Central America, Afghanistan, Iraq, doing our country’s dirty work. We need to establish from the get-go that this is a guy with balls, a man’s man. But also vulnerable, sensitive: We should see him playing with his kids. His only connection to the Company is his Handler, the agent who briefs him for missions and covers his ass with the bureaucrats. Job is absolutely loyal to this guy, even though—here’s the gimmick—he’s never seen him. The audience doesn’t see the handler, either. He’s just a voice on the phone. I’m thinking Sir Tony Hopkins.

Anyway, one day Job comes home and walks right into an ambush. The house is crawling with terrorists. There’s a huge gunfight, and at the end of it, Sly’s place is a smoking hole in the ground, his wife and kids are dead—make that one kid, we don’t want people slashing their wrists. Sly tries to contact his Handler for help, but suddenly Sir Tony’s not returning his calls. Maybe They’ve gotten him. Maybe he’s switched sides. Job doesn’t know. He’s totally alone. Except maybe we give him three sidekicks, like the Joe Pesci character in the Lethal Weapon series, who keep pestering him with lousy advice. A little comic relief.

Okay, so Job tracks the Handler down to a secret headquarters, a stately old mansion in the Virginia countryside, heavily guarded. He makes it onto the grounds, but someone spots him. All hell breaks loose: alarms, guns, rottweilers. I’m seeing a helicopter chase. Finally he’s outside the mansion, on the portico, exhausted, wounded, bloody, and in tatters. He falls to his knees and hollers up at the balcony, begging the Handler to talk to him, give him some explanation. He’s sobbing. “God!” he wants to yell. “God!” But all that comes out is “Gaahhh!”

There are still some third-act problems that need to be worked out.

Well, you can see how there would be. Not that Hollywood would find it all that hard to represent God: special effects have come a long way since The Ten Commandments. It’s that there’s no resolution, or rather, the resolution is so antithetical to Hollywood’s cult of warmth. When God finally reveals Himself to Job, we want Him to explain: “That’s for coveting your neighbor’s wife.” But the voice from the whirlwind explains nothing. It asks. “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Who laid the cornerstone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?”

There’s no poetry that can compete with this. There’s no argument that can refute it. Job asks, “How could you do this to me?” And God answers, “Because I can.” . . .

Peter Trachtenberg is a contributor to Killing the Buddha, a website about religion for people who don’t like discussing religion. This piece is excerpted by permission from Killing The Buddha: A Heretic’s Bible by Peter Manseau and Jeff Sharlet (Free Press, 2004).
posted by editor ::: February 02, 2004 ::: pheatures :::