First Landing (2007)
Director: Cristobal Krusen.
Starring: Guy Birtwhistle (Rev. Robert Hunt), Stephen Blackehart (Edward Maria Wingfield), Josh Adamson (Capt. John Smith), Marc Appleby (Capt. Christopher Newport), Edward Woodward (Older Nathaniel Peacock / Narrator), Natalie Worth (Elizabeth Hunt), Phillip Whiteman (Oliver Brown), Scott Watkins (Matthew Fitch).
Christian Broadcasting Network story of Jamestown settlement in Virginia, 1607 with the main focus on the life of the chaplain of the expedition
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
The English Channel, January 1607. Three ships left Blackwall in mid-December 1606, but were delayed for six weeks in the English Channel because of the weather conditions. This story is told by Nathaniel Peacock who was a cabin boy on the Susan Constant, which was the largest of the three ships. One of his jobs was to take care of the sick. The first to be sick is the sea-sick chaplain, Robert Hunt. Back home the Reverend has a son, daughter and wife.
One day the Reverend received a letter from Richard Haklyut, who the King asked to serve as the chaplain for the new colony to be established in the New World. Haklyut asks Hunt to take his place and be the chaplain on the voyage. Mrs. Elizabeth Hunt tells him that surely he is not considering taking the position. But he is, indeed. He says that should clear the way for her and a certain John Taylor who has been pursuing her. In the early morning he sees his wife walking toward the church. He follows her into the church. She tells him that men who go to Virginia don't usually come back. He says he is the King's selection, it's the opportunity of a lifetime and asks how could he turn this offer down? The subject of John Taylor comes up again and the wife says she doesn't care about Taylor; it's just that he notices her. The Reverend apologizes to her for this. Elizabeth makes it clear she wants him to return to her. He says he will come back or she will come to him in the New World.
Richard Haklyut organized the trip and settlement. The Captain was Christopher Newport. An adventurer named John Smith was also selected to go. Haklyut introduces Rev. Hunt to the the leaders designated to organize the details of the trip and the settlement.
Two sailors Brown and Fitch, men who work for the big investor Edward Maria Wingfield, are ready to toss the sea-sick Reverend overboard, so Nathaniel runs to tell Captain Smith, who saves the Reverend. This brings Smith in direct conflict with Wingfield. Some of the officers and Wingfield think they won't have enough provisions for the voyage to Virginia if they can't get out of the English Channel. Their idea is to put into port, get some more supplies and, when the weather improves, head out. Captain Smith wants to go on for they might not be able to sail again if they return to port. The men become angry and shout at each other, until the Reverend pulls himself together enough to tell the men to stop fighting with each other. He also tells the men that the voyage should go on. Captain Newport says they will go on with the voyage.
A recovered Reverend stops a fight between two men over a stolen medallion. He gives his own silver medallion to the sailor whose medallion was stolen. This satisfies the two men, but it doesn't satisfy the ship's Captain for there are definite rules against stealing and fighting. As punishment Captain Newport prepares to nail one of the hands of one of the fighters to the wall with the sailor's own knife. Hunt pleads with the Captain for leniency. He promises Newport it won't happen again. Newport relents, but warns the crew against any more fighting. The storm has abated and they are headed to the Canary Islands.
The Reverend teaches Nathaniel how to read and write proficiently. Nathaniel is from London.
Wingfield comes into conflict with Captain John Smith once again. They keep knocking heads over who is to give certain orders to certain crew members. Wingfield orders the arrest of Captain Smith. Wingfield tells Captain Newport that Smith has confederates on all three ships and he is planning a mutiny. Smith says the charge is not even worth answering. Captain Newport orders Smith to be held in irons awaiting trial when they get to Virginia. He is to be placed near the Reverend so that Smith may be softened up a bit.
After the Canary Islands the ships sail to Martinique in the Caribbean Sea reaching it on March 23. There were many Indians on the island. While Smith tells wonderful stories of his adventures, Wingfield scoffs saying that Smith has brought the whole lot of them over to his side. At night two of Wingfield's men grab Captain Smith. Nathaniel wakes up to see Smith being dragged along by the men. They plan to hang Smith. Nathaniel runs and gets the Reverend and Captain Newport. They, with some men, put a stop to the hanging. Nathaniel decides to stay as close to Smith as possible to prevent any harm coming to him.
After spending three weeks in the Caribbean they set sail north. April 14, they cross the Tropic of Cancer. April 21, they are hit by a terrible storm. April 25, Captain Newport sends Nathaniel up to lookout for land. April 26, land is sighted. A search party goes on shore. Pushing into the woods they are attacked very briefly by Indians and several of the men are wounded. Smith talks with Rev. Hunt about what might happen to him. The Reverend assures him that Captain Newport is a just man and Smith's innocence will be proved.
Captain Smith will open the box given to them by the Virginia Company that contains the names of those chosen to lead the new colony. Among the chosen are Wingfield, Captain Newport and John Smith. In view of Smith being a colony leader, Newport has Smith released.
Captain Newport calls the place they landed Cape Henry. The Christian cross is planted on one of the sand dunes and the Reverend says a long prayer. On land the men soon have very little food to eat. The men also start dying from disease. At high tide the river water is salty and a low tide slimy and many a man gets sick and dies from this. The Reverend prays again at the cross. And he prays over a dying man. The Reverend then becomes sick himself. He dies. Nathaniel is very upset for Hunt was as both teacher and father to him. Following the death, the men turn more directly to Captain Smith for direction.
Nathaniel says he eventually made his way back to England as a man. There he often thinks of Reverend Hunt.
"Robert Hunt planted the First Protestant Church in America and laid down his life for the foundation of the country. A monument to Robert Hunt stands today at Jamestown, containing these words from the men who traveled with him to Virginia: 'During his life, our factions were often healed, and our greatest extremities so comforted that they seemed easy in comparison with what we endured after his memorable death. We all loved him for his exceeding goodness.' Robert Hunt was thirty-seven years old when he died. His widow, Elizabeth, never remarried."
Not a bad movie, but I am always suspicious of Christian movies. And being an evangelical sourced movie it has a lot of Christian prayer in it. The emphasis is on the spiritual/religious side of the voyage and early settlement. Not bad, but unusual to watch a film about a primarily non-religious colonial settlement with a primary emphasis on religion. In a way it's like religion is snuck in through the back door. When you see a movie about a Saint, for instance, you know it is going to have a strong religious theme, but I didn't expect this from this movie until I saw the source of the movie. But when I do hear more about Jamestown, I think I will think of this movie about the good man Reverend Robert Hunt.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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