[Kobayashi's] role as nokanshi is primarily a cultural one. But the film is also unashamed and uncompromising in its clear belief that death is far from the end of all things. As one character puts it, "Death is like a gateway. Dying doesn't mean the end. You go through it, and on to the next thing."
Only He was not the savior of a single town; He was the savior of all mankind. Like George Bailey, he is the cause of our joy, the source of all happiness for those around Him. He came into the world on a similarly dark, unwelcoming night to save us all from our own pride and fear. And we know He'll never let it go to his head.
At their core, both films share an important Christmastime message: What we want is rarely what we truly need, and God's actions in our lives rarely fulfill our expectations. And isn't that exactly the story of Christmas? Who in their right minds would ever think that the answer to the problem of sin and evil would be a humble carpenter's son, born in a stable in the dead of winter? Thank God He didn't leave it up to us.
It is at that moment that the hierarchical relationship of parent to child can begin to transform into that which all parents truly desire with their children: a deep and abiding friendship. And that friendship, like any truly profound friendship, can only begin once each sees the other as they truly are.
We are not called to love Him when convenient, or when moved by our emotions, or when He seems to reciprocate our love in a manner and to a degree we deem appropriate. We are called to love always, and completely -- with our whole hearts, our whole minds, our whole souls. Mohammad, in his world of darkness, is not to be pitied; he sees far more clearly than we ever shall.
Young Michael starts out on the road to Perdition as a child, but he leaves it as a man -- thoroughly rejecting his father’s violent methods and practices, but just as thoroughly embracing his father’s hopes and fears, his beliefs, principles, and the clear moral code that was more important to him than life itself.
It is the presence of these moments — where God reaches down to remind us of His presence and to raise us up — that makes such films worthwhile. They’re often brutal and difficult, and can feel almost relentlessly depressing. But as one catches sight of the Divine even in the midst of this vale of tears, they are gilded with a new and rewarding light.
Taking the naive optimism of the genre's Golden era and the stylistic cynicism of more recent years, modern filmmakers have found a way to meld the two – an amalgamation that manages to be relevant despite the failing of both of its parents. Perhaps old wine in new wine skins isn't such a bad idea after all.