I must admit that I dreaded this day. I did not look forward at all to watching yet another (hold your nose) Christian movie. I really didn’t want to sit through another 90 minutes of one-dimensional characters, stilted performances from B-list actors, with just enough of a plot to horseshoe in that oh-so-predictable moral of the story, which is, of course, “you need Jesus.” Important message to be sure, but I’d seen it before numerous times and you get dulled to it. If a film can’t get me, a Christian, fired up for Jesus, how on earth is it going to do so for a non-believer who may stumble across it? Typically after these films, I walk away shaking my head wondering, “Why can’t Christians make a decent movie?”
I can now definitively say, “Christians can make a decent movie.” Especially if their last name is Kendrick. In fact, they can make movies that force a large, 350lb broad-shouldered guy like me cry… and laugh… and then cry and laugh again.
If you’re not familiar with their name, you are almost certainly familiar with the Kendrick Brothers’ films – such as Fireproof and Facing the Giants (remember that “death crawl” scene? I still get tingly when I watch it).
War Room is exactly what our world needs right now, and if there were a way to force everyone by law – Christians and non-Christians alike – to sit and watch it, I’d lobby Congress to make it so. Not because the movie is so amazingly well produced, but because the message is spot on and needs to be heard.
Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to watching a film about the importance of prayer – but now that I’ve watched it, I can’t think of anything more important in today’s world. While the message is crystal clear right from the beginning, the film is mixed with so many humorous and fun moments that you don’t feel you’re being hit over the head with a giant-sized family Bible complete with concordance and full-color maps.
Unlike Fireproof or Facing the Giants, War Room doesn’t seem at first to have an immediate payoff for the more masculine crowd. I mean, there’s no football. In fact, the only sport that’s truly highlighted is jumping rope. No, I’m not kidding. Jumping rope. And we don’t have any firefighters risking their lives in this film either. Come to think of it, nobody is doing anything that is remotely dangerous in a physical way. Not even driving 60 in a 55mph zone.
Fortunately, there is a lot for the guys here – and the gals. Honestly, no matter where you are in your life: married or single, parent or not, church-goer or atheist, rich or poor, this film has something that not only can be related to, but likely needs to be heard by you.
In his first couple of scenes, I immediately pegged Tony (T.C. Stallings): as that “angry husband who doesn’t need God” – but I was pleasantly surprised when T.C. Stallings was able to bring true depth and feeling to Tony, showing shades of regret and guilt while still prideful in his actions. I did not expect the coldness of Stallings in the opening scenes to allow room for such tenderness later on in the film, and it really hit me. I saw pieces of my own life in the character of Tony: how I concentrate so much on my job, how I can so easily take my spouse for granted, how praying to God for wisdom rarely (if ever) enters my mind. I tend to get so caught up in the immediate that I neglect the eternal. (Doggone, I’m tearing up again; where are my tissues?)
Tony’s wife, Liz (Priscilla C. Shirer) is the central figure of the film, and she seems to change before your eyes. While tired, frustrated, and angry in the beginning, you can actually see her burdens lifted and the glow coming back to her as the film progresses. She transmogrifies from a neglected, ignored wife… to an angry warrior… to a calm and collected mature woman in Christ. The transformation is quite good and she literally, in this reviewer’s eyes, becomes more beautiful as the film goes on. Shirer’s performance as well had me choked up in moments, and wanting to step up out of my chair and cheer for her in the next. Her backyard patio scene is jaw-droppingly good and it wouldn’t surprise me if a few new actresses grab the script for that scene to use as a monologue for film auditions.
While both Stallings and Shirer gave solid performances, it’s Karen Abercrombie as Miss Clara who truly outshines them all. She steals the spotlight in practically every one of her scenes. The character that I thought would be the bible-thumping “you need Jesus” snorefest I’d come to expect from other Christian film heroines, turned out to be a true delight to watch and amazingly funny. I found myself laughing not at her, but with her – and wishing she lived across the street from me so I could have coffee with the woman. Clara is a great example of how a bit of tenacity and boldness can make a world of difference, and a difference in the world.
War Room does a great job of showing not only the power and importance of prayer, but also the importance of marriage and fidelity, Christian fellowship, being a mentor to others who are young in their faith, committed parenting, honesty, and even everyone’s favorite but often ignored golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. It’s impressive how many issues the film touches on without them feeling squeezed in or the film feeling disjointed or choppy.
Some people might remember back in 2008 when Fireproof came out. The film was such a phenomenon that the fictional book highlighted in the film, “The Love Dare” soon became a real-life book – and a best seller to boot. Think about it – “a real book, based on a fictional book in a fictional movie” became a real-life best seller. How’s that for God working in a unique way?
If a similar fan explosion takes place for War Room, it will mean closets being converted into prayer rooms all around the nation. If that happens, and women willingly begin giving up closet space, it’s proof that God truly can work miracles.