OKLAHOMA CITY – Much has been written about the “surprising” success of War Room. The fact is, producers/brothers Stephen and Alex Kendrick have been surprising industry observers for years, so much so that Christianity-based movies are now a known quantity. Indeed, many writers have begun producing counter-stories about how unsurprising it is that such a blatantly Christian movie would be successful.
Previous Kendrick productions Fireproof and Courageous gained 6,600% and 1,500% returns on their budgets, respectively.
As of today, War Room is sporting a tidy return slightly above 1,600%.
Meseems a trend.
Touted as having good acting and a powerful, engaging story, this movie is said to be much better than previous Kendrick affairs. Not having seen them, I cannot judge. What I can say is, the movie is definitely a mixed bag.
What’s best about the film (at least for me and my Christian brethren) is that it is explicitly Christian. Blatant God-language abounds, and as a believer I found the message to be not just a watered down “feel good” bunch of flummery but rather quite realistic. One particularly moving scene involved Liz walking slowly through her home enjoining the devil and his minions to exit her house. It was intense, amazing and (again) realistic, easily the best part in the whole movie.
(On a secondary note, said realism also serves as evidence that these Kendrick brothers are perhaps more than merely nominal Christ-followers, something that makes me glad.)
Other notable elements include decent acting and an engaging story. Tony and Liz (played by T.C. Stallings and Priscilla C. Shirer, respectively) are married, but it isn’t going well. An affair is looming, and they fight all the time. Thankfully, Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie) providentially steps in to help Liz figure out that the problem isn’t with Tony; instead, there is a different enemy, one who wants to “steal, kill and destroy.”
As with most dramas, this one contains elements of suspense, pain, and excitement as the heroes learn to fight and overcome the enemy’s tactics and put their lives and marriage back on the right path. Along the way, Miss Clara delivers powerful soundbites that will have audiences uttering out loud affirmations like “Mmmm-hmmmmm” and “That’s right, get it together.” Actually, in my experience, the audience affirmations were as memorable as anything on screen. Hopefully you can have such a fun viewing, too!
But, despite having positive elements, this movie is still not quite up to the quality of regular, secular films. It is also not at the level of other monster faith-based efforts like Chariots of Fire or Passion of the Christ. Despite the acting being better than previous Kendrick works, there were still some truly clunker performances. Also, the writing is at times a tad too sugary, and the plot ends on a perhaps somewhat unrealistic note.
In the end, mainstream audiences will not tolerate these weaknesses (as evidenced by paltry scores on major movie review aggregates Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic), but religious audiences will find much to be glad about. I do not think of it as a great movie, but it isn’t all bad. Indeed, my recommendation is this: see it. Even with all its flaws, War Room is an interesting movie, and its success suggests an increasingly promising future for explicitly Christian movies.
Grant Stevens loves reading, watching movies, playing music and writing. He also teaches apologetics at church. He is the Kaiser of the Use Ironic Correctly Club, and he founded and is the El Rey of the Keep English Alive Society.