We’re back! After a surprise week-long trip to Maine and an interminable battle with bilateral pneumonia, I am finally back to a point where I can talk for an hour straight without having to go on direct oxygen! It’s been awhile since Eve and I saw War Room, but it’s great to finally be getting to discuss it!
Before we get started, though
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War Room has come across as more polished than many of the Christian movies that come to the big screen, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the wonderful soundtrack and score by Paul Mills. Well done and skillfully applied, the score fits the movie well and really adds value. The Kendrick brothers are improving as film makers and the War Room’s score really serves to provide evidence to that.
War Room is a bit unique for us as Are You Just Watching? has never covered a specifically Christian movie before. There are not a lot of worldview elements for us to disagree with in War Room, but still some artistic decisions that we feel didn’t quite hit the mark.
The Stuff People Won’t Get
One of the most interesting aspects about War Room as a Christian movie is that some of the concepts that we encounter will be edifying for Christians but pre-Christians and non-Christians might very well not “get.” The women in War Room are strong women, but not in the way that the world believes strong women to be. The idea of submission provides a strong, over-arching theme for the movie; as husband and wife, as parents, and as believers.
Submission is learning to duck so God can hit your husband! (Miss Clara)
The roles of husband and wife are intended, Scripture tells us to be a direct reflection of the role between Christ and his bride, the Church. So little of what comes out of the entertainment industry reflects that level of healthy relationship; it is really nice to see it not only well portrayed in War Room, but also well redeemed. The lead characters are far from perfect, and their marriage is even worse off, but as the characters grow in their faith, healing in their marriage follows naturally.
Another idea that seems to differ between believers and unbelievers is the idea that, even with forgiveness, there are still consequences. While everything came out well for the Jordans, they resolved with much more realistically than many Hollywood tales. Tony didn’t finish the movie with a high paying job or all debts forgiven—he had to face the consequences for his actions. Through his growth in Christ, though, he came to a more fulfilled position.
Accountability, particularly between believers, is a topic that the film touches briefly on, demonstrated specifically in the relationships between Tony and his friend Michael and between Elizabeth and Miss Clara. We are not only encouraged to hold each other accountable, but required to. In the world where no one is responsible to anyone but their own conscience, the idea of being held accountable by other people who believe the same way is often alien.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Even with the targeted audience and positive message, there are three scenes that really stood out for us.
The first scene was the exchange between Miss Clara and Elizabeth, where Miss Clara very neatly—and biblically—demonstrates the problems with being lukewarm, either as a believer or as coffee.
The second scene was one that neither Eve or I really had any specific problems with, but some believers seemed to take issue with. Elizabeth has a powerful monologue in which she goes from room to room in her house, explaining more and more forcefully to Satan that he is not welcome in their house. While the scene had some positive elements, it does contain some theological elements that give some believers pause.
The final scene was one that neither Eve or I appreciated. Walking through a parking garage, Miss Clara and Elizabeth are accosted by a mugger with a knife. Rather than submit to the mugger, Miss Clara commands, in the name of Jesus, that the man put down his knife. It lends humor to a few other scenes and highlights a conflict between Elizabeth and Tony, but we just didn’t feel that the scene worked. It felt forced and contrived. In the end, it detracted a little from the overall experience.
War Room handled the redemption of the leading man well, particularly by letting us understand the process and gift of redemption through the eyes of Tony’s wife, Elizabeth. She comes to understand that we are all in dire need of redemption, and it is through the unconditional love and grace of God that we receive it.
. . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:23-26)
In his unredeemed state, Tony didn’t act like a Christian; he occasionally attended church, but he clearly didn’t strive to emulate Christ in his daily life. His actions are the actions of a man who places his own desires above those of God.
The last thing we wanted to bring up was the apparent disparity between the critic’s scores and those of the viewers ratings. Looking at these numbers, it is very easy to conclude that the difference is rooted in the professional reviewer HAVING to see this faith-based movie and not appreciating the content versus the audience WANTING to see the movie and being completely on board with the message. It looks like a huge chasm, but a careful analysis of the numbers shows that while there is a difference, it’s not so significant as it seems at first. Perhaps we have a statistician among our listeners who might be able to provide some insight?
The real difference comes in the language used by the reviewers—most of those that didn’t like it didn’t hold back; they took pleasure in raking the movie over the coals. The critics who didn’t like it, but expressed their problems fairly, seeming aware of their personal bias, appear to be the exception rather than the rule. But fairness doesn’t promote conflict, and the entertainment industry seems convinced that conflict is required for entertainment.
The Kendrick brothers did not appear to have created this movie for evangelism, but rather to edify believers and to remind us of the importance of prayer in our lives as believers. Because of this, there is a bit of a gap between how you might feel about this film as a believer versus as a non-believer. It delivered a powerful message with enjoyable acting, strong writing, and a polished feel that demonstrates that the brothers are improving with each of their entries into the field. The message is scriptural and edifying, and well worth the time and expense of any interested believer. It is also a superb vehicle for discussion among both believers and non-believers alike.
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