Christian, Movie

I enjoyed this movie and was drawn in by it. I have watched it a couple of times now and I find that each time I do I come back to the same points. Points I hope to explain as I go through this review.

Writing this review was harder than I thought it would be. I didn’t have high expectations. I have seen “Facing the Giants”, “Fireproof” and “Courageous” and for the most part I have found the story lines positive, biblical and linear. To a certain extent I find myself thinking about this story in the same way. It has a great positive message. It is full of biblical value. And unfortunately it is very linear. With too many of these moves I find that all the conflict is at the beginning and its associated resolution takes up the majority of the movie.

Looking at it from a pure storyteller perspective I love the first half of the movie and then spend the last 30-50 minutes waiting for limited character development, or limited conflict and resolution. I find it hard to resolve, mentally, that the most contentious part of the movie is about 30 minutes from the credits and some may argue that this was not even the high point of the movie. From here the resolution drags out over 30 minutes. For me it is a drag. Others may find solace in the resurrection of family and restitution of people. I am left feeling conflicted by this and would have liked a more concise ending.

For story, pacing and scenes – 2.5 stars

When it comes to casting I have seen a number of articles talking about the decision to change to a majority black cast and how that changes the movie. I think all the articles that talk to this say it was a positive move particularly as the move came out during so of the American race protests. I don’t think that this is a profitable line of review. Whilst it is important to look at context for movies and their impacts, I am of the opinion that race discussions remove quality from the equation and substitute it with affirmative action. I can’t really comment as to the race situation in the US but as I do business in Africa I can say that affirmative action never is as positive as it’s proponents assure us. And ability, on all sides, is oppressed in favour of those with connections. The result is corruption.

All that being said, as far as I understand there was none of that thought in the minds of the directors nor in the part of the actors themselves. The story is not race and so the actors have no pressure in that regard. I find it hard to judge the performance of children in general and Alena Pitts as the daughter is no exception. Emotion is the key to quality acting and there is a tendency for youth to over dramatise or play things as dead. On both accounts Alena’s performance is good and the scenes she is in progress well. T.C. Stallings who plays the father is a different kettle of fish. He comes across as cocky and self assured when he needs to and contrite when needed. His scenes aren’t over acted and he is a genuine compliment to the main character Elizabeth Jordan.

Priscilla Shirer plays the main character and I found her performance less nuanced than that of Stallings. Her performance was positive but on re-watching the move I was waiting for her scenes to be over. Not usually a good thing but I have to say that is because the character and presentation of Miss Clara stole the show. Karen Abercrombie, who plays Miss Clara, has brought to life one of the characters I will enjoy for a long time to come. Having grown up with a praying Granny (You will have to forgive the English title) myself,  I can say Karen got it very right. Whilst I don’t denigrate any of the other performances, in my mind it will not be those, the story line nor the biblical lessons learned that bring me back to this movie. I will come to see Miss Clara serve up cold coffee and remember mine who actually made my friends put a bar of soap in their mouth “to wash that filth out”.

For acting, casting and portrayal – 4 stars

When it comes to biblical content there was little doubt that the movie is a high morals type of movie and should score well. Consequently in the expectations vs realisation stakes War Room surprisingly looses points. The straight forward resolution of the spiritual conflict I found disappointing. Not because I can’t believe that God can resolve issues that easily but rather because for a movie predicated on the war aspect of Spirituality there was little actual war. Don’t misunderstand I liked the premise and the prayer lessons were fantastic. But the resolution came so easily that it feels like opportunity lost.

That being said, the Kendrick brothers always have very strong biblical stances in their films. Where things are shown that are of poor morals or questionable content it is always shown as reprehensible. This movie is no exception and I would not have any problems showing it to young audiences. Though the content may not be of sufficient interest to younger views there would be no issues with content.

For biblical relevance, ethics and suitability for children – 4 stars

All in all the averaging of scores is pulled down by a story line that promises much but seems to spend too much time presenting the results of a God given victory and not enough time in the building of conflict and it’s associated resolution. To me I don’t handle movies very well where the ending is +30% of the movie. That being said it is by far the Kendrick brothers best work and I really enjoyed Miss Clara. I forgive them much for her creation. Having seen this movie three times would I watch it again. I’m not sure. Would I recommend it to others. It depends. I am not sure how a non christian would appreciate this movie but for saved people it is a must see. For these reasons I am willing to allocate a few extra points.

Movie rating – 4 stars

Best line of the movie

Someone’s been praying in this closet

How do you know it is her prayer closet?

It’s almost like it’s baked in.

Christian, Movie

It wasn’t opening night so I did not expect to see huge numbers roll up to see Joseph Fiennes in Risen. But it was disappointing to find myself as one of 4 in the cinemas. Christian groups complain that there is never enough good quality christian movies out there. And they have a point. If you are a Christian looking for christian morals and values the pickings are slim. Still when someone makes a good christian film nobody turns up. That really sums it up.

That aside the movie itself was actually good. I know my tone comes across as surprised but after the recent drivel that was “Noah” or “Exodus: Gods and Kings” my expectations were low. There were a couple of things that I found difficult to swallow and for the same reason that both Noah and Exodus failed, which I will discuss later. But on the whole it was an enjoyable movie.

The film was shot in Andalucia Spain and looks exactly as I imagine Israel looks or would look back then. I travel to Israel soon and I will let you know if that is the case. In any event it set the tone early and well. The movie starts with the main character, played by Joseph Fiennes fighting and killing Barabbas. From there we follow the main character through the death resurrection and reappearance of Jesus. In terms of plot and story line the movie wound through some rather interesting scenes. Scenes that I certainly did not anticipate. Biblical stories that I know were related in different ways and with characters that I did not expect to see. On the whole however the story was interesting and it held me as I tried to put myself into the shoes of a soldier going about his business until he meets an very complicated situation. This for me was what made a lot of the movie work and some of it fall down. I keep going back to the ending. Would I have left it there. Perhaps but I might have thrown in a line or two hinting that main character may see Peter again.

For story, pacing and scenery – 3.5 stars

When I start to think about the acting in this movie. I can’t go past Joseph Fiennes performance. I find him completely believable in his portrayal of a roman tribune. My sister teaches ancient history and made consistent comments the relevance of tribunes and their place in the Roman empire of the day. Tribunes are very significant as they carry military power but need to have been both sponsored by powerful people and been voted into office. It explains why his number two cannot just succeed to his role. Fiennes manages to both come across as someone with unquestioned authority and also as someone who is a man of the people. In all this the personal quest of his though not ever present in the story plays out in his actions.

For his part Felton has come a long way from playing Malfoy in Harry Potter. In the begging there is the youth unsure of himself. Though there is an eagerness there pointing to a desire to go further. Though some of this is undoubtedly the writing Felton’s performance was much better that I anticipated and I found myself enjoying his scenes. Peter is also another surprise packet played by Stewart Scudamore. Though hardly alone in the good supporting actor or actress. As an actor I really enjoy the performances of Peter Firth and he did not let me down with this performance. His constant tension with the imminent visit of Caesar and the “troublesome” Jews is well portrayed. Certainly contributing to this being my favorite aspect of the movie.

For acting, casting and portrayal – 4.5 stars

The trouble form me however in this movie is essentially the same problem as with both Noah and Exodus. Though, thankfully, in this case to a much lesser degree. Let me put this as a paragraph all by itself so it stands out.

When you make a movie about biblical things. Don’t contradict the bible.

To be fair they haven’t exactly, which is why they are not in Exodus territory much less Noah. I can get past some of the extra biblical stuff such as the death of Barabbas or the arrest and questioning of disciples and Mary. I can even be persuaded that the Roman might have seen Jesus after his death. But there is no record of Jesus performing any miracles after his death. I think that things like that are going to make this movie harder for strong Christians to support. They are very protective of the bible and it’s veracity as historical fact.

When it comes to watch-ability for young viewers. There are a number of things to watch out for. There is violence in this and crucifixion and realistic blood but it is not as bad as Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ”. On the plus side there is none of the myriad of other things that are morally problematic.

For biblical relevance, ethics and suitability for children – 3.5 starts

Consequently this move comes in with the above mentioned good rating. I have to confess that i was surprised it did so well but at the end of each review I reserve my self a few points for a general feeling and weighting. For me the best thing about this movie is that it questioned my beliefs and challenged me to look again at Jesus. Surely that is what makes a movie worth watching. It makes you feel and look at yourself.

Movie score:        4 stars.