I had pretty much given up on faith-based films. For the most part, I’ve found them to be low-budget efforts, resulting in poorly written, acted and in general poorly made films. Steve Taylor’s Blue Like Jazz film in 2012 was an exception, demonstrating that films on a shoe-string budget can be made with quality. The message in faith-based movies tends to be good (how can you argue with a movie about prayer, for example?), but often times the scripts try to emotionally manipulate the audiences.
I had seen three previous films from the Kendrick brothers – Facing the Giants in 2006 was a pleasant surprise, Fireproof in 2008 was probably my favorite of their films and starred Kirk Cameron, but Courageous in 2011, took a step backwards. I had pretty much figured I was done with the Kendrick Brothers films.
So when War Room, the first movie by the Kendrick Brothers to be filmed independently rather than as a project of Sherwood Baptist Church, was released a few weeks ago I stayed away. Even after it was the top film over a slow Labor Day weekend at the theatres I stayed away. It was only after reading a positive review on one of the blogs I subscribe to, did I even consider going to see the film. And I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised with the film.
Being associated with Tristar Pictures and distributed by Sony Pictures, the film has a more professional look and feel to it, even with a budget of only $3 million, right down to the Sprite and ESV Bible product placements. Filmed in Charlotte, North Carolina we meet Tony (T.C. Stallings) and Elizabeth Jordan (Priscilla C. Shirer, daughter of Tony Evans, graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, and Bible teacher. She founded Going Beyond Ministries, which, according to their website, is “Focused on the expository teaching of the Word of God”), and their ten year-old daughter Danielle (Alena Pitts). Tony is a successful pharmaceutical salesman and Elizabeth a real estate agent; their marriage is in trouble. Though they go to church together, they are not close the Lord. Tony is focused on his career, they often argue, and Danielle is pretty much ignored by both parents.
When Elizabeth goes to the home of Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie) to meet with her about selling her home, Miss Clara senses something wrong with Elizabeth’s life and wants to talk about that more than about listing her home. Initially reluctant, Elizabeth eventually opens up to Miss Clara about her failing marriage. Miss Clara encourages Elizabeth to fight for her marriage by pouring out her heart in prayer to the Lord using Scripture. The “war room” is a small room/closet in Miss Clara’s home where she goes to pray, with Bible verses and her prayer list taped to the walls. She is an encourager and good friend to Elizabeth.
Overall, the theology in the film appeared solid and will encourage people to pray, though we need to remember that unlike the quick answers the characters receive in this film, sometimes God’s answer to our prayers is “no” or “wait”. Beth Moore, who occasionally speaks at the same events as Shirer, appears briefly in the film at the real estate firm that Elizabeth works at.