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Monday, November 23, 2015

Movie Review - War Room

The Kendrick brothers’ latest project is a box office triumph for the Christian film industry, where story, acting, and picture quality measure up to the best of Hollywood standards. 

Known for Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and Courageous, Alex and Stephen Kendricks have delivered a true, spiritual Christian story in War Room that delivers on many levels: humor, emotion, great storytelling, quirky characters, good acting, and beautiful sets and lighting that show great improvement in their filmmaking abilities. This movie is aimed more toward the true believer, particularly those who are used to fiery preaching from their local pulpits, complete with finger-pointing toward the devil to leave God’s people alone. There were a few such moments in the film that made me squirm, not because I was uncomfortable with the scene, but because I could visualize the scowls coming from some of my denominational friends and family. I may be wrong, but I don’t believe this movie will go over well with the uber religious crowd. But I believe that probably suits the Kendrick brothers just fine!

Starring acting unknowns, Priscilla Shirer (the well known Bible study teacher) and TC Stallings, the story centers around Tony and Elizabeth Jordan, an idyllic, successful married couple, complete with gorgeous dream home, two great jobs and a lovely daughter, Danielle (Alena Pitts). And yet all is not perfect. Tony is a workaholic, Elizabeth is dipping into the family savings account to help an unsavory family member, and Danielle struggles to maneuver the minefield of her parents’ dissension. Her passion for competitive double dutch (jump rope) seems pointless to Tony, and he doesn’t refrain from letting the criticisms fly. While Elizabeth tries her best to mend the hurts, the damage is telling. Immediately, the viewer senses that, unless changes are made, this family is headed for divorce.

The tide begins to turn when Miss Clara (played by Karen Abercrombie) comes into Elizabeth’s life. Miss Clara is a brash but loveable, older widow who hires Elizabeth’s real estate firm to sell her family home. At their first meeting, Elizabeth is intrigued, and perhaps a bit envious, with the wonderful memorabilia that fills the house. Miss Clara takes her on a tour of every room, describing memories of husband, children, and faith in God, all evidence of a life fully lived. But there is one room that is more special than the others: an empty closet in the upstairs bedroom with a lone wooden chair and the walls covered in written prayers. This room is what Miss Clara calls her “war room,” a place where she prays fervently for hours on end for her family and friends.

Miss Clara challenges Elizabeth to create her own war room for the purpose of praying for Tony and her marriage. At first Elizabeth scoffs, but as problems with her husband escalate, she decides to give it a try. This is where the Kendricks’ tasteful humor comes into play. Smelly feet, morning breath, snacking on potato chips while trying to pray, all provide a bit of levity to the story as Elizabeth struggles with the idea of pouring her heart out to God. Eventually, all clothes and accessories are removed from the master bedroom closet, and Elizabeth gets to the heavy duty of praying for her family. In an especially powerful scene, she heads outside and points her finger to the sky, declaring to the enemy forces that the battle is on. Priscilla Shirer is a real stand out in my opinion, and I hope we see her in more films.
As Elizabeth prays in her newly constructed war room, Tony enjoys the perks that come with life as a high profile pharmaceutical rep. High accolades from his boss (played by Alex Kendrick) and cushy relationships with clients have tested his integrity and revealed his flawed character. It seems he has been pilfering drug samples for financial gain, and even toys with having an adulterous affair with a colleague. Temptation is about to claim its victory, when suddenly a bout of nausea overcomes him, hastening his return home. Little does he know, but at that moment, Elizabeth had been waging a war of prayer, pleading with the Lord to strengthen her husband.

Just when life seems to be on an uptick, the Johnsons’ world comes crashing down. Tony’s boss discovers the stolen drug samples and demands an explanation. Tony confesses to the crime and offers his resignation, fully expecting criminal charges to follow. But in an act of compassion, his boss declines to prosecute, believing that Tony is a changed man. Unbeknownst to Tony, the prayers have done their job, breaking his prideful spirit so that he can become the man God intended him to be. He finds Elizabeth’s war room and marvels at the written prayers covering the walls, all concerning him and his walk with the Lord. To Elizabeth’s surprise, the prayers have done a work on her as well, making her more gentle, forgiving, and loving toward her man. The evolution from hostile, marital dissension to a mended romance was very well done.

More wonderful scenes with Miss Clara are peppered throughout the movie, giving the viewer a true insight of the nature of a powerful prayer warrior who expects AND receives miraculous results. It was a conviction and encouragement to me to never give up or quit, to keep praying for the desires of my heart, and then to keep on praying. And then perhaps pray some more!

Watching War Room was like having a good dose of church, but more powerful and persuasive than most bricks and mortar church I have attended. It is a great movie-going experience that should not be missed by any Christian who wants to see changes in Hollywood. It is still in theaters as of this writing, so get out to your local theater and support this fantastic film! 

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