War Room - A great message of prayer that preaches to the choir - 3 stars

Walking into the cinema...
Christian cinema is not one of my favourite genres. The expectation is a predictable storyline with a even more predictable ending, but the Kendrick brothers have earned a level of respect in this area of cinema. So, I enter the theatre with skeptical hope.  

Overall Rating: 3 stars*
Cinematic rating: 2 stars 
Bigger questions rating: 4 stars      

                War Room comes from the team that brought Fireproof and Courageous to cinemas. It is a faith-based drama on the lives of Tony () and Elizabeth Jordan (
), who seem to have it all. A beautiful home, great jobs and what seems to be an ideal family life, but their lives are not what they seem to be on the surface. They have lost sight of the value of their marriage and amongst the relational battle zone of their lives, their daughter has become the victim of the not-so-friendly fire. As a real estate agent, Elizabeth comes across a mature, Christian woman who begins to mentor her on how to save her marriage, save her family and save her faith. Miss Clara () shows her the value of prayer and the impact it can have on their lives and the world around them. The challenge is turning Tony away from his deceitful ways and to determine if he is able to come along on this new found spiritual journey. Elizabeth has to begin to stop relying on her ability to change Tony and trust that God can do this work, but it begins with Elizabeth on her knees. 
               and  have proven that they can provide quality cinema for Christian audiences. Each of their productions have moved up the scale of quality without sacrificing the Biblical messages. War Room keeps their track record alive. It does not break any new ground in the realm of cinematic performances, but it shows that with the right direction, Christian cinema can be better than its reputation. The performances were entertaining and provided the drama, the humour and the power for this style of film. Stallings and Shirer were believable in their roles and provided the necessary angst to drive the story along. But it is Karen Abercrombie as Miss Clara that delivers the passion and heart of the film. The quality of the production was sound. The Kendricks deliver a solid script with decent cinematography, but fall into some of the typical traps that define Christian dramas. Even though they confront real life issues, the lifestyle and the ultimate results of the film are predictable, but do provide a satisfying ending. Inevitably the film can get preachy at times, but being delivered in the hands of Miss Clara does soften the blow. Another difficulty with War Room is seeing how this will resonate with audiences outside of the Christian faith. A questions worth asking, but ultimately it does not really matter, because these talented siblings know their audience and they are unapologetic in preaching to the followers of Christ. In the end, it is an entertaining film for Christians with a direct challenge for more fervent prayer. The message is a good one to hear and is played against a backdrop of a slightly better than 'made-for-television' production. 
             When reviewing films like War Room, it requires two perspectives. The first being the evaluation of the film's quality and the second is evaluating the quality of the Christian message, not necessary in that order. Christian cinema tends toward the formulaic and these films are usually produced on an extremely low budget. The Kendrick's have broken new ground over the years with scripts that are more realistic, surprisingly entertaining and pleasantly humorous. To be fair, their films are better than the vast majority within this genre, but they fall short when they are put up against mainstream films. The message is strong and will appeal to the market that they are trying to reach, American Christians. The challenge for them in the future will be to move past the world of Christianity in the US and look to deliver a film that will have appeal to audiences around the world. Prayer and the Bible are universal, but their style of filming do primarily market themselves to an American audience. As a film reviewer, the work that this team has achieved within their genre is admirable and hopefully they will continue to stretch their talents and the viewing expectations of the Christian viewing public. As a Christian, the message of prayer and the Gospel are worth seeing on the big screen and the hope is that the Kendricks continue their work and deliver even better quality films with these timeless messages of biblical truth to a broader audience. 
Leaving the cinema...
*A rare moment where the bigger questions portion strongly influenced the overall rating. 

No surprises. Tears came, laughter ensued and redemption occurs. Nothing wrong with the message of the film, but nothing exceptionally new about the delivery. My hope as I entered into the theatre has not wained, merely continues that the U.S. Southern-based siblings will continue to stretch this genre to new lengths. 

Reel Dialogue: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film? 
1. What is the power of prayer?  (Mark 11:24, Romans 8:26, Philippians 4:6)
2. What does the Bible say about the value of family? (Proverbs 3:5, 1 Timothy 5:8)
3. Can prayer change things in life? (Matthew 7:11, James 5:15-16)

Written by Russell Matthews based on a five star rating system @ Russelling Reviews #russellingreviews #warroom