The 2015 film, War Room, from filmmakers Stephen and Alex Kendrick, was one of the hits of fall movie season. To the surprise of many in Hollywood, it brought in over $67 million in the box office, outperforming films that were hyped on a much more lavish scale. Now out on DVD, here are five things to know if you haven’t watched the film yet.
1. War Room is a compelling story.
To the world, Tony and Elizabeth Jordan (played by T.C. Stallings and Priscilla Shirer), are a successful, upwardly mobile married couple. Tony is a top salesman for a pharmaceutical company, and Elizabeth is a real estate agent. But their marriage is starting to fall apart, and Tony is pondering an affair.
Elizabeth meets a new client, Miss Clara (played by Karen Abercrombie), who wants to sell her home. As Miss Clara shows Elizabeth around the house, she points out her “second favorite room,” which includes what she calls a “Wall of Remembrance.” It’s a list of answered prayers. “When I look at it I’m reminded that God is still in control, and that encourages me,” she explains.
But Miss Clara’s favorite room in the home is her “War Room”—a closet with prayer requests covering the walls. When Elizabeth begins to open up about her marriage problems, Miss Clara says, “Can I ask you how much you pray for your husband?”
She goes on to explain, “You’re fighting the wrong enemy. It’s not your job to fix your husband—you need to plead with God so He can do what only He can do, then get out of the way.”
Miss Clara begins meeting with Elizabeth once a week, showing her how to pray and, more important, how to walk with God.
How Elizabeth takes these lessons to heart and engages in spiritual battle—and how God begins to move in her family—makes for an interesting and gripping story. And some memorable prayers.
War Room is the fifth film from Stephen and Alex Kendrick, the filmmaking brothers from Albany, Georgia. Alex directs the movie and has a supporting role.
2. War Room meets “Hollywood standards.”
With so many Christian movies produced now, it’s a common temptation to pick them apart and declare that they just aren’t up to the normal standards of Hollywood filmmaking. Of course, it’s difficult to articulate just what these “standards” are in a time when a lot of junk appears in the movie theaters and on television.
If I put on my critic’s hat, I could point out a few lines of dialogue in War Room that were spoken with dubious acting skill, and a few instances where production values detracted from the story. But I’m not a critic at heart, and I won’t go into those details. Most important to me: The Kendrick brothers are growing more skillful with each film, and are growing adept at telling a good story in a way that keeps your attention to the end. And that, to me, is the ultimate standard.
3. War Room addresses the same topic of every other Kendrick film—and that’s good.
The first film from the Kendrick brothers, Flywheel, told the story of a used car salesman who turned his life and his business over to God.
In Facing the Giants, a high school football coach turns his life and his team over to God.
In Fireproof, a firefighter turns his life and his marriage over to God.
In Courageous, a police officer turns his life and his family over to God.
See a pattern here? Like the previous Kendrick films, War Room tells about lukewarm Christians who wake up to the problems in their lives and realize they need God. And like the other films, God works in amazing ways to answer prayer. Marriages are restored, fathers assume responsibility for their families, a football team wins the state title.
I like stories that glorify God.
4. As expected, secular film critics didn’t like it.
Evangelical Christianity has never been popular with the secular media, so it wasn’t a surprise that film critics were less than generous.
Entertainment Weekly called it a “gold-plated piece of Bible thumping that’s resonating with the same audience that watches Jimmy Stewart get touched by an angel every December in It’s a Wonderful Life…” The Boston Globe wrote, “The first couple of acts of the Kendricks’ latest, ‘War Room,’ are so heavy on broad pulpit pounding that it’s challenging to get swept along by the story’s message.”
Obviously that didn’t stop “faith based” or “God friendly” viewers from seeing the film. But perhaps critics were responding to the fact that War Room is so clear and unapologetic in its portrayal of how God works in our lives.
5. This may be unlike anything else you’ve ever seen on film.
It’s not unusual to see people pray in movies. Sometimes these prayers are serious—think of the opening sequence of It’s a Wonderful Life, when the people of Bedford Falls offer up prayers for George Bailey. Sometimes the prayers are offered in satire or jest—think of Ricky Bobby’s prayer to “little baby Jesus” in Talladega Nights.
What sets War Room apart is that it treats prayer seriously. There aren’t any fluffy prayers to the “man upstairs” in this film. This is a story about spiritual battle and the need for God’s miraculous intervention.
As I reflected on War Room in the days after I saw it, I thought of a lifetime of watching films and television shows.
I’ve seen thousands of films about every conceivable subject. I’ve seen movies that thrilled me, inspired me, bored me, shook me, and revolted me.
I’ve seen countless murders solved by detectives on BBC, countless couples who found true love on the Hallmark Channel, and countless homes renovated with an open concept floor plan on HGTV.
I couldn’t even begin to list all I’ve watched in the last year, much less a lifetime. Too much entertainment, I’m sure.
And I can’t think of any film or program that focused on the power of prayer so clearly and so boldly. I haven’t seen anything that challenged couples so strongly to make prayer part of their marriage and their lives.
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