Kendrick Brothers Starting to Win the Battle with War Room
- Christian Hamaker Contributing Film and Culture Writer
- Updated Dec 14, 2015
DVD Release Date: December 22, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: August 28, 2015
Rating: PG (for thematic elements throughout)
Run Time: 120 min.
Director: Alex Kendrick
Cast: Karen Abercrombie, Priscilla Shirer, T.C. Stallings, Alena Pitts, Tenae Downing, Michael Jr., Alex Kendrick, Beth Moore
“Don’t let me push too hard, Lord,” prays Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie), an older Christian woman looking for someone to encourage in War Room, the new film from the Kendrick brothers (Fireproof, Courageous, Facing the Giants). “I know I’ve got a big mouth.”
That the character acknowledges what the audience, by that point in the film, already understands is enough to raise a chuckle, but a sympathetic one. Miss Clara is the kind of person we want on our side in a time of need—a prayer warrior whose methods aren’t subtle but whose approach to her faith is unapologetic.
That’s a description that applies not only to Miss Clara, but to the men who created her character. Brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick have been making sincere, outspoken Christian movies for several years, and audiences hungry for their unapologetic, evangelistic stories have responded. But the brothers’ remarkable success has been met by critical reaction to their films that is often mystified or even hostile.
Those critics include Christians who have seen in the Kendricks’ stories a faith that works out more simply than it often does in real life. Other times, the target has been an agreeable story message paired with subpar writing and filmmaking.
So it comes as good news that War Room is a step up for the Kendricks, who continue to develop as filmmakers. War Room’s message is one that Christians embrace: that prayer is the key to winning battles in life that we can’t win on our own—or, as Miss Clara puts it early in the film, “Victories don’t come by accident.” The performances from its cast members are also hard to fault, and the technical aspects of the filmmaking are fine. War Room’s problems—including a dragged-out ending and a couple of oddly inserted scenes—are mainly with its script, but are easy to overlook considering how much the film does well.
Miss Clara has decided to put her house on the market, but she’s also looking for someone to encourage in the Lord. That person turns out to be her real estate agent, Elizabeth (Priscilla Shirer), who opens up to Miss Clara about her marital troubles. Her high-earning salesman husband, Tony (T.C. Stallings), is constantly at odds with Elizabeth, wearing a perpetual scowl around her and ordering her not to be generous to her financially needy siblings with “his” money. Caught in the middle of this struggle is the couple’s daughter, Danielle (Alena Pitts).
With so much going wrong, Elizabeth isn’t sure how to right the ship. But where Elizabeth feels doubt and exhibits only lukewarm faith, Miss Clara sees “a warrior that needs to be awakened.” So Miss Clara shows Elizabeth her favorite room in the house—a closet she dubs her “war room,” where Miss Clara prays fervently for those who need her intercession. With some instruction and encouragement in how Elizabeth can do the same, Miss Clara believes Elizabeth can get a better place in her life. “Give me one hour a week,” Miss Clara tells Elizabeth. “I’ll teach you to fight the right way, with the right weapons.”
As Elizabeth learns to pray, her husband begins to change. A sudden bout of illness for Tony brings an early end to a night of temptation, and a friend (a very amusing Michael Jr.) keeps reminding Tony to attend church. But Tony faces challenges beyond his marriage. At work, Tony’s “success” is exposed as having been built on deception, and while certain discrepancies brought to light by his bosses are enough to lead to Tony’s termination, there’s more to the story than even they know. Tony, under new conviction brought about by his wife’s prayers, struggles with the need to confess the full extent of his wrongdoing to Elizabeth and to his former employer.
Viewers in the mood to take offense at the story will find plenty to object to in something the film does well: portray an uncompromising Christian character whose prayers are blunt and unapologetic. Where War Room missteps is in an out-of-nowhere robbery scene and an awkward dream sequence, as well as an inability to know when to roll the credits. But such problems affect all sorts of mainstream films—for instance, many of the movies that have garnered acclaim for Spike Lee suffer from the same multiple-endings problem—and are usually far from fatal.
The brothers’ earlier movies have been backed by Sherwood Baptist Church in Georgia. War Room is the Kendricks' first independent production, and like their earlier Courageous, is being distributed by Sony TriStar. That's a show of confidence in the Kendricks and in War Room, which should please–and likely increase—the brothers' fan base, even as it continues to show that stories made by and for Christians have a place alongside the latest comic book hero flicks and crude comedies.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
- Language/Profanity: Nothing beyond an assertion that the devil got his “butt kicked,” and a bottle of hot sauce that carries the name “the wrath of God”
- Drinking/Smoking/Drugs: None
- Sex/Nudity: None, but Tony pursues an affair until illness intervenes; Elizabeth tells Miss Clara that if Tony’s “Not getting’ it from me, he’s getting’ it from someone”
- Violence/Crime: War footage includes bombing, gunfire; a knife wielding robber is defied by Miss Clara after she calls on Jesus; a dream sequence includes an assault
- Religion/Morals/Marriage: Michael tells Tony he’ll see him at church; prayer is the foundation of the “war room” of the title, and Bible verses and answered prayers are posted on a wall in Miss Clara’s home; Miss Clara says submission sometimes means ducking so that God can hit your husband; Miss Clara tells Elizabeth that no one, including God, likes lukewarm spirituality; discussion of grace; confession of sin, forgiveness and reconciliation; Tony is caught in criminal behavior