The Kendrick brothers made a movie. I don't know much about these brothers other than they were approached specifically to make a "Christian" movie for major distribution. "The War Room" was the result of their efforts.
I've read some reviews about the movie and they seem to fall into two camps. The church goer camp is willing to praise the effort simply because its a "Christian" effort. That's all well and good. After all you can't complain about the horrible state of American entertainment and not be willing to go out and support your own side when they make an effort to produce something family friendly. The Hollywood establishment is not as kind. Surprisingly (or maybe not) they seem to be more upset about the message than the moviemaking itself.
I'm decidedly of two minds about "The War Room".
If you evaluate the movie as a form of narrative sermon (as most Christian reviewers seem to) it is excellent. A sermon should have a message, a memorable narrative, and an agenda for the hearer to take action on. "The War Room" excels as a narrative sermon.
The Kendrick boys decided that a 2 x 4 was inadequate for their needs and opted for a 8 inch wrought iron post. Then they went in swinging, hard. Christians (writer of this blog in particular) need a good old fashioned "come to Jesus" message, delivered right upside the ole noggin. "The War Room" does just that.
If you are a Christian, go see the movie. Chances are, you need to hear the message. You should financially support those trying to do the right thing in Hollywood. Think of the ticket price as less than what you normally put in the collection plate. Plus you can get popcorn and cokes. We don't have that at my church. Then again I don't go to one of those hip new culturally relevant churches, so maybe you have that every week.
As a movie I have a different take on "The War Room".
The Hollywood cheerleader types seemed focused on not liking the message of the movie. This seems odd (unless you take into consideration their rampant anti-Christian prejudices). "The War Room" is utterly lacking in technical cinematic merit.
The camera work wasn't very good. The first part of the movie had a scene with a lot of "jumping" of the camera. This might have been a reel operators error in our theater, but I doubt it. Seriously guys you should have caught this in editing and reshot the scene. I know the budget was tight, but then again it was in the first 5 min of the movie, not a good way to open the show.
Throughout the movie the camera work was weak. I know overhead cranes cost money but a couple of well done aerial overview zoom ins (like when the company came to reposes his car) and some more low/high tilt work, would go along way to improve your story telling. Dialog isn't the only thing communicating a message in a film.
For example, one way the camera could have been employed to improve the story would have been to use long distance overhead shots to communicate space during the initial periods in the closet. Then zooming down and in to a convey an intimate environment as Elizabeth gets more serious about her faith and her praying.
When it comes to the story and plot there needed to be some improvements. If Tony might go to jail for illegally selling drugs, perhaps it would make sense to establish that he was selling drugs illegally BEFORE you introduce that as a crises point in the story line. Just a scene or two, maybe at the gym, with him peddling a couple of packets to "friends" to "help" them out would work.
Apparently neither one of the Kendrick boys have ever been married. I base this statement on the one dimensional nature of Tony and Elizabeth's marriage. I'll sum it up as "husband bad, wife good". Common guys. Who do you think wanted the extra fancy house? Do you believe Tony forced that on his real-estate agent wife? Tony drives the big black SUV and Elizabeth has the environmentally friendly hybrid. You could have used a flashback scene to communicate how Elizabeth's desire for the good life was part of Tony's motivation to get ahead at all costs.
Marriage and marriage problems don't happen in a vacuum. Both people contribute to the success and failure of their relationships. It's not all one sided.
In an effort to introduce Tony's near infidelity you almost (probably by accident) made a great point. I said almost. When Elizabeth tells MS Clara, "if Tony isn't getting it from me, he must be getting it somewhere", you could have rendered great service to Christian marriage everywhere, but you failed miserably. MS Clara could have said any number of things to rebuke or instruct Elizabeth on this topic. Indicating that a women who is being sexually unfaithful to her husband by withholding sex, might in some small way be responsible for some of the stress in her marriage, wasn't on your agenda. Again, "husband bad, wife good" even when wife bad, we don't care, "husband bad, wife good".
On a related note, had Elizabeth greeted Tony when he returned from his business trip with a wink and the suggestion that Danielle was spending the night at the family's only white friends house so they could enjoy some "alone time", would have made Tony look like a bigger jerk. It also would have make the reconciliation scene more powerful. You don't have to show it, a cut away and roll over (more of that fancy camera stuff) would have told the story without being inappropriate.
There are a number of other nit picks I have about the film, like the church scene, and the cameos. Guys if you are going to employ Hitchcock like appearances in your own films, fine. Do it in line with your acting abilities. Stick with roles like toll both operator, or unnamed guy on park bench.
If it sounds like I'm being too hard or critical about this film, I'm not. I like the film. You should go see it. This is the third time the Kendrick boys have made a full length Christian themed movie and it's worth your time and money to go see. What I would like to see in the future is them putting as much effort into the art of movie making as into advancing the message in their movie making.
The much Hollywood hated Mel Gibson made "The Passion". Even those who hate the message of the film cannot argue with the quality of the work or the artistic value of the finished product. The message was strong, the medium in which it was communicated was equally compelling. That is my expectation of all so called Christian film making. If you are producing a narrative sermon, that's fine, I guess. If you are making movies with a message do it right.
Make good movies, at profit if you can, at a loss if you must; but make good movies.