Hmm, a Christian film about trying to save one’s marriage with prayer. Hey, Kendrick brothers, you’ve made this movie before: It’s called Fireproof…
And it was way better than this flick.
This is my review of War Room!
War Room is the latest film from Alex and Stephen Kendrick, the same guys behind Flywheel (2003), Facing the Giants (2006), Fireproof (2008) and Courageous (2011). The best way to summarize this film is it’s basically Fireproof from the wife’s point of view and with an old lady thrown into the mix.
The last Kendrick brothers movie that I reviewed here on CGB was Courageous, which was made to be a pro-fatherhood film, but sadly, ended up being a poorly-paced, unfocused narrative.
Let’s see how War Room holds up!
This is one of the very few Christian films that attempts to tackle spiritual warfare. Given that Satan’s influence is considered taboo, I do commend this film for taking on the fight against the devil. There’s a great scene where Elizabeth is confronting the devil, telling him to leave her family alone and that God is in charge of her household. I was actually invested in this one sequence.
Unlike Courageous, the pacing in this film is much better. Hence they’ve learned something since Courageous. There’s still some filler here and there, but those are few and far between. Scenes don’t drag on, the plot stays focused for the most part, and the acting is actually pretty good. So War Room is a slight improvement in terms of the technical aspects. Also, while I did find Miss Clara’s character to be a bit abrupt and intrusive, I can tell you that feisty old ladies have earned the right to have no filter. 🙂
I hate to say it, but a lot of secular critics were right when they said, “The message of this movie is that if your spouse doesn’t treat you right, it’s because you’re not praying hard enough.” Yep, that is exactly how the first hour of this movie plays out. There’s even one scene where after Elizabeth vents about her husband Tony, Miss Clara snaps, “Everything you’ve said about your husband is negative!” Well, yeah, because the first act shows Tony berating Elizabeth in front of their daughter Danielle and then making hurtful remarks to Danielle about how she’s too old to be jump-roping (she’s part of a jump-roping team). He also scolds Elizabeth for taking money out of their account to help her (off-screen) financially-troubled sister and tells her that their money is his money.
To understand why this movie is frustrating, let’s first look at why Fireproof worked. The script had both spouses biting at each other’s ankles, not one unreasonably cruel spouse constantly tearing the other submissive spouse. Caleb and Catherine both gave each other grief and, while Caleb had to do a lot of the work to save their marriage, Catherine was also challenged to forgive her husband. I’ve never been married, but even I know that marriage is a team effort. It takes two to tango, after all.
So why does War Room fail at where Fireproof succeeded? Because the husband Tony is verbally and even financially abusive towards Elizabeth. Their daughter Danielle is also a victim of Tony’s emotional abuse. By the way he treats them, it comes across that Tony flat-out hates his own family. Elizabeth doesn’t do anything to get him worked up. Also, I did cringe when Elizabeth tells her gal pals, “I just don’t know how to submit to him…” Yeah, it’s generally a bad idea to have a female character say something like this.
Look, Kendrick brothers and every other Christian filmmaker, I can totally get on board with using cinema to combat the alarmingly high divorce rate in this country, but if you’re going to make movies about defending the indissolubility of marriage, please learn the difference between a flawed spouse and an abusive one. I get that we’re trying to teach our generation to fight for their marriages and not throw in the towel, which is a noble cause, but when it is presented incorrectly, it can come across that Christian films are advocating staying in toxic relationships.
I do commend this film for taking on spiritual warfare and for its message of the power of prayer. However, its mishandling of a dysfunctional relationship is troubling enough to keep me from recommending War Room.
If I ever have a daughter and she wanted to watch this movie, I would say “absolutely not, Gemma or Gianna or Scholastica Ecclesia” or whatever I name her.
In all seriousness, keep your daughters away from this movie.
Saint Monica of Hippo, pray for us.
3 thoughts on “CGB Review of War Room (2015)”
I understand that the underlying theology; complementarianism, is largely at fault for the issues with the movie. Complementarianism’s big teaching is that men are the leaders in the churches and in the homes. Women are to submit and obey. If both of them fulfill their parts, they will be a harmonious whole family. Now in the movies, that works out. In real life, that’s not guaranteed. I would advise all women to stay away from churches that promote complementarianism especially if they aren’t married because they will be unimportant and incomplete compared to married women because of Complementarianism’s implications. I think God’s glory can handle a few divorces here and there – especially if it prevents domestic violence and murder; if it can’t then He’s not the sort of God worth glorifying.
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The writers clearly haven’t studied Theology of the Body, which upholds women as deserving of dignity.
Now men are called to take responsibility for their households. Also, to quote Pope John Paul II, “It is the duty of every man to uphold the dignity of every woman.”
The writers don’t come from a Catholic background; they’re Southern Baptists – which I used to be so I’m familiar enough with their theology to know that they wouldn’t believe in the Theology of the Body or a word that any pope says. I left the Southern Baptist theology behind because of complementarianism and how miserably it failed in cases of domestic violence. Something about the way it’s taught tends to make the situation worse for women. All too many remain in abusive marriages and keep on praying for God to heal what’s broken and unlike the movie, things just don’t work out for them. I still remember how worried I felt when a relative of mine dialed our number for help and we sped over state lines in the middle of the night to get them to safety. Without the Pope and Theology of the Body, we have the same teachings about headship and submission, but no structure in place to act as a safeguard in our churches. It’s mostly the honor system, telling guys to love their wives as Christ did the Church and that’s pretty much it. This ministry actually speaks to the problems that arise as a result – it might be helpful for you to understand the difference:
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