War Room and all the images you see in this review are owned by TriStar Pictures
Directed by Alex Kendrick
All this wholesomeness and yet there’s no Kirk Cameron in sight!? For those of you unaware, War Room is another film in the increasingly disturbing trend of movies that are one hundred percent Christian with a capital Christ! Now there have been some REALLY good movies that take their cues from religious text such as Darren Aronofsky’s wonderful adaptation of the Noah story, but that’s not the kind of movie we’re in for though, is it? We’re not here to learn about the text that has inspired so many people. We’re here to see how AWESOME Christians are because no group of people needs constant reassurances of their superiority more than the target audience of whatever the hell this is. Still, I’ve got to try and give it a fair shot. Will there be something in here that can appeal to those outside of its specific niche, or is this yet another awful and impenetrable piece of propaganda disguised as an actual movie? Let’s find out!!
War Room is the story of perfect wife Elizabeth Jordan (Priscilla C. Shirer) who unfortunately is doomed to a life of misery due to her poor decisions in life. No, not the decision to marry a guy with a terrible temper and no respect for her; it’s the fact that she considers herself a “spiritual person” which to this movie’s target audience is right up there with “happy holidays” in terms of things people say inexplicable piss them off to no end. Her marriage is falling apart and while it’s almost entirely the verbally abusive and controlling douche bag’s fault (Tony Jordan played by T.C. Stallings), she’s not entirely without blame and seems intent on resent her husband instead of finding solutions for their problems. In comes Miss Clara who is trying to sell her house and has Elizabeth as her realtor. She seems to have the power to read minds which presumably was given to her by Jesus and can tell that Elizabeth is suffering over something. That or Elizabeth’s body language is easier to read than an actor in a Kabuki play. Miss Clara may not know yet what it is, but she sure as hell knows how to cure it! Will she get Elizabeth to see the power of Jesus which will help her fix her relationship? Will Tony ever stop being a bag of dicks to his family, which of course translates to finding Jesus? Will everything fall exactly into place for them once they start praying to God because he works on a Quid Pro Quo system!?
The movie is terrible for all the obvious reason. They didn’t actually want to make a movie and instead wanted to make an argument for their specific set of beliefs. The situations are contrived so that they can score the maximum amount of points with their audience that isn’t looking for a movie but an affirmation of what they already know to be true. Naturally, this means that no money went into the production, half the cast are Evangelical speakers or writers, and no one has to think critically at any point. I’m trying to be fair here and think of a movie that would be just as dishonest as this one that would appeal to me and I am struggling. I guess you can argue certain documentaries do this kind of thing, but you go into those knowing your hearing someone’s opinion, and the ones that are actually good do their research and show their work. Exploitation films? I mean Andy Sidaris never went out of his way to write anything decent, but his beach babe films aren’t also telling you how you should be living your life. Probably the closest examples I can think of where this level of marketing shamelessness invade another medium are those terrible Burger King games they released which weren’t any good because their goal wasn’t to make anything compelling and instead to reinforce a brand name into your skull. Still, those DID have a modicum of charm to them while this movie is just insufferable on top of all its sleazier aspects.
Beyond all its pretenses and what messages it’s trying to convey, let’s at least try to take that out and look at this just from a cinematic standpoint. The pacing in this thing is glacial due to it being essentially two movies smashed into one with an overly long epilogue at the end. The first portion of this film is all about Elizabeth trying to rediscover her faith in the hopes that it will help her marriage. I never got the sense in the movie that she was doing this for her own peace of mind or using her closer relationship with God to make herself into a stronger and more confident person. It’s all about her husband who goes away on long business trips and always bites her head off when she gets back. Now to be fair, there’s something to be said here about letting go of your own anger as to not fuel the toxic environment you live in which is an okay starting point that I can get behind. In fact, for the first thirty minutes of this movie, it’s not a bad story about someone making changes in their life so that they can have a happier home and a more stable environment for their daughter. My problem comes in when how easy this all is for her in the end, with God or Jesus or Zeus or whoever basically handing her everything she wants throughout the movie once she becomes a VERY devout Christian instead of a SOMEWHAT devout Christian. There are moments of literal divine intervention which I really don’t think is how a Christian relationship with their Lord is intended to work. There’s a scene where she finds out her husband is having dinner with another woman, and instead of dealing with this new information she decides to pray to God to save her husband from becoming a terrible person… and he does. The husband gets food poisoning on the date. I guess that’s how easy things become once you accept Christ into your heart! I guess you get a couple of “get out of trouble free” cards with the J man that can be redeemed at any time. Stuff like this happens throughout the movie (especially in the second half which is all about Tony’s journey to the Lord) and it just comes off as shameless false advertising. The guy was stopped from cheating, but it wasn’t due to his own prerogative or free will, which I’m PRETTY sure Christians believe God gave to people so that they could make their own decisions, good or bad. So how does this ONE bit of intervention stop him from doing it again? I’ll tell you how; by seeing the excellent example set by his now silently suffering wife, and the power of Jesus to transform him into the man he should be! While I can mostly buy the transition that Elizabeth takes from Christian to Super Christian, it’s a lot harder for me to buy what happens in the SECOND movie which turns a guy as angry and damn near self-destructive as Tony was into a PERFECT example of what a human being can achieve with God on their side. Also, this all happens in a matter of weeks. Hell, the mother fucking director shows up for a scene to tell Tony how awesome of a person he’s magically become after becoming a devout Christian!
So the character arcs don’t make any sense and only seem to be there to reinforce the message their trying to get across. What about the acting and filming? At best, it’s barely scrapping above passable. Everyone starring in this is either has a book deal, a ministry, or has starred in nothing but movies like this so the “talent” on display is very amateurish. The only actor here with an actual filmography is Karen Abercrombie as Miss Clara, but she’s probably the most archly drawn character in this so she doesn’t have much range to work with. The character is so transparently wholesome that it only adds to the manipulative nature of this movie and the absolute lack of depth to any morals this movie is trying to impart. Hell, she fucking shames a mugger into going away by telling him that Jesus will be mad if he robs her and Elizabeth. Out of everyone here, I think that T.C. Stallings as the husband Tony has the best performance. His character certainly has the most range to express as he has to portray through his body language and his expression two diametrically opposed characters. Sure, you don’t buy the transition from one to the other, but the actor does a decent job as a scumbag and then as a decent father and husband.
Cinematography is lifeless, but shot well enough so as to not be noticeably incompetent. That’s about it. Nothing special about it, not even anything notably bad. Just dull. Same goes for the music, but I’m not a fan of Gospel so I can’t really judge how good it is overall. I was almost willing to let this movie go with… well not a recommendation, but without actively despising it. It’s for a specific audience that I can’t identify with any less, but if they want their spoon fed pablum, well I can’t say that I don’t enjoy some [affirming stuff]. Then the movie gets to its ending. Holy mother of Jesus do I hate what they do at the end here. Everyone’s story has been wrapped up and then some (at least when Lord of the Rings had a million endings, you actually gave a shit), but then Miss Claire start to pray to God and it turns into a call to action for the audience. Not only does this drop every last pretense that this is anything but a weak ass sermon, but it’s really repellent and exclusionary to anyone who’s not in lock step with their beliefs. There’s so much militarized language in here (army of believers, call us to battle, Christian soldiers) and that kind of fucking mentality is what’s been fueling this recent cascade of I’M CHRISTIAN AND YOU CAN’T PERSECUTE ME movies we’ve been seeing recently. So much hostility and dick measuring in the guise of spirituality. Yuck. Oh, and they start flashing clips of people expressing their faith which is not a problem, but they sneak in shots of a whole classroom of children praying as well as stock footage of the Congressional building. SUBTLE. I’m done with this. I review movies. I review things that are intended to give something back to its audience, whether it’s impressive action scenes, wonderful acting, or even satisfaction of base desires. This? This is none of those. This is a damn infomercial.
At best, this movie passes the bare minimum of what should be expected from a movie. It’s competently shot, the actors are bad but I’ve seen worse, and while the story is terrible and overlong, it’s at least coherent. I can’t in good conscious recommend this though because it doesn’t mean anything to someone who isn’t looking to be lectured. It’s just a sickeningly insincere attempt to target a specific audience and get them all riled up for whatever fucking reason they need to be riled up. I’m guessing to buy more books, because this movie has an entire website of resources that you can buy to spread the message of this film, and a lot of it is from the non-actors they got to be in this movie. Yeah, fuck this movie. No wait, it’s not a movie. Fuck this garbage.