Movie Time: Courageous

Courageous is a story about a group of men who are struggling in various ways with their roles as fathers. Following a tragedy in their circle of friends they set out to change how they parent their children and their community.  They sign a “Resolution” which is their declaration of how they will change their attitudes, behaviors and even their relationships with each other.

It is the 4th film produced by Sherwood Pictures of Sherwood Baptist church in Albany, GA.  It was directed by Alex Kendrick  (who also co-wrote the script with Stephen Kendrick) and also features him in the lead role. The cast also includes Ken Bevel (who was also in Fireproof), Kevin Downes and Ben Davies.

image from Wikipedia

She Said: Courageous

I loved Courageous! This movie has tons of police action of all kinds: car chases, foot chases and my newly discovered favorite- the slingshot. While I don’t usually like lots of action, I thought the movie handled it really well.  It wasn’t gratuitous and it was able to be suspenseful, yet not uncomfortable.  And I laughed, love the Chick –Fil- A reference and cried several times. It was almost everything I was looking for in a movie experience.

The basic plot of the movie (a group of men who want to be better fathers) may sound like a reach to find interest for female audience members.  It’s true that it’s definitely a movie aimed at men but there are still aspects such as focusing on your job as a parent that speak to both genders. The portrayal of women in this movie is mostly good. We don’t really get to know the women very well but they do have distinct personalities even if they are under invested in as characters. I did miss an element of romance as well. I know it was a story about being a better parent but isn’t some of that about being a good partner, too? I wish that we could have gotten to know some of them better.  We really only get to know one of the women very well and I didn’t really enjoy her character. Perhaps it’s the fact that I identify a little too much with her and found her stressful that I feel this way, though. It’s hard to be struggling financially, but sometimes she seemed a little hysterical and pushy. It did leave me to wonder if that is how it looks when I respond to money stress. I felt the urge to resolve to do better.  And since the movie is the story of how a group of men sign a “Resolution” to be better husbands and fathers, I think it proves that the plot was effective and touching. It also had some tender moments and bits of humor that really rounded out the movie and gave the audience relief when it was needed.

The acting was really stepped up in this movie. I’ve seen several other Sherwood Pictures movies and I ‘m a huge fan of Fireproof (their other really big hit of the four films they have produced). In the past there have been several performances that stick out as really poor even if the movie itself is good. But, in Courageous the cast all give solid performances. Alex Kendrick leads the cast as Adam Mitchell, he really does a good job of leading the men and I think his performance is so much stronger than when I first saw a Sherwood Pictures film.  Ken Bevel, who has also appeared in other productions with Sherwood, is awesome! He brings a depth and range to his performance that connects the audience strongly to his character Nathan Hayes. His tenacity filled performance challenges the other actors as well as the viewer. He’s compelling to watch from his opening scene until his last scene.  Robert Amaya’s character Javier helps provides the film with much of its levity and a good deal of tender moments as well. Amaya is committed but very understated and delivers a very real performance. I also thought that the little girl who played Emily, Lauren Etchells, was so beautiful and gave her character a wonderful sweetness and light.

Overall, my description of this movie (other than it’s awesome to be able to watch a non gratuitous film that’s aimed at men and keep tissues handy) is Sherwood Pictures really stepped it up. I think it’s really brave of a church to step out and attempt to make movies that entertain, encourage and seek to educate about how God works in people’s lives.  The quality of every aspect, from the quality of the film itself to the acting, was elevated and enhanced. I am so impressed with Sherwood’s mission and always have been but with this film I can give them a hearty bravo not only for what the film stands for but how they accomplished it.

Kari’s Rating- 8.5

He Said

Wow.  Sherwood Pictures really stepped things up with Courageous.  I tried to watch their first two movies, Flywheel and Facing the Giants, and found them unwatchable.  Fireproof was better, but there were still many missteps.  This time, the Kendrick brothers got everything right.  The plot is solid, the acting is greatly improved, and there are even chase scenes.

The action starts right away in the first scene, letting you know that it can’t be dismissed as lesser quality.  The production values keep it very entertaining the whole way through.  You never feel like you’re watching a B Movie, and that gives it important credibility for a mainstream market.

Nothing in this story feels heavy handed or forced.  It all makes sense.  They incorporate Christianity and the values that they’re presenting in very logical, natural fashion.  The Christian characters don’t have all the answers here, nor should they.  They do however; show more direction than non-Christian characters.  God is very much at work in the lives shown in Courageous, but that doesn’t mean that they are immune from the tragedies of this world.  When that happens, those that follow Jesus don’t just act like nothing happened, but they do ultimately find strength in God and grow.

Ken Bevel was amazing as Nathan Hayes.  I was a fan of his performance in Fireproof but he really shines here.  Where in Fireproof he was more of a mentor helping to guide the protagonist to Christ, here he is one of the boys, not preaching, but really living out his faith.  He shows the inner strength Nathan has developed beautifully.  Alex Kendrick has really improved his acting since his last leading performance in Facing the Giants.  After only playing a small part in Fireproof, Alex shows us the journey his character goes through very well, and it feels real.

Over the past few years, Christian music has had increases in quality that now leave it on the same quality level as secular music.  The same has yet to happen for Christian movies. Until now.  This is a movie that could actually convert people who wouldn’t watch more traditional Christian fare.  Courageous really lives up to being a major motion picture.  This should go a long way towards removing the stigma of Christian content on screen.

RJ’s Rating- 10