War Room Blu-ray Review

Actors: T.C. Stallings, Priscilla Shirer, Alex Kendrick, Beth Moore, Karen Abercrombie
  • Director: Alex Kendrick
  • Producer: Stephen Kendrick
  • Format: AC-3, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, Tagalog, Spanish, English
  • Dubbed: French, Portuguese, Thai, Spanish
  • Audio Description: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: December 22, 2015
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2018
  • Run Time: 120 minutes


            Alex and Stephen Kendrick are brothers who started their filmmaking career with a church ministry/production company called Sherwood Productions in Georgia. Hollywood took notice when their minimal budget (thanks, in part, to members of the congregation who donated time and resources), and Sony Pictures struck up a deal with the brothers to collaborate on their faith-based films. War Room is the first of these releases, and despite some improvement in the production values, it appears to be business as usual for the Kendrick Brothers. Their paycheck may have increased significantly, but War Room is essentially just a gender-swap version of Fireproof, one of their first successes with Sherwood Productions.


            In Fireproof, a married couple begins to have trouble with their relationship until a wise friend makes a spiritual suggestion that may help. In War Room, a married couple is having similar issues, though it is the wife that makes the effort in this narrative, whereas the husband took control in Fireproof. In Fireproof, the wife works as a doctor in a hospital and nearly has an affair with a co-worker. In War Room, the husband is a pharmaceutical rep working in many hospitals who nearly has an affair with a woman he encounters while working. Even the elements of the story that don’t match up completely are still oddly familiar to past films from the brothers. Fireproof had a firefighter as the protagonist, Courageous used police officers in primary roles, and War Room fills the role of the supportive best friend with an EMT who also happens to be a Christian.


            Somewhat more frustrating than the similarities between War Room and past Sherwood films are the differences between this one and Fireproof, presumably because of the change in gender. While the advice towards Fireproof’s male protagonist is much more active in saving his own marriage, despite the wife’s infidelities, War Room suggests far more passivity for its female lead in a similar situation. Rather than confronting her husband or taking any kind of action, Elizabeth (Priscilla Shirer) simply prays for her husband, Tony (T.C. Stallings). While prayer may seem too inactive for film, even in a Kendrick Brothers movie, this is fixed by giving the prayer clear and immediate power. As Elizabeth prays for her husband as he is out at dinner with another woman, Tony suddenly finds himself miraculously ill and forced to excuse himself to the bathroom.


            These contrived moments of spiritual manipulation aren’t earned, but they transparently carry out the message of the movie with the same sledgehammer subtlety of all Kendrick Brothers films. When they moved from Georgia to Hollywood, the only thing that changed in the filmmaking process appears to be the budget and an increase in technical competence. Everything else appears the same, including a well-meaning message that is manipulative to the level of resembling propaganda.


            These movies used to be made in a bubble; made by Christians and meant to be consumed by Christians. These are the cinematic equivalent of preaching to the choir, though the preacher is making a lot more money since collaborating with a major studio. I know there are many Christians who enjoy the wholesomeness of Kendrick Brothers’ films, which I liken to the inexplicable success of Tyler Perry’s production company (also based out of Georgia). Personally, I don’t enjoy being manipulated by bad melodrama, regardless of the good intentions which may be behind the many contrivances of War Room’s narrative. There is also the issue of quality, which as a critic, I must address. Even with a more polished technical look than the clumsy filmmaking of Fireproof, there is still no salvation from stiff acting and pitifully cheesy attempts at comedic relief in its clumsily written screenplay. Bad filmmaking can’t be saved by better equipment and a professional crew; it starts with the writing and is executed by a competent director. War Room is co-written and directed by Alex Kendrick. 


            The special features allow the Kendrick Brothers many opportunities to explain their filmmaking logic in the commentary track, as well as many of the making-of featurettes. Also included are deleted scenes and “War Room in 60 Seconds,” which delivers on its title.  Exclusive to the Blu-ray release of the film is a slew of extra extras, ranging from whimsical (bloopers & outtakes) to educational (“The Art of Jumping Rope, Behind the Scenes: Color Grading), also including a music video from Steven Curtis Chapman. The Blu-ray also comes with a digital copy of the film.



    Entertainment Value: 5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 3/10

    Historical Significance:  6/10

    Special Features: 8/10

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