Monday 21 December 2015

War Room (2015) - Movie Review
It is seriously kind of confounding just how low the quality standards for Christian films are. Of all the sub-genres out there, I wouldn’t have guessed that this would be one of the weakest had I not seen a fair share of them for myself. Is it because of an innate need to endorse anything that shows support for your religion, or is it as a result of just accepting to take what little entertainment you can get out of defeat? Given what I’ve seen of the Australian and American critical circles respectively, and a few choices blogs I’ve stumbled upon, I could easily believe either one of them. I mean, outside of films directly involving Jesus, the only really good Christian film I’ve seen was Danny Boyle’s Millions; that’s a bad sign when the guy behind Trainspotting is leading the pack in terms of good religiously moral cinema. As much as my reviews for God’s Not Dead and Left Behind may argue, I don’t actively want to hate Christian films. Hell, I can easily say that I have had what could arguably be called religious experiences while watching films; I’d give anything to feel that again in the appropriate context. Until the collective decides to pick up their game, it’s up to masochists like me to hold them to task.

The plot: Elizabeth (Priscilla Shirer) is worried that her marriage to Tony (T.C. Shallings) is falling apart. He is emotionally distant from both his wife and daughter Danielle (Alena Pitts), verbally hostile towards Elizabeth and also has a bit of a wandering eye. However, once Elizabeth meets with Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie), initially to help sell her house, Clara shows Elizabeth that her salvation may come through prayer and she can pray to save her marriage.

This might be the most screwed-up relationship I’ve seen in a film all year; yes, even worse than Fifty Shades Of Grey, since that at least showed some level of compromise at points. Here, Tony is an abusive and lecherous son of a bitch that needs to be put to the back burner quick smart. Elizabeth, rather than putting him directly to task or at the very least asking for marriage guidance from a professional, is told that sitting in a chair in her closet and praying will solve everything. Yeah, the titular ‘War Room’ is just a closet with prayers and goals written on paper and stuck on the walls. Okay, I get the power of prayer; hell, at my lowest points, I’ve prayed for guidance myself. However, I cannot see how endorsing just laying back and letting Jesus solve your problems for you is even remotely helpful. God gave us free will for a reason, and it certainly wasn’t to play doormat to your hateful other. Throughout the entire film, Elizabeth never once directly confronts her husband about her actions; instead, after a miraculous bout of food poisoning just as he’s about to cheat on her with another woman, he comes to her about his misdoings. She ultimately doesn’t do anything, but suitably enough brings me to my next point.

As the film continues, Elizabeth is encouraged not to keep fighting with her husband and to instead forgive him and pray for his soul. Okay, ignoring the simple fact that every pairing, regardless of how close, will fight at times, the film is basically saying that whatever problems she has with her husband are all her fault. Not in any way his fault because of his infidelity or his shady business practices or even his mannerisms to his wife, but it’s all hers because she “needs” to forgive him. Do I even need to explain how broken and unfathomably sexist this is? If anything, this film only enforces the kind of behaviour it is trying to fight against. By showing that women should hold all responsibility in a relationship, this film is effectively giving a free pass for men to be as douchey as they want to because, after all, it’s not their fault if their marriage fails. I know that there is a lot of issues in the majority of organized religions when it comes to depictions of women, but I didn’t realize that those parts were still being adhered to this closely. “It’s hard being a woman” in-fucking-deed.

There’s also the issue of just how bat-shit everyone is acting in this film, and no that isn’t a back-handed insult to Christians. I mean, regardless of context, this is some truly insane behaviour being exhibited by the majority of people here. Okay, aside from the aforementioned Holy Closet Space, there’s also the supposedly triumphant moment where Elizabeth renounces Satan from her house. While the music keeps trying to convince the audience that this is something to be inspired by, the events on screen just show a woman, rather emphatically, yelling at thin air to leave her house. Coupled with Miss Clara performing gospel prayer alone in her own house, quite audibly at that, and this really comes across like a mentally distraught woman being led further down the rabbit hole by an even more mentally distraught woman. Not this behaviour is weird just to the audience as, once Tony sees Elizabeth’s ‘War Room’, he immediately suspects that she may try to poison her at dinner. 

Of course, it’s not like the women are alone in the unbelievably fantastical actions taken in this film. There’s a sub-sub-sub-plot about how Tony has been stealing product from his pharmaceutical company to sell on the side. After he gets fired for unrelated reasons, his guilt leads him to admitting to stealing the drugs to his bosses. One of them brings up the most logical notions in the film, like how his job was paying so well that he didn’t really need to sell on the sly, or how him feeling bad because he wants to do right by his wife, his God and now them doesn’t change that he still broke the law. The other one, purely because he admitted to it, says that he isn’t going to press charges. I know that admission of sin leads to absolution of sin, but that’s under the laws of God; laws of Man, on the other hand, don’t work that way.

And then there’s the weird plot moments that were put in to pad this out to two hours. There’s a running gag about Elizabeth having really bad foot odour that gets brought up uncomfortably frequently during the film’s running time. It’s bad when it can’t even aim for decent reaction humour, instead just repeating the fact that her feet stink with no alteration several upon several times. Married With Children, this film is not; hell, even with how screwed up that family is, they at least took the time to talk to each other about their problems and not just calling out celestial hitmen to do their dirty work for them. There’s also a fixation on Danielle and her double-dutch team, leading up to a competition that Tony participates in. As a means to provide some excitement to this film, this film had to resort to jump rope in a vain attempt to try and keep audiences’ attention.

All in all, this is broken in just about every way possible. Its theological message says that we all just lay back and let God solve all our problems, rather than dealing with them ourselves because it “isn’t our job to”, its misogynistic implications suggest that wives should hold all responsibility in a marriage, and the rest of it is just plain crazy. Add to that bad music, bad acting and just plain bad production values, and you have the kind of film that should be hilariously awful but isn’t. I’d rather wage my own war that demands for better product then recommend this film on any grounds whatsoever.

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