Cast: Alex Kendrick, Ken Bevel, Robert Amaya, Kevin Downes, Ben Davies
As of yesterday, September 29, TriStar Pictures and Sherwood Pictures announced that more that they have made over $2 million in sales for the new picture, Courageous, and it only begins to play in theaters today. These figures are pre-sale ticketing of course, but it looks they have another hit on their hands.
Sherwood Pictures are the brains and brawn behind the Christian-based films, Flywheel, Facing the Giants and 2008’s Fireproof. Unlike the big movie studios, Sherwood Pictures is a movie-making ministry of Sherwood Church of Albany, Georgia. The ministry is headed up by brothers Stephen and Alex Kendrick. Together the pair have co-written the four movies. Stephen also serves as the producer and Alex as director. Maybe what is truly “courageous” is entertaining the idea of producing a full-fledged movie with a spiritual message to compete with the “big guys” on their own playing field. Time and again, the Kendrick brothers have proven that it can be done
I have to admit, unlike most of the Christian community, I wasn’t a big fan of Fireproof. The story and acting were both uneven. The humor was too “on the nose” and there was a preachy tone to it. The guys seem to have learned from their mistakes and have struck a better balance this time around. Their last film was story that featured firemen, but was really about marriage. This time around, Courageous features police officers but is really about being better husbands and fathers.
Four officers, Adam, Nathan, David and Shane serve together during the week and socialize on the weekends. They give their best while on the job, but their families receive the leftovers when they get home. They are not jerks or bad guys. They are you. They are me.
In addition to writing and directing, Alex Kendrick uses his acting chops as Adam Mitchell, married with a young daughter who only wants to dance with her daddy and teen son who desperately needs some “man” time with his dad. Ken Bevel (also featured in Fireproof) plays Nathan Hayes who struggler being a father without having a role model to follow. Kevin Downes plays Shane Fuller, a divorced dad and Ben Davies plays David Thomson, the youngest of the bunch and single. After a tragic event, all four begin to reacess their lives.
Courageous is by far the Kendricks best film yet. You can tell the brothers are more confident with their material. As with their previous films, Courageous features professional and non-professional actors. However, this time, they smartly give the better actors the larger roles and leave the volunteers to bit parts. Alex Kendrick does an amazing job with his own material showing true emotion. The Christians featured in this movie are not perfect which is refreshing to see in a faith-based movie. The film also features some incredible stunt work (especially the very first scene) and some comedy bits that are actually very funny. In previous films, the crew didn’t seem to know how to deliver a punchline. This time, they get it right. There is even a few surprises. Although, not a perfect film, it certainly can show Hollywood a thing or two.
On the downside, Courageous probably features too many story lines and tries to cover too many themes in one movie (salvation, grief, honesty, integrity, prayer, fatherhood, husbandhood, etc.) Sometimes the music tries to manipulate your emotions making the scene appear false and there is a section where the movies seems to stop completely and a sermon is inserted then the movie resumes. There are also a few “touches” to the sets that could have been left out. Like the chalkboard in one scene that says “Jesus Loves You” for no apparent reason or the woman who stops to help after an accident just happens to be wearing a gold cross around her neck. These are minor annoyances to an otherwise great film. Like Fireproof, bookstores are selling a companion guide to the movie called “The Resolution of Men” to help audience members live out their lives like the men in the film. I am sure that a new wave of “Courageous” small group forming in church across the country cannot be far behind.