Movie Review: CourageousQuick Plot Summary: Four police officers and another man, each with different backgrounds, learn what it means to be a real, committed father and live honorably.
Suggested Ages: 14+
This is an EXCELLENT movie from Sherwood Baptist (Fireproof, Facing the Giants) that takes the bar to a whole other level. Like Fireproof before it, this movie is unique in that to my knowledge there just are no other movies out there like it with the main message it works so hard to portray. There is no comparison because there literally is nothing to compare it to.
This is a movie that I believe every Christian adult, parent or not, should see. I echo a Focus On The Family reviewer when they said: "Courageous isn't so much a movie for the whole family as it is a movie for the benefit of the whole family. Discernment should be used in deciding how young is too young to watch drug dealers shooting at and fighting with policemen." The movie is PG-13, and probably appropriately rated. While in some cases I could see how a teen watching this movie might be beneficial, for the most part this movie really isn't aimed at kids/teens and really is NOT a "family movie" - it is an "adult movie" for the "betterment of the family". The themes in it are great for adults to view and consider, but I don't see much benefit - and actually I can even envision potential harm - for some children (just my opinion).
This movie is very well-paced: you will cry and you will laugh, but it is paced in such a way that it doesn't overwhelm you (i.e. after an intense dramatic scene, you get some light-heartedness). The acting is pretty good (no, it's not "perfect") but it's perfectly fine and very believable - the emotional scenes in the movie I would think would be tough scenes to "get right" and it looks to me like they hit them perfectly! In fact, there are few, if any, movies I could think of that convey the emotions that this movie does with the amount of "punch" or realism that it does. This movie has that rare quality in that it manages to really "hit you" - it's a movie that most everyone can identify with in some capacity. And for the record, Courageous has one of the most memorable funny scenes of any movie I've ever seen (the "Snake Kings lemonada" scene).
The "movie quality" does not look like the latest Hollywood blockbuster, but it honestly doesn't look too far from it. One thing is certain: it definitely doesn't look like a movie that was made with only a million dollars (which was its budget). Given the amount of movies out there with 200 or 300 million dollar budgets that are trash (I'm being kind) with all sorts of negative messages, this movie, like previous Sherwood releases, shows that you don't need a lot of money to produce a really good, positive movie with life-changing impact!
At the end of the day, the core of this movie promotes fathers taking responsibility for themselves and their families and living honorably. Given the amount of opposite messages out there that our culture (including other movies) give, this is a very worthwhile message!
Other thoughts: I own both the Blu-ray and DVD of this movie and I can tell you that watching this in Blu-ray is the way to go if you have a Blu-ray player! The Blu-ray is noticeably sharper and clearer and colors were bright and natural. By the way, I also recommend that everyone that likes this movie watch it with the commentary track turned on at least once - you will learn some interesting things and see how some scenes relate that you might not have caught.
I seriously wondered if, after the success of "Fireproof", the producers might be tempted - as many ministries are that start in the Spirit but then experience great success - to end up producing the next item more in the "flesh". I think I can hands-down say that this did NOT happen with "Courageous".
Beyond the obvious fruit of these movies that have come out of the Kendrick brothers and Sherwood Baptist Church, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the backstory. I love the fact that the whole Sherwood Pictures thing came about as a desire to really reach people for God (i.e. the motivations seem to have been/be right!) and out of a willingness to think outside the box (i.e. not just trying to "copy" what others are doing!). It wasn't started to make money. It was/is a ministry! There's a MAJOR difference in that. And I believe God has clearly blessed and honored that. Here you've got a 3,000-member church in Georgia that has managed to majorly influence millions of people because they dared to believe they could with God's help (and with the right motives). Author Randy Alcorn, who wrote the novelization for "Courageous", said this:
"...the Sherwood story is distinctly different, in that it happened completely outside the mainstream. It wasn't birthed by a producer or a publisher, the way movies and books, whether secular or Christian, typically are. It began with the vision of a few church leaders who solicited the help of their local church, learning and improvising as they went. There's a great deal of creativity in local churches, lots of great songwriting and musical performances and even some quality drama. But it's often limited to songs sung by the choir, skits that illustrate sermon points, or localized Christmas and Easter pageants. People may come to these events from thirty miles away, but almost never do they break out of a community and achieve a regional status, much less a national or international one. Sherwood Pictures is in many ways unparalleled, a Cinderella story of staggering proportions. How could a church in Albany, Georgia have produced four films, counting Courageous, that have already had an amazing national and international impact, selling millions of DVDs and spinoff books? How could they have done so with mostly volunteer labor, at a fraction of the cost of conventional movie-making? Each movie has been better than its predecessor, and ten times better than what could be expected for the budget. But Courageous raises the bar to a whole new level. When many people see Courageous, they won't be thinking, 'Not bad, for a church' or 'Not bad considering it wasn't done by Hollywood.' A lot of people will just be thinking, 'Wow, this is a really good movie.'"
I would concur. And I believe that God is still looking for men and women that will, in honest sincerity, with right motivations, seek God's heart on how He might want to use them to impact our world.
I believe there's just as much a lesson for the Church in the backstory of Sherwood Pictures as in the actual movies they have produced. In fact, many of the themes that these movies portray kind of seem to mirror and are proved out by the reality of the backstory. For instance, it takes a lot of COURAGE and integrity to do what they have done - they've certainly had to be "Courageous" themselves. In "Facing the Giants", the main message was that when you follow Christ, nothing is impossible - that there is nothing impossible with God - and with faith in God (and living "excellent" - i.e. the "works" part of the "faith without works is dead" thing) and desiring for God to get the glory, that God is able to do beyond what we could even imagine. They've certainly proven that out!
I for one get really excited when I see good Christian movies (or Christian-themed movies such as the Narnia series) because that is one area that non-Christians have had a monopoly on for far too long. It's refreshing to see what the medium can really accomplish when it is God-ordained and used for/to promote good, rather than demonically-ordained and used for/to promote evil.
[Update: There is an updated version of Courageous called Courageous Legacy, which is basically the same movie with a few modified/added/deleted scenes and an additional tacked-on 2nd ending showing the character's lives 10 years later. While this version is fine and it's kind of interesting to see some of the characters 10 years later, I would say it is best for those already major fans of Courageous. Personally, I actually prefer the original cut of the film and feel where it ends is the most powerful and effective.]
Reviewed by Christopher Long,