War Room is the worst kind of Christian film”

by Steve Pulaski

Alex and Stephen Kendrick’s new film War Room is the worst kind of Christian film in that it starts out very promising only to retract into terribly overwrought melodrama, so desperately unconvincing it should ask for its own forgiveness. For every positive attribute it bears, there’s a crippling negative that sacrifices its believability as a film and in its impact as a parable. It’s the kind of film that seems specially made for the Kendrick brothers’ megachurch to inspire nothing other than obnoxious “hallelujahs,” empty ideas of hope, and undeserved emotional reactions.

War Room does get considerable credit for having the audacity to make nearly its entire cast African-American, a demographic that hasn’t been serviced by faith-based filmmaking that doesn’t boast “Tyler Perry Presents.” In addition, the characters in the film are not positioned as derelicts or troublemakers, but rather affluent albeit troubled with personal happenings. It’s unfortunate their characters are hamfisted into such a hackneyed, unbelievable story.

The film concerns Elizabeth Jordan (Priscilla Shirer), a real estate agent caught in the middle of a failing marriage to her husband Tony (T.C. Stallings). Tony has not only been teetering on the edge of unfaithfulness but has also been working so much that he has no time to spend with his wife. He’s also grown very greedy and hostile, resulting in the simplest conversations being argumentative.

Elizabeth gets the marital guidance she needs from Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie), an elderly black woman and devout believer trusting in Elizabeth to help sell her house. Miss Clara, who’s husband died in combat many decades ago, tells Elizabeth one of the fundamental ways to repair her marriage is to construct a “war room,” a tight-knit, closet-size place in your home exclusively for praying and biblical thinking. She does so, and with that, overhauls a lot of negative energy that soon bleeds over to her workaholic husband in how to handle their daily stress.

War Room
Directed by
Alex Kendrick
Priscilla C. Shirer, T.C. Stallings, Karen Abercrombie
Release Date
28 August 2015
Steve’s Grade: D-

One of the most horribly cringeworthy scenes of the year comes when Elizabeth decides to expel God from her home. She wanders around her home, screaming about how the Devil has corrupted her joy for life and made her home less a sanctity but a boiling pot of arguments between her and her husband. She declares that the home is Jesus’s and overthrows Satan in one of the silliest and eye-rolling monologues of the year. In another scene almost as cringeworthy, Miss Clara hears about Elizabeth repairing a bond with her husband and proceeds to do a happy dance and expound upon how her God is the best God, how he’ll never retire or be fired, and so forth. Peppered in are other horribly unconvincing scenes, such as Tony’s bad dream and a holdup that only add to the film’s array of lackluster suspense in such an inconsequential film.

These scenes of overblown theatrics do nothing for the film but make the characters look like a bunch of clowns and caricatures. This is unbelievable behavior even for the hardened evangelicals, and the Kendrick brothers keep these kinds of scenes coming. Almost as dry and ridiculous are the scenes between Miss Clara and Elizabeth that concern marriage and righteousness that feel like roundtable discussions at a Bible study rather than real human conversations. These kinds of scenes go on for about five minutes and do nothing but sermonize the film’s many morals of forgiveness and grace, breaking the golden screenwriting rule of showing instead of telling.

It’s a real shame that the Kendrick brothers’ writing is this miserably bad because the performances here may be some of the strongest seen in their film career. Shirer is in nearly every frame of the film and does a remarkably nice job at being a leading actress, especially when she’s not expounding corny monologues about overthrowing Satan from ruling her home, and Abercrombie, despite her age, is a lively and energetic presence, again, when she’s not spouting some of the shamefully stupid dialog the Kendricks have given her.

While War Room admirably doesn’t deal the audience the incredible misguided idea that the lack of faith makes a person any less moral or good, it does give audiences the ludicrous idea that if one prays hard enough that good things will come. Never does it take into account of unanswered prayers, long-term waiting for something to happen, and the paradox that the characters had to work on their own to save their marriage, rendering the praying as pretty useless at the end of the day.

I understand War Room has ideology to uphold, but just when I thought I hit the bottom of the barrel of Christian cinema for the year with Faith of Our Fathers, I land at the bottom of the barrel with an even louder thud upon seeing this picture. This film is so bad and contemptible that it would make Jesus himself take his father’s name in vain.