Current Events, Movies

Movie Review: Courageous

I have a new post coming up on this movie in which I reflect on the movie again and point out many of the flaws I missed in writing this review. For now, I hope readers will be satisfied with this link (PDF) that shows some of the issues I have with the movie.

I loved this movie. That said, Courageous is a movie that many people will dislike. First of all, it has a strong Christian message. That alone will alienate many viewers. It also tugs at the heartstrings in very intentional ways. It’s a thriller with a heart. Again, some people will groan about this. There are no big name stars, no extensive CG, no 3D effects.

So why do I say I love this movie? Mostly because of those very things. The movie pulls no punches. People struggle with various sins, they struggle with reconciling their faith and lack of success. They struggle with sorrow. These are people in real lives, living real experiences, real trauma.

The film starts off with a bang, a man fills up his pickup’s tank at a gas station. He steps away for a moment and another man jumps in his truck and drives off. The man chases, leaps into the driver side window, and holds onto the wheel. They fly down the road, the owner of the vehicle clinging on for his life. Finally, he’s thrown from the side, they crash, and the thief runs away, leaving the man and his car. Why did he give chase, risking his life to save a car? Turns out his baby is in the back seat. After the police get the story–and it turns out the man is, himself, a police officer–they drive off. One officer, Adam Mitchell, asks the other, Shane Fuller, whether he would have held onto the wheel. Their answers set the stage for the rest of the movie.

What does it take to be a man? What makes a good father? Is being “good enough” good enough? These are the questions Courageous deals with, among others. The film has several different story paths. There are essentially 5 main characters, and each has a story to tell. None of their stories feel rushed or incomplete.

The acting is also phenomenal. The characters feel very believable, and there are several scenes which highlight each actors’ abilities. The movie is very, very serious. The themes explored are uncomfortable in many ways, and challenging. But the film does a great job breaking up the tension with humor. Several scenes are scattered throughout that ease off the gas pedal enough to let viewers relax and just enjoy the film. It’s action packed, but it won’t keep you from getting the message of the movie.

And ultimately, that is what Courageous is about: a message. Whether viewers respond to the message or not will largely impact their enjoyment of the film. But one thing that all viewers will be able to take a way is that it does take real courage to step up and be a man. Rather than hiding from challenges, we–and here I mean men and women–need to face them. And again, the film doesn’t leave us with just that plea. Rather, it frankly says there is no way to do this without God. Viewers are therefore challenged in numerous ways after viewing Courageous. They’re challenged to be better fathers, to be better Christians, to seek out those in need, to admit their faults, confess them, and turn to God.

I encourage anyone to see this movie, whether fathers, mothers, sons or daughters. It’s not only a movie with a message, it’s just plain good film. The action is fast, the characters are enjoyable, and viewers can’t helped but get sucked in. See this movie!

“…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” – Joshua 24:15a, c.



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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


3 thoughts on “Movie Review: Courageous

  1. J.W.,

    I had an opportunity a few weeks ago to see this with other Christians on Cape Cod, where I live. I turned it down, because, frankly, I dread being subjected to yet another instance of Evangelicals using the vehicle as a way to present their version of the gospel, complete with “sinner’s prayer” and emotional music. I’m enthusiastic about Christianity, have no trouble praying that prayer with people as the need arises, and have even been involved in street evangelism, but I’m just sick to death of Evangelicals repackaging their tracts and calling it “art.”

    I love CS Lewis’ fiction because it’s unabashedly Christian without cheap preaching. I love the story of Les Miserables, which juxtaposes the Law and Grace in the life of a redeemed man, an overtly Christian topic. In fact, the entire history of Western art constitutes a series of example of how artists can produce art that glorifies God without overworking the gospel message. I really wish modern Evangelicals would review it and get some ideas.

    Tell me that they don’t stage a sinner’s prayer in Courageous, and I’ll take a chance on it. If you can’t say that honestly, well, then, I guess I’ll just have to pass. Sorry, I just can’t take the condescension one more time. And I guarantee you — I’m not the only one.

    Posted by philwynk | October 5, 2011, 2:13 PM
    • I had to wiki “sinner’s prayer” to figure out what you were talking about, Phil! Anyway, I am trying to recall. There certainly was prayer in the movie, but I don’t recall any prayer that was a conversion experience or anything formulaic like that.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 5, 2011, 2:24 PM
    • I don’t think there was a sinners prayer, but the gospel was presented fairly clearly in one scene I can think of. I tend to judge movies by how much I am curious of the remaining time. Never cared at all about that.

      Posted by Kevin R. | October 15, 2011, 7:24 PM

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