Movie Review - Fireproof

Alex Kendrick
Samuel Goldwyn Films
for thematic material and some peril.

It is no exaggeration to say that, when it first came out, Fireproof was the most talked-about film in my usual circles since I knew these circles existed, and it would be an impossible task to count the number of Christian women who have cried at this film. Unfortunately, one person crying through a movie is no guarantee that the next person in line will even like it. The tendencies of evangelical audiences in the past have been to dismiss the artistic for the sake of the upright, or else to do the reverse; and, given their options, one can hardly blame them for the desperation that drives them to these habits. Like everyone else, Ive fallen victim to the recommendations of both extremes. And I’ve become a true-blue cynic when it comes to Christian media. Whether this is good or bad, I don’t know yet; at any rate, it keeps me from merely going along with the crowd when they stand in awe of an imperfect Christian effort, as they do with Fireproof.

In spite of my cynicism (or because of it, maybe), I admit I could about stand in awe of
Fireproof’s bold dash into artistic territory that was still relatively foreign to the Christian film industry. The script was convincing, even in the conversion scene; the danger looked real; and Kirk Cameron was good. Yes, there is some wooden acting, some poor acting, but, as was the case in Facing the Giants, the main character is strong enough to pull the other actors up with him. He just doesn’t have to work so hard at it, this time.

You could have convinced me that the talent came out of Hollywood. Obviously, the message didn’t come from Hollywood, and the statistics show that its anti-divorce theme didn’t come from just any church, either. “However” is a word I don’t think any of us wanted to see in connection with a Christian film of such great merit. However…
Fireproof’s strong message doesn’t always quite go far enough.

Violent and Intense Content:
It really says something about a movie when I can only fill up half a lined page with notes on negative elements, especially when you know how many of those elements are more or less the point of the story. This is not a movie about firefighting, in a literal sense, but that is a leading sub-theme, and in praise of the filmmakers (I think), I found it to be a good deal more intense than I expected. From a brief statement about pulling a child’s body from a lake, to the on-screen action of pulling a child from a house fire, we are given quite a sketch of a fireman’s duties. The two most violent scenes, however, are not exactly “routine.” The firemen arrive on the scene of a wreck that left a vehicle astride the tracks of an oncoming train, and two people trapped inside. Of course, a close call (and by that, I mean a very close call) has enough scare-factor on its own, but perhaps the most alarming elements are the bloody face and hysteric screams of the young girl in the driver’s seat. It is a highly intense part of the film*, but the other scene I have to mention is one that, while not as nerve-racking, may be more emotionally disturbing for some viewers. Caleb and Catherine fight very convincingly, and the hostility rises to a level of intensity I don’t think I have seen in Christian movies before. He never strikes her, but if he had I don’t know that we would have been surprised.

Sexual Content:
Caleb and Catherine both deal with extra-marital attractions, and Caleb’s is internet pornography; this is referenced several times in vague terms. Caleb’s final battle with this addiction begins with an internet pop-up advertisement featuring a photo of a woman’s face and the words “Wanna see?”
Catherine struggles… or, no, actually she really doesn’t put up much of a struggle, with a more than strictly-business relationship with an otherwise gentlemanly colleague who is aware of the fact that she’s married, but doesn’t seem to think much about it.
One married couple kisses in silhouette, to hide the fact that they substituted the actor’s wife for the original actress in that shot.

I like to save the best for last, in good things, and to save the worst for last, in bad things, which means that we haven’t gotten to the upsetting stuff yet. One of the firemen who works with Caleb is wildly self-centered, and we find amusement in it. Some may not necessarily consider this a negative, but it is certainly worth mentioning.
Much of Catherine’s discontentment is related to the workplace, which is a place many if not most of those in my circles hesitate to put a married woman in a full-time position. Caleb’s mother makes a valid point about this: “She can’t do everything, if she’s working.” This is true; however, I think it was intended to inspire Caleb to take up more of the slack, rather than to provide an argument for “keeping at home”. I think the you-pay-this-bill-I’ll-pay-that-bill philosophy, which is entirely too complicated for me, is frowned upon in this movie, but I’m not sure.
And here we are, at last: the worst I have to say about the film is as follows. Yes, Catherine’s flirtation is shown to be bad. It is shown to be foolish. But this little liaison, though resolved in the end, is where
Fireproof earned its deplorable “However.” They did not show Catherine’s flirtation to be sin. I think they should have. I also think that nobody who was involved in the making of Fireproof realizes they didn’t.

Usually, a recommendation comes after the question, “So, have you seen any good movies lately?” which is asked by a person who merely wants information. With this movie, it seemed the recommendation came after the question, “Have you seen
Fireproof yet?” which was asked by a highly enthusiastic individual who had already seen the movie, and who may have been more excited about sharing the good news about Fireproof than they were about sharing the Gospel. As for myself, I give it a good, strong Recommendable. Its sin was one of omission, and its quality and unequivocally Christian message became, for me, a new standard for Christian filmmakers to live up to.
The intense scenes, which give this movie most of its impressiveness, call for a suggestion that you save this one for the
twelve and up crowd; they’ll enjoy it more, anyway. And those who are not adults (and I mean, actually adults) will enjoy it better if their parents or older siblings are watching it along with them. The subject of marital crises is not exactly handled delicately here, nor was it developed especially for the viewing pleasure of young teenagers; and, for this reason, perhaps, Fireproof provides a very nice opportunity for discussing the issue with, explaining it to, and confirming the convictions of, your children, as a natural part of an enthusiastic conversation about a film that is as far beyond Facing the Giants in quality as it is in popularity… and PG material.

* Spoiler Warning: For those of you who like to know these things, nobody dies in this movie.



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