Release Date: 2014
Director: Harold Cronk
Genre: Christian, drama, apologetics
Well, I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected to. I’d read a decidedly mediocre review of the film when it came out, so wasn’t hoping for much. One thing the review had right was that this is not, regardless of what the filmmakers may or may not have intended, a film that is likely to convert many non-Christians. Certainly it’s unlikely to have much impact on committed Atheists. Instead, it’s wholesome feed for faithful Christians.
It’s not that such arguments for the existence of God as are included are bad. It’s more the rest of the set-up. All the Christian characters (with the exception of a girlfriend whom it’s never made clear is actually Christian) are extremely nice, brave and good. All the non-Christians are in various degrees of dire straits, in terms of both their lives and their characters. The main atheist ‘bad guy’ is really quite unpleasant. Christian viewers, able to identify thoroughly with the ‘good’ characters, will enjoy it. But the characters offered up for non-Christians to identify with just aren’t appealing, and will act as a turn-off.
As you may have gathered from my previous paragraph, subtlety is not the film’s strong point. Although the film does a reasonable job of displaying the various gut-wrenching predicaments of life which are hard enough to get through with God, and even harder without him, everything is presented in nice, clear extremes. It’s all ever so nice and clear, in fact, enjoyable to watch if you’re already convinced of the film’s central message (which is that ‘God’s not Dead’, in case you were in any doubt) but probably rather off-putting—and liable to provoke a dismissive stance—in anyone who isn’t.
One of things I enjoyed was the way the lives of all the various characters interlink and intersect. It showcases the way God works through a web of subtle influence (okay, not so very subtle in this film, but anyway) to bring about good from evil. But non-Christian viewers in particular may be frustrated by the fact that virtually every non-Christian character has had some kind of conversion by the end. That’s just so in-credible, I can hear them moaning.
I can see why they might feel that way, though the argument doesn’t entirely hold up. After all, filmmakers tell stories about the people something actually happens to. A film about someone nothing happened to would be extremely dull. A faith-based film is therefore going to follow the people something faith-related actually happened to, not the several thousand characters seen moving around in the background, to whom, presumably, nothing happened. But to really satisfy a non-faith audience, the film should probably have left a bit more irresolution with regard to some of the non-Christian characters, rather than giving in to the temptation to wrap up the ending ever so pristinely, with scarcely a messy loose end in sight.
The film clearly takes the Evangelical stance—which may well seem extreme to Catholics and more moderate Protestants—that if you haven’t absolutely 100% explicitly acknowledged Jesus as Lord and Saviour, you’re going straight to hell, but the attitude is not obtrusive enough to seriously mar viewing enjoyment. I think I was supposed to have heard of/recognise some of those famous Evangelical figures & pop groups who made cameos, but I’m afraid it was lost on me!
One thing that struck me was right at the end. After the end credits, the film states that it was inspired by and based on all the cases where individuals and college groups have had to go to court to defend their right to their beliefs. And then there’s a list. And it’s a long list. Quite sobering.
Overall: I did enjoy this film much more than I expected, and may well watch it again, however, I think even I, as a committed Christian, would have much preferred it—and enjoyed it more—if characters and events had been more balanced, and less ‘cardboard’.
Sex/Violence/Profanity: None at all, that I can recall.