Sony // 2011 // 129 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Alice Nelson // December 31st, 2011
"Where are you, men of courage?
You were made for so much more...
Love your wives and children,
Refuse to let them fall"
"Courageous" by Casting Crowns
A stunning statistic from the film Courageous says that, "When a father is absent from the home, a child is five times more likely to commit suicide and abuse drugs, and 20 times more likely to wind up in prison." Courageous puts fathers on notice, letting them know they can not shirk their responsibilities any longer, because the risks to children are too great. This is a film unapologetic in its proclamations of faith, but has a message for any man who is or ever plans on becoming a father. Whether you believe in Jesus or think He is a fictional character from some ancient book, Courageous is a sincere attempt at showing the importance of fathers in a society that has disregarded the significance of the nuclear family. The film isn't pretentious or self righteous, it simply has one goal in mind -- encouraging men to do the hard thing and be the fathers they are meant to be.
Adam Mitchell (Alex Kendrick, Fireproof) is a dedicated sheriff's deputy, who isn't as dedicated to his family as he is to his job. When a terrible tragedy forces Adam to face the fact that he has not been the husband and father he should be, he and three friends sign a resolution pledging to be better parents. With each man holding one another accountable, together they face the difficulty of manning-up and embracing the difficult job of fatherhood.
The Kendrick brothers have ventured into the Hollywood arena with four different films, each one better than the last. In Courageous, they have delivered a product on par with almost anything that Tinseltown can churn out. The acting may still the weakest link in the brothers' productions, but even that has improved by leaps and bounds since their breakout film, Facing The Giants.
Courageous is a daring film that urges men to be a part of their children's lives and does so with a clear biblical message. But there aren't any cringe-worthy or creepy Jesusy moments that sometimes pervade Christian-centric films. Alex Kendrick, who directed and co-wrote the script with brother Stephen, puts forth a tale that is an honest and earnest attempt at bringing attention to a crisis in our families. When Adam talks about Jesus, it doesn't feel forced, because the jargon seems as if it is a part of his everyday vernacular. This is who Adam is, and also who Alex is, which gives it that ring of genuineness.
Ken Bevel (Fireproof), plays Nathan Hayes, a fellow sheriff's deputy and friend of Adam. Nathan knows firsthand what it means to grow up without a father and is determined to not let that happen to his kids. Luckily, when he was still a young boy, Nathan met a man who introduced him to Christ, mentoring him on what it truly means to be a man. However, Nathan still holds some resentment towards his biological father whom he's never met. So when Adam locates Nathan's father, he finally has the opportunity to say the things he's held onto his entire life. Bevel is a real life senior pastor at Sherwood Church, the same church that's attended by the Kendrick brothers. Bevel speaks his lines as if he's preaching a sermon, but delivers them with a conversational tone that lessens the pastor/parishioner feel. Nathan is believable as a man who chose to work in law enforcement, but could have easily been on the wrong side of the law had he not met a man willing to guide him and be the father he desperately needed.
Courageous does a good job of showing that even brave law enforcement officials struggle with the same personal difficulties we all deal with. On top of a stressful job that puts them in the company of some of the vilest members of society, they have to turn all that off, come home, and be loving husbands and fathers. The scenes of them arresting drug dealers and gang members could've been tedious and overly dramatic, and they are anything but. Those important peripheral scenes add to the depth of these character portrayals and become a realistic look at the day-to-day duties of a sheriff's deputy.
Courageous is presented in standard definition 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 surround audio. The brothers used the Red digital camera which gives the movie the look of 35mm without the expense. That and the use of Sherwood Church volunteers made it possible to get a film that looks like a Hollywood production, done for a fraction of the cost.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's hard to make a good religious film, but this is one of those Christian-themed experiences that's not just preaching to the choir (no pun intended). It has something to say to both secular and spiritual audiences. Though those with an aversion to Christian doctrine who dare watch may have a coronary, the creative forces behind Courageous are simply using the precepts of their faith to explain why it's far better for children to have an engaged father in the home than not.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 129 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site