Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fireproof: My Review

I have to admit something. I wasn't going to go see this movie until I saw that Phil Johnson had gone to the premiere and liked it. I can't remember Phil ever making any comments on movies before. I have no idea if we have the same taste in movies, but his was the first one I saw where I felt like there might be a chance I'd like it.

I wasn't disappointed.

I read Dan Phillips' review, after I saw the movie, and it was tempting simply to link to it and be done. But I decided I still wanted to go on record with my own thoughts.

The movie centers around Kirk Cameron's character, Caleb Holt, a captain and fireman whose marriage is quickly dissolving. The opening minutes make it apparent that he is the lion's share of the problem; he's emotionally abusive to his wife Catherine, and he spends his off-hours dreaming about a boat and looking at pornography.

When his wife tells him she's through and wants out, he tells his folks, and his dad challenges him with a book called The Love Dare. This is a 40 day program in the form of a journal.

Caleb reluctantly agrees to try it, and then the real challenges begin. His wife decides that she doesn't love him, starts flirting with a doctor at the hospital where she works as the PR person, and prepares to file for divorce.

I won't give away much of the rest, except to say that Caleb comes face-to-face with his real problem - his sin, and even after he makes peace with God he must face the consequences of his actions to that point.

One of the things I really appreciated about the movie was that it reflected reality. The characters, especially the supporting characters, were regular people. They acted like people would react in a comparable situation. The response to the Gospel is realistic, too; it shows a wide range of reactions to it, including open hostility.

My wife and I both loved the fact that the movie had the Gospel interwoven throughout and it was central to the plot, instead of the movie just being a morality tale with a altar call stuck in at the end.

I'm sure you'll hear many comments about the acting. I thought it was fine, though it reminded me more of TV than a movie. That may be an apt comparison, since in many ways, it is more like a made-for-TV movie rather than a feature film.

That's as much a commentary on what passes for entertainment in the theaters these days as it is on the quality of the acting. Movies have always been an outlet for things you can't see on TV, and when something comes along which doesn't offer filthy language, gratuitous sex, or gruesome violence, it may be impossible for many to view it as anything but a "saccharine-sweet Christian alternative." Ironically, as TV continues to push the envelope, the gap between it and movies keeps shrinking. This may be the best apologetic of any for Fireproof: despite its limitations, it's something you won't see elsewhere in the theaters or anywhere on TV.

There are some intense scenes, such as the one where a young child is rescued from a burning house, and another where the firemen have to move a car off the train track as the train bears down on them. These, along with Kirk's convincing performance as the angry husband, are probably OK for teens, but are too much for younger viewers.

But for everyone else, the movie offers a realistic view of marriage and relationships that don't always go as planned, of the consequences of sin and the difficulty of forgiveness, and it uses a nearly-hopeless marriage to illustrate how God's redeeming love works, both horizontally and vertically.

Go see it.


bugblaster said...

I doubt if it's going to play anywhere around here. :(

Jinx McHue said...

Great review, Matt!

And maybe the film's producers will expand the number of theaters soon, bugblaster. Keep an eye on the theater list on their website.

DJP said...

Well said.

Were you also surprised at how funny it was? The nurses at the hospital - hysterical. The interweaving of the two conversations, the guy with the mirror... don't know a recent movie that had so many genuine laughs, and so many genuinely moving scenes.

Anonymous said...

Wow Matt, I really would like to go and see it so maybe if I can get my husband to read your review he might be willing to go with me to see it. Thanks for your thoughts!!

Anonymous said...

After the Left Behind movies, (at least the one I managed to sit through) I was anything but enthusiastic about seeing more Kirk Cameron films. This is despite the fact that I genuinely respect his heart for evangelism.

Your review makes me want to at least check this film out. It sounds like real effort was put into the story and plot to make it plausible.

Kudos on a good review. Probably will check this out when it hits dvd.

Matt Gumm said...

Bug: Sorry to say, you're probably right. Catch it on video. Show it to the yutes of the church.

Jinx: welcome to the blog! Judging from your profile, you're my kind of guy. Please stop by anytime.

DJP said: Were you also surprised at how funny it was?

We weren't really sure what to expect, but you are right. Genuinely funny. I especially loved the probationary fireman stuff. So typical of newbies.

cpg said: ...maybe if I can get my husband to read your review he might be willing to go with me to see it.

Print out my review, and tell him that if for no other reason than because of the scenes in the firehouse, he will love it.

Tom said: After the Left Behind movies...I was anything but enthusiastic about seeing more Kirk Cameron films.

This is no Left Behind. That's one reason I decided to go ahead & post this. I haven't seen Facing the Giants, but from what I've read, you didn't have like that one to like this one either (though if you did, you almost certainly will).

patrick said...

I just got back from watching Fireproof... it was great to see such a different-flavored movie on the regular, big screen; this occurred to me as i dashed out to go to the bathroom in the middle of the movie, and walked by the pain-filled screaming coming from the Saw 5 theater