John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

War Room Movie Poster

War Room

Genre: Drama, Family

Director: Alex Kendrick

Cast: Priscilla Shirer, Alex Kendrick, T.C. Stallings, Michael Jr., Karen Abercrombie, Alena Pitts

MPAA-Rating: PG

Release Date: August 28th, 2015

Premiering on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel tonight, healing the film Signed, Sealed and Delivered: The Impossible Dream offers a warm-hearted respite from the past few days of tragedy. During the past week, tragic stories about the air attacks that killed nineteen people in Afghanistan and the deadly shooting at an Oregon college have dominated the nightly news. It’s in times like this that sometimes we look for uplifting and positive stories and that’s where the Impossible Dream perfectly fits in.

The Signed, Sealed, Delivered franchise started as a television movie and then expanded into a regular series. After one season though, the series went from being a weekly program to being a regular TV movie franchise. Much of the cast remained the same but the format of the program changed, allowing the individual stories to be larger in scope than a television series would allow.

The Impossible Dream, tonight’s entry into the series, focuses on the mystery surrounding a female military doctor, who is presumed dead in Afghanistan. During a major attack in that country, the medic falls out of a helicopter and is quickly surrounded by gun-toting insurgents. Her fellow soldiers and her father and daughter believe that she’s gone but have faith that she could return.

That’s where the Postables– the Signed, Sealed, Delivered quartet of post office employees who focus on “dead letters” — step in. The team are visiting D.C. when they see the missing soldiers’ family nearby. They know the family’s story and want to help find some answers. A meeting with an intelligence official brings them to a mysterious letter that may have been written by the missing soldier.

The team led by Oliver O’Toole (Eric Mabius) attempts to decode the letter to determine the soldiers’ whereabouts. Sitting beside Shane (Kristin Booth), Norman (Geoff Gustafson) and Rita (Crystal Lowe) — the remaining members of the Postables — Oliver testifies before a Senate subcommittee about the letter.

That testimony frames much of the film as the team recounts what led them to finding the letter and why they believe that letter could be crucial in saving the medic’s life. The framing device here can be a bit clunky (the Senate members wonder why the team keeps telling long-winded stories to get to the pressing events) but it’s a cute concept that nicely sets up the final act. Likewise, the “Miss Special Delivery Pageant”— a pageant for postal workers, which provides the reason for the Postable’s trip to DC — doesn’t work as well as it should, aside from a beautiful musical number at the end, which is not to be missed.

But despite some of the disparate elements not working together, it’s hard not to appreciate the patriotic and thoughtful story that makes up the majority of the film’s running time. The Postables — a quirky but clever team — have great chemistry and function well under the tutelage of the planning-conscious  O’Toole, whose jealousy towards one of Shane’s ex-boyfriends is disarmingly charming.

Cynics can find some questionable plot holes here but the movie’s upbeat and positive message keeps the entire story working. If a viewer wants to see a movie with major twists and surprises, this one isn’t for them but if you’re looking for something delightfully presented with a real heart, The Impossible Dream is a real keeper. With a likeable cast and a patriotic heartbeat, the film is the perfect anecdote to a week of bad news and tragedy.

When O’ Toole notes — without hesitation— that “Mail is still the gold standard of human communication,” viewers will know that they are in store for an old-fashioned movie but what they may be surprised by is the endearing warmth of the film.

Grade: B
In the rundown of the year’s biggest winners and losers, nurse
it’s easy to find selections in both categories. Jurassic World— which pleased critics and broke box office records— was one of the year’s biggest winners while theFantastic Four reboot— which stalled with critics and audiences— is an obvious example of one of the year’s biggest losers.

One small film that qualifies as one of the year’s biggest winners though isWar Room, online a Christian film about the power of prayer.

Directed and co-written by Alex Kendrick, the film follows a real estate agent whose newest client is an elderly woman who preaches to her about the power of prayer. Priscilla C. Shirer plays Elizabeth Jordan, the agent whose troubled marriage to a businessman named Tony (T.C. Stallings) is keeping her pre-occupied and frustrated. The two share a daughter named Danielle (Alena Pitts) but not much else. Neither of them is happy in their marriage anymore.

When Elizabeth meets Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie), an elderly widow selling her house, Clara senses Elizabeth’s concerns and eventually preaches to her about her “war room,” a small room in her home that she uses for prayer.

The film is one in a long-running series of Christian films that Kendrick has co-written with his brother Stephen in association with Sherwood Pictures, a company that started at the Sherwood Baptist Church. All of the company’s productions — including Facing the Giants, Fireproof and Courageous — speak about the importance of God and faith in our everyday lives.

War Room is no different but this one focuses predominantly on the importance of prayer and how speaking to God directly can help people change our lives. As Miss Clara states to Elizabeth (who is constantly fighting with her husband), “You need to do your fighting in prayer.”

The solid performances of the main actors keep the story grounded even when the plot seems too obvious for its own good. A text message Elizabeth receives from a friend implying that Tony might be having an affair, for one, seems too flagrant here. When such a crisis of faith occurs, the screenwriters sometimes overplay their hand, making the message too obvious for the viewers. Such is also the case when Elizabeth— in swearing off the demons in her life— walks around the house asking evil to disappear from her home.

Overall though, the movie succeeds despite its flaws. The Kendricks have once again managed to create real and defined characters whose renewed faith helps change their lives. Despite some predictable moments, though, there were a few nice surprises added on here, including a subplot revolving around Tony’s work. War Room, despite its flaws, tells a strong story with relatable characters and even if you can see through some of its most flagrant scenes, it still packs quite a punch.

It’s no surprise then that audiences have flocked to the film which — despite a production cost of around three million dollars — has earned more than 56 million so far at the box office. Lacking dinosaurs, special effects and A-list actors, this film shows that good stories about faith and religion will succeed if done properly.

Review by: John Hanlon