This past weekend, I went to see the new film Courageous. The movie focuses on four police officers who also happen to be fathers, and after tragedy strikes, it tracks how each family fares.
The main character in Courageous is Adam Mitchell (Alex Kendrick, who also directed and co-wrote the screenplay), a father of two. Adam is an excellent police officer but is a middling father. Though he provides and protects for his family, he is not really involved with either his teenage son or his 9-year-old daughter. The other officers we meet include Nathan Hayes (Ken Bevel), married with three children, including a teen daughter interested in dating. Shane Fuller (Kevin Downes) is divorced but has a young son. And rookie David Thomson (Ben Davies) is a baby-faced bachelor. One important non-police officer character is Javier Martinez (Robert Amaya), who is struggling to make ends meet for his wife and two young children.
Far and away, the most positive aspect of the movie emphasized how important being a committed father is. We see the repercussions of not doing so, and the regret involved. This theme struck me so much that I wasn’t just tearing up, I was flat out crying. Incredibly moving.
Courageous also effectively portrays an example of how a father can handle a boy’s (David Howze) request to date his daughter. In fact, the film’s view of dating almost exactly mirrors mine, in that kids should not date unless they’re ready to get married.
Homeschooling is also mentioned in the movie, subtly explaining very well why one would choose to homeschool.
Courageous repeatedly emphasizes that “good enough” is not good enough when it comes to fatherhood.
There are also several contemplative scenes where the men sit around in a backyard and just talk, implying that men need the fellowship of other men.
Explaining the gospel and handling questions from people who don’t believe the same as you are also depicted very naturally in Courageous.
The five main characters make a “Resolution” to be a committed father, and they take it seriously, from cash-strapped Javier buying a pricey suit for the occasion, to each father publicly making their vows in front of their family and friends during a Resolution ceremony conducted by a pastor.
David, the “rookie” police officer, shows his stripes by movie’s end, not just in the final action scene but also when he is shown presenting a gift to a person who is both a stranger to him and close to him at the same time.
The last scene is an impassioned call to action for fathers, made by Adam.
The opening scene grabs us immediately with its action and suspense, and grabs us at the end of the opening scene with a surprise revelation, subtly asking the question of whether or not we would have done the same thing. The film has several action scenes, which is the reason for its PG-13 rating.
A gang provides some of the tension in the film (besides the internal tension of whether the fathers will be faithful in their Resolution), with the gang leader (former NFL running back Tony Stallings) insinuating early in the film that he plans to kill the police officers. [Spoiler alert… skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to know what happens to the police officers] In the end, no one gets seriously hurt.
What went well
While Adam can be considered the main character, the other characters (Nathan and Javier in particular) are also closely tracked in Courageous, and the movie does a good job of doing so without losing focus.
The tragedy makes an impact on the audience but Courageous does a great job of continuing to draw emotions from the tragedy long after the incident has already happened.
The men’s job and exploits as policemen served as a good backdrop, providing some needed tension to the film.
As in all Sherwood Pictures movies, there are comedic scenes, and the ones in Courageous are arguably the best ones of them all. These scenes don’t just elicit a smile; they actually make you laugh out loud. My favorites involved the use of the phrase “I love you.”
The movie is terrifically edited and would be a good study by homeschoolers or other kids interested in studying videography or film production.
What could have been better
The emotional scenes are mixed with the previously-mentioned effective comedic scenes. But sometimes I felt that the comedic scenes come too quickly after a reflective scene. I would be teary-eyed one moment and then laughing out loud the next, but I feel like there should’ve been more time allowed for the audience to take in a tear-jerker scene.
Also, when the tragedy strikes, the event itself is not shown on screen, but just mentioned from one person to another. This is a touchy subject but personally, I think it might have had even more impact if the tragedy was shown (without blood, of course). I know some will say it was better not to show it, but that’s my opinion. I just feel that the tragic event didn’t seem quite as real since we as the audience never saw it happen.
One scene between Javier and his wife Carmen (Angelita Nelson) didn’t seem particularly well-acted, although it could’ve just been me. Overall, though, the acting was credible and believable.
Can kids watch it?
Courageous contains no sex scenes, no nudity, and no profanity. The only cause for concern regarding kids is the violence. You can have your kid(s) watch the opening scene from the movie at the Courageous web site and see how they react. If your child(ren) can handle that scene, then they probably can handle the movie. Ultimately, parents will have to decide on their own, as each kid is different. I take my entire family to see it (3-year-old, 5-five-year-old, 8-year-old, 11-year-old and 13-year-old) and the only one who felt squeamish was, oddly, my 11-year-old.
Conclusion: highly recommended
Unlike other Sherwood Pictures movies, not everything ends up rosy in Courageous. And that is the point: in fatherhood, not everything ends up rosy, particularly when the father is doing “good enough” or when the father is not committed to his heavenly Father. Real stats are mentioned in the film that proclaim the supreme importance of committed, godly fathers. This is the call I have been sounding in my church for at least five years, only being somewhat heeded this past year. I am extremely pleased that the movement is gaining traction nationwide!
Well-written, warm, heart-breaking, funny, thought-provoking, beautifully shot and theologically sound in all areas it touches, Courageous is an outstanding movie that I recommend to anyone who is either currently a parent or desires to become one. It’s not just a movie for men. It’s also worthwhile for women and kids 7 and up. Even though I watched it in the theater, I plan to buy it when it comes out on DVD/Blu-ray. It’s a keeper. It’s that good.
What did you think? If you saw Courageous, how would you rate the movie?