The Case for Christ (PG)

In a word: Convincing

The Case for Christ

 

"Backed by the sort of budget needed to support a quality production and very well cast, The Case for Christ is worthy of attracting an audience beyond just those who normally attend what are labelled 'Christian' movies. Like the recent Miracles from Heaven, it bodes well for the future of telling contemporary Christian stories on the big screen."

I must admit I was a bit sceptical when I first heard Lee Strobel's book - The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus  - was being made into a film. How would a book which is essentially an apologetic translate into a movie? I need not have worried.

Director Jon Gunn and writer Brian Bird - with the backing of Christian film studio Pure Flix - have here done an excellent job of telling the story behind the book, drawing out the narrative elements which make it a very watchable, emotionally charged film about one man's journey to faith in Jesus.

An award-winning journalist (and determined atheist) Lee Strobel (played by Mike Vogel) has just been promoted to legal affairs editor at newspaper the Chicago Tribune and is out celebrating his promotion with his wife, Leslie (Erika Christensen) and daughter Alison (Haley Rosenwasser) when Alison starts choking on her dessert.

The couple are helpless as they watch their daughter struggle to breathe, all too aware of the life-threatening situation she's in before a nurse, Alfie (L Scott Caldwell), who happens to be at the restaurant that night steps in and saves her. When the couple thank Alfie, she turns the praise to Jesus, saying that while she and her husband had been headed to another restaurant that night, she had felt she had needed to be at this one (the implication being that Jesus had drawn her there).

The Strobels' life could have simply returned to normal but over the coming days, Leslie finds herself unable to move on from what happened and eventually seeks out Alfie who ends up inviting her to church (Willow Creek where the pastor is the now world famous Bill Hybels (Jordan Cox)). And it's there that Leslie encounters Christ and her life changed forever.

Back home, Lee is convinced his wife has gone mad or been brainwashed and upset at her conversion (and possibly oddly jealous of her new relationship with Christ), he seeks the advice of some of his work colleagues (against the backdrop of the paper's mantra - "if your mother says she loves you, check it out!") and eventually decides to embark on an investigation to debunk the story of Christ's resurrection and so win his wife back to himself. 

His journey to save his marriage - and his relationship with his wife is getting increasingly tough as the film goes on, to the point where he can't see a future for them should it continue that way - takes him to meet with experts in a range of fields (including psychologist Dr Roberta Walters here played by Faye Dunaway) as he seeks to uncover the 'truth' behind the events which form the crux of the Christian faith - take away that, says one of his colleagues, and the rest of Christianity falls away like a house of cards.

But, of course, the evidence doesn't come out as he hopes and it should be giving nothing away to say that Strobel ultimately finds himself challenged to take a leap of faith in what is a life-changing decision.

Intertwined with the main narrative of the film is that of a story Strobel is chasing for the newspaper concerning a black man charged with the shooting of a police officer. It brings some unexpected twists and turns and, interplaying nicely with what's going on in Strobel's personal life at the time, is a useful device to underscore the main direction of the film.

The setting of the film in the late Seventies, which will no doubt unleash a wave of nostalgia for some, helps to draw the viewer in to engage with what is a warm, lightly humorous and emotional drama.

Backed by the sort of budget needed to support a quality production and very well cast, The Case for Christ is worthy of attracting an audience beyond just those who normally attend what are labelled 'Christian' movies. Like the recent Miracles from Heaven, it bodes well for the future of telling contemporary Christian stories on the big screen.

~ caseforchristmovie.pureflix.com