Fireproof, from the creators of Facing the Giants
Kirk Cameron as Capt. Caleb Holt
Kirk Cameron as Capt. Caleb Holt
Erin Bethea as his wife, Catherine
Erin Bethea as his wife, Catherine
Ken Bevel as fellow firefighter and friend, Lt. Michael Simmons
Ken Bevel as fellow firefighter and friend, Lt. Michael Simmons
Harris Malcom as Caleb's father, John Holt
Harris Malcom as Caleb's father, John Holt

An over-all good supporting cast
An over-all good supporting cast
Firemen and townspeople rescuing two teenage girls trapped in vehicle on traintracks, with train bearing down
Firemen and townspeople rescuing two teenage girls trapped in vehicle on traintracks, with train bearing down
Caleb rescuing a little girl from her burning home
Caleb rescuing a little girl from her burning home
A hero to everyone but his wife
A hero to everyone but his wife

FIREPROOF


Best Christian Film, 2008 - 4 Stars

The Makers of Facing The Giants Have Made a Near-Perfect Film When it Comes to Heart, Vision and Inspiration, Not to Mention Story

When I reviewed Facing The Giants two years ago (http://www.waitsel.com/facinggiants.html), I said, "A very strong script and a non-preachy tone overcome the deficits of a small budget, such as low production values...amateur actors...weak cinematography and music;" but I also said, " [it] goes to show that faith and a strong vision, as well as a good story, can overcome anything." Well, in their latest film, Fireproof, Alex and Stephen Kendrick, along with the congregation of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, do the near impossible: they make me eat my words. They have come back with a near-perfect film - if heart, vision and inspiration mean anything - with some minor artistic and technical flaws. There are still a few less-than-perfect production values - they need a better art director, for one - along with amateur theatrics in a few of the smaller roles. But the cinematography has vastly improved, and you cannot beat the music of Third Day, Casting Crowns, Leeland, John Waller and others.

Once again, the Kendrick brothers have come up with an engaging story that overcomes all production errors. For a small film, which is what this is - read "made-for-television movie" - the script and story are as solid as they come. There is some corny humor in Facing The Giants. This time the humor is genuinely funny, with a few exceptions, and there is far, far more of it. But there are also plenty of tears. Fireproof is a heart-wrenching and heart-warming story about a fireman who tells his men that they are never to leave their partner behind; but who, in his marriage, is planning to do just that. He is cheating on his wife with internet pornography, and she is cheating on him with a flirtatious relationship at work - and neither seems willing to do what it takes to save their relationship.

Heading up the cast are Kirk Cameron as Caleb Holt, fire chief for Station Number 1 in Albany, Georgia; and Erin Bethea as his wife, Catherine, who is public relations officer at the local hospital. Both are a little slow in their opening scenes; but once they got together in their first argument, they had me for the rest of the film. I became totally convinced by Cameron. He is the perfect fire captain - a little young looking, perhaps, but not unbelievably so - as well as the perfect cheating-husband-in-denial. Bethea was something of a mystery for me. Once Cameron began attacking her verbally, she had my sympathies. But I couldn't understand why she seemed totally disinterested in saving her marriage, until I remembered the opening scene that ran under the credits. As a little girl, she idealized her firefighter father, and wanted to grow up and marry an ideal husband just like him. Well, ideal things never work out, so now she is basically disillusioned. Both partners feel unappreciated, disrespected and unloved. But rather than fight for their marriage, both look elsewhere for the attention they crave.

The Kendricks are geniuses for picking emotion-packed, dramatically charged situations for their stories. In Facing The Giants, it is high school football and the whole "winning at any cost" attitude that goes along with that. In Fireproof, it is firemen, fires and rescue missions. The scenes involving rescues and fires really are exciting. One has the firemen and some of the townspeople manually removing a car and its occupants from a train track where it has wrecked as an oncoming train is bearing down upon them. The train comes so close to hitting them that it knocks the helmet off one of the firemen. Another scene involves rescuing a little girl from a burning house. I've never seen this in a film before, but the fireman (Cameron) chops his way through the floor and escapes with the little girl through the crawl space under the house as the house is coming down all around them.

So there is some great action. But most of the story revolves around relationships. Besides Caleb's relationship with his wife Catherine, there is his friendship with fellow firefighter Michael Simmons, played beautifully by Ken Bevel. Michael is a Christian that advises Caleb to seek counseling; but Caleb ignores his advice. Caleb has an excellent relationship with his dad, John Holt, who acts as the voice of wisdom in the film, and is played in an understated yet convincing way by Harris Malcom. John introduces his son to the concept of "The Love Dare," a 40-day guide to saving a marriage. Caleb agrees half-heartedly to giving it a try; but his dad encourages him, prays for him, holds him accountable, and finally leads him into a true understanding of what love is. There are some other wonderful performances by supporting cast members, as well as a few less-than-stellar ones - but overall, this is a vast improvement over Facing The Giants.

I really like this film: I like the characters, I like the story and I like the message, which is not a bad example of presenting the Gospel dramatically. Yeah, there are some production and acting issues; but a film is about more than just production values and acting - it's also about heart, which this film has a lot of.

Waitsel


Waitsel Smith, August 30, 2008

Text © 2008 Waitsel Smith. Images © 2008 Sony Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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