CINEMA: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
A ringing affirmation of fatherhood
, December 10, 2011
Courageous (rated M), an American film produced by Sherwood Pictures, is reviewed by Peter Westmore.
Every night, police and crime shows can be seen on television, so I did not have high expectations of a film which featured four law-enforcement officers from the town of Albany, in the US state of Georgia.
In fact, Courageous is one of the most uplifting and thought-provoking films I have seen for a long time.
It has been said that police often have to handle the worst in human nature, so this story offers great opportunities for a study of human nature. What is different about this film is that the story is primarily about the police, not the criminals they pursue.
The film explores how each of them responds to particular crises in their lives, and the lives of people in their community. The principal characters are well developed and completely believable.
What emerges is a ringing affirmation, or rediscovery, of the importance of their families.
One sub-theme in the story is the interaction between the police and a gang of young Afro-Americans.
What is most interesting is that the gang forms what their leader describes as a “family” in place of the dysfunctional families from which they come.
This “family” provides the deep need for human bonding, for loyalty and authority which are missing in their own families, and we see how these needs are perverted towards criminal ends.
Most touchingly, the policeman most directly involved in dealing with the gang, Nathan Hayes (played by Ken Bevel), feelingly describes how his own troubled childhood was a consequence of his father’s abandonment of the family, and how he was saved from a life of crime by his discovery of Jesus.
And yet, he convincingly tells us, he continues to bear deep scars from his unsettled upbringing. In his adult life, he is determined not to inflict on his children the suffering which he experienced in his youth.
Adam Mitchell (played by Alex Kendrick) is a very professional policeman and father of two teenage children. His beloved daughter is killed tragically in a car accident, and from the depth of his grief and depression, he rediscovers his love for his wife and son.
His principles are tested when he suspects that one of his colleagues is involved in criminal activity. Where does his ultimate loyalty lie: to his close colleague, or to his principles?
The stories of the other two policemen, Shane Fuller and David Thomson, gradually emerge as the film progresses. One ends in disgrace, and the other in hope; and yet in both cases, we see that the key to their survival as human beings lies in their families.
And finally, Courageous tells us the story of Javier Martinez, a Chicano who lives on the margins of society, teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and dispossession, who is rescued by his unshakeable faith in God and his willingness to work hard.
Unexpectedly, he finds himself welcomed into this band of brothers, despite the superficial differences between him and the men who have chosen law-enforcement as a career. And in a most touching finale, he shows why the virtue of honesty has its own reward.
What unites these different stories is the fact that all of these men are fathers, and are called in a special way to care for their own families.
In this sense, Courageous is a story about fatherhood, and the journey to discover what true fatherhood is all about. With good reason, the subtitle of the movie is “Honour begins at home”.
Additionally, it is a story of religious faith. Each of the law-enforcement officers, as well as Javier Martinez, comes to understand that a lived Christian faith strengthens and cements the natural bonds which exist within families.
It is interesting that when the men decide to formalise their new-found convictions, they do so publicly, before a minister of religion.
It is rare to find a movie which deals sympathetically with issues such as marriage, fatherhood, the family and religion, yet Courageous does precisely this, without preaching to the audience.
Not surprisingly, Sherwood Pictures draws on the strong support of the Sherwood Baptist Church, located in Albany, Georgia.
This is an uplifting film, and the location of theatres which are showing it can be found on the Courageous web site www.courageousthemovie.com.au
It has an M-rating, because there are scenes of gang violence; but the violence is relatively brief, and is shown to illustrate the way in which the gang subverts loyalty to impose authority.
If you can’t get to see the film, look out for the DVD.