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It has become a familiar part of western cinema, the Christian drama. It usually contains the lower production value, volunteer acting talent and the inevitable conversion scene that is accompanied by inspiring music and a light behind a cross. The Passion of the Christ lifted this genre out of the schmaltzy production quality, showed that these stories could be box office gold and provided studios with the challenge of lifting the production quality. This is a market that studios have tapped into over the recent decades and managed to capitalize on the audience who want films that reflect their values and tend to preach to the choir. This has been achieved with varying degrees of success, but how will the true story of the former Chicago Tribune investigative reporter Lee Strobel (Mike Vogel) translate to the big screen? Will his documented attempt to disprove the resurrection of Jesus be taken seriously by today’s audiences?
The film, based on the multi-million selling biographical journey, The Case for Christ, Strobel puts his analytical skills to the story of biblical accounts of the New Testament. During his time as an award-winning journalist and outspoken atheist he is confronted with the impact of Christianity in his own personal life. Due to a traumatic life experience and his wife’s decision to become a follower of Jesus, Strobel sets out to expose this religion as being a centuries-old hoax. He embarks on an expedition to support his scientific point of view and to show Leslie (Erika Christensen) that she has chosen the wrong path of belief. Throughout his investigation, Lee has the opportunity to interview some of the leading minds in theology, archeology and science, which leads him down a path to startling results that will have an impact on his life, the life of his family and those who meet him along the way.
Being based in the 1980’s, the production team is given a gift of portraying an era that has become the latest fascination for movie goers. A time when journalism was managed through personal interviews, phones that were connected to the wall and when news was still primarily found on AM radio and sought after from newspapers. The production quality was exceptionally well done throughout and provides a believable backdrop for Strobel’s life changing story. The production is accompanied by a strong cast and solid writing that was reminiscent of 2015’s Spotlight.
The key weakness in these elements comes from the Christian audience that it is being marketed to. Even though there is drinking and other real life elements, the lack of course language and other cultural norms does make for a lack of believability, but not enough to derail the overall experience of the film. At the heart of the story, the relationship between the Strobels and the passion on both sides of this theological quest makes for praiseworthy entertainment and introduces the compelling evidence found in the book. It does conclude with a stereotypical ending for this genre, but this should not dissuade anyone from considering this cinematic gem.
For many Christians, Strobel’s book has become a mainstay for the discussion of theological apologetics and could mean that they will be familiar with the content of the script. This should not deter fans of the book from getting along to see this well-crafted drama for the sake of their viewing pleasure as well as for encouragement. For those who are not acquainted with this book or the details of Christianity, The Case for Christ does make for an enjoyable time at the cinema and it may even inspire others to consider a personal expedition of faith. This was a surprisingly good film that should be a consideration of film lovers, regardless of their current faith position.