By Tab Olsen
The Kendrick brothers have done it again! Their new movie, Overcomer, was released to enthusiastic crowds on the weekend of August 23, 2019, coming in #3 at the box office. Currently it has a near unheard of 98% positive audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie resonates with students and adults alike.
This exciting Christian drama film was directed by Alex Kendrick. The script was written by Alex and Stephen Kendrick. The movie was co-produced by Aaron Burns, the homeschooled filmmaker known for Beyond the Mask and Pendragon. It’s the Kendrick brothers’ sixth film, following on the heels of their 2015 release War Room. If you thought that one was a bit boring, the action in this movie is more akin to Facing the Giants.
Our family of five went to see Overcomer at the local cinema on Thursday, August 22. We’re fans of the Kendrick brothers from the beginning and we always try to see their movies on opening night if possible. We all loved it! I recommend you watch Overcomer.
A liar and adulterer.
Someone who hates.
A coach reluctant to do what his boss wants.
A hidden hand nudges a person into the wrong hospital room.
A long train of unconnected events small and great, but mostly small, demonstrates something that is called providence.
PLOT: “Life changes overnight for Coach John Harrison when his high school basketball team and state championship dreams are crushed under the weight of unexpected news. When the largest manufacturing plant shuts down and hundreds of families leave their town, John questions how he and his family will face an uncertain future. After reluctantly agreeing to coach cross-country, John and his wife, Amy, meet an aspiring athlete who’s pushing her limits on a journey toward discovery. Inspired by the words and prayers of a new-found friend, John becomes the least likely coach helping the least likely runner attempt the impossible in the biggest race of the year.”
THEME: The main theme of this movie is overcoming obstacles, but it’s also about finding your real identity in Christ. What is it that you allow to define you? Is it your grades, your hobby, your job, other people’s opinions that give you your sense of self-worth? As a Christian, shouldn’t you be putting Jesus first in your life? This movie is the antithesis and antidote to Nietzsche’s self-overcoming.
STARS: The movie stars Alex Kendrick as the basketball coach, Shari Rigby as his wife, Priscilla C. Shirer as the principal, Cameron Arnett as Thomas Hill, and Aryn Wright-Thompson as Hannah Scott.
Cameron Arnett’s career goes all the way back to Miami Vice (1986) and Star Trek: The Next Generation (1991). But something changed when he was asked to do nudity for a film, which conflicted with his beliefs. “I had to choose career or Christ,” he said in a Facebook Live interview. “I chose Christ, but when I did, I lost everything. Agents left. Everybody left. Friends left. I was left behind by the world and by everything that I had.”
Now Mr. Arnett only does projects that align with his faith and values. So this movie’s defining theme of finding your identity in Christ is a natural one for him. In Overcomer, he plays a blind man confined to a hospital bed, and he’s an awesome actor. His whole character can only be relayed through tone of voice and facial expressions, without even being able to make any eye contact, and he does a fantastic job.
Aryn Wright-Thompson, who plays troubled teen Hannah Scott, put in an amazing effort as well. It’s hard to believe this was her first acting job! She plays a new student at a small-town Christian school, who dreams of being a runner despite having asthma. She is encouraged to try out for the cross country team, and trains hard to realize her dream. Overcomer is an inspiring story of how she overcame the disappointing setbacks of her condition, and it will motivate anyone to keep trying to reach their goals, no matter the obstacles.
CHRISTIAN ELEMENTS: Unlike some of the Kendrick brothers’ other films, the Christianity in this movie isn’t glaringly obvious at first (besides the Christian school setting), until about halfway through. But I think it was planned this way, because it effectively shows that the guy who identified as a Christian wasn’t putting Christ first in his life. Many people get their identity from their careers, their passions, their roles in the family, and a number of other lesser things. But as actor Cameron Arnett learned, to be a Christian means that our true identity should be in Christ first and foremost.
Also in the movie, as a new believer, Hannah Scott learned that we are made by a God who loves us, and the gospel can bring us into a relationship with Him. When we understand who God is, we more fully understand who we are. Part of this movie is uniquely based on the book of Ephesians, and it will have you opening up your Bible to read the first couple of chapters and seeing Ephesians in a whole new way. Incidentally, an Overcomer Bible Study Book and Leader Kit are available to accompany the movie for reinforcing these lessons.
As usual, the Kendrick brothers do a great job of mixing heart-felt serious moments and light-hearted comedy. The cinematography in Overcomer was great; they had the expertise of sports photographer Bob Scott for the action scenes. It looks like they used drone footage in some places which was really effective for that purpose, the continuous movement of the roving shot tying in with the concept of running. We stayed all the way through the ending credits, and it was funny to see all of the Kendricks, Kendricks, and more Kendricks who worked on this film!
Overcomer leaves you filled with hope, inspired to dream, and contemplating the question: what do you allow to define you? Overcomer is a great uplifting film of triumph over adversity, without being overly preachy. It will have you and your family/friends excitedly cheering the action on the big screen. If you’re a runner or have asthma, you will love this movie, and so will anyone who watches it. Overcomer will inspire and motivate viewers of all ages to overcome the obstacles in their lives. If you haven’t watched Overcomer yet, I heartily encourage you to grab some friends or family members and head over to the theater ASAP.