'Indivisible': Film Review

Less a movie than a two-hour pep talk.
10/26/2018

An Army chaplain deals with the aftermath of combat in David G. Evans' faith-based family drama.

An Army chaplain bolsters fellow soldiers' faith while enduring a crisis of his own in Indivisible, an earnest epic of faithfulness to God, country and family. Director David G. Evans' sophomore feature (after 2010's similarly Bible-driven The Grace Card) fails on many filmmaking fronts, but has clear appeal for heartland Christians who are more concerned with uncomplicated edification than with storytelling. It would be more at home in the rec rooms of churches than in movie theaters.

Justin Bruening plays Darren Turner, a hunky minister and father of three who is fresh from basic training when George W. Bush decides to send more souls to Iraq in the spring of 2007. Turner's superiors warn him that his book learnin' won't count for much in the field, but he happily accepts his duty and boasts that his wife Heather (Sarah Drew) is on board as well — they both, as we'll hear a couple of times, feel "called" to supporting the troops in this way. As he ships out, Turner reassures daughter Ellie (Samara Lee) that God will keep him safe, giving her a coin-sized medallion representing the "invisible armor" of faith. Viewers who aren't fond of this old metaphor tying religion to warfare should stay home, as Turner is very fond of these medals, and will soon be foisting them on men and women who'd be better served by something more bulletproof.

Turner quickly meets some hard cases in the desert — one seasoned vet whose experience has made him incapable of loving his family; a single mother who fears intimacy; and a mouthy young recruit (Tanner Stine) who accuses him of "peddlin' a God" who does nothing to stop the deaths they're seeing around them. He wins them all over with such ease you can hardly call it an achievement — or a plot.

The film addresses the dangers Turner faces in two sequences where combat is intercut with urgent scenes back home involving Ellie. It stops just short of imagining supernatural connections between the two — in the first scene, the girl is clenching her armor-coin and praying intensely for God to keep Daddy safe right now at the very moment he comes under mortar attack. Needless to say, Daddy lives.

But he's psychically wounded. Bruening has a much easier time playing the pre-trauma version of Turner — a likable and sincere dispenser of pre-digested homilies — than the one who comes back to his family unable to be the loving father and husband he was. That's less the actor's fault than the script's: Evans and his co-writers are so eager to connect the dots in their well-intentioned moral parable they forget that a good parable tells a story worth remembering.

A viewer with some distance from the film's agendas might find it intriguing that characters who are capable of questioning their faith in the Almighty never show a shred of doubt about the war they've been sent to fight or the men who started it. Even when their closest friends are killed, nobody in Indivisible asks what the sacrifice was for. But, of course, films like this aren't designed to pose troubling questions; they're meant to reassure those who already believe and congratulate those who keep doubts at bay. Cinephiles who take Christianity seriously but also value artful drama can turn to Bergman, Bresson, Schrader and others whose characters actually struggle in their pursuit of the truth. Sadly, today's mainstream "faith-based" cinema revolves around crises whose resolutions are as easy to predict as those of a cookie-cutter rom-com.

Production company: Reserve Entertainment
Distributor: Pure Flix Entertainment
Cast: Justin Bruening, Sarah Drew, Jason George, Tia Mowry-Hardrict, Skye P. Marshall, Tanner Stine, Samara Lee
Director: David G. Evans
Screenwriters: David G. Evans, Cheryl McKay, Peter White
Producer: Darren Moorman
Executive producers: Sarah Drew, Ben Howard, Bill Reeves, Erik Weir
Director of photography: Bob Scott
Production designer: Darian Corley
Costume designer: Anna Redmon
Editor: Jeff Canavan
Casting director: Beverly Holloway

Rated PG-13, 119 minutes