With no small amount of trepidation did I enter the theater this evening in order to watch Kirk Cameron’s latest lead role in Fireproof. Too many Christian-themed movies over the past thirty years have gone down in flames due to poor writing, shaky plotlines, terrible cinematography and bad acting. Fireproof is not entirely guilty of these, although there are spots of shaky acting throughout the film due to an apparent use of inexperienced actors. But neither this weakness, nor the fact that the film is unabashadly Christian in perspective, should frighten the curious from peaking in on the story. Indeed, there is a story.
Imagine a truly heroic fire captain rescuing people throughout the day with well-earned accolades, but coming home each night to a household disaster of his own making, albeit with a certain amount of help from his increasingly estranged wife. Kirk Cameron brings acting within the Christian genre of films to a new level. And it is about time. He displays a multi-textured view of human nature as the heroic fire captain, Caleb Holt. The evil that exists alongside the seemingly good. The selfishness in the home that co-exists with selfless sacrifice in burning buildings. The contrast is striking and effective. We gasp at a couple of truly harrowing scenes and for a moment in both, we wonder what the outcome will be. This heroic setting makes all the more tragic the pornography addiction which has enraptured Caleb, imperiling his marriage.
Although the acting of several members of the supporting cast is often stilted, feeling like a church play rather than real life, Kirk’s performance almost makes us forget all of that; almost, but not quite. There are moments of humor (some actually funny), again feeling staged rather than natural. The lead actress, Erin Bethea as Catherine Holt, turns in a credible performance, nuanced with sufficient layers to provide a compelling counterpoint to Cameron. The “other man,” a physician, woos Catherine as she grows distant from Caleb. He adds an additional layer of complexity when we learn that this apparently nice guy also is married as he looks at his ring in his desk which he doesn’t wear while wooing Catherine. Divorce loom in the midst of increasingly violent arguments.
Enter Caleb’s father who sets in motion a series of events bound to change the lives of both Caleb and Catherine forever. The outcome is as predictable as getting wet when jumping into a pool full of water, but the process of arriving there is more satisfying than one might expect. And, surprisingly, the outcome is not as complete as one might expect. Enter the higher level of sophistication. The abovementioned physician never is seen to put things to rights with his behavior. This adds a note a authenticity to the film.
Some will ridicule the movie due to its clear presentation of the gospel. Others will pan the apparent marketing of a specific ministry product which is discussed throughout the film. Need I remind them that virtually every film in the multiplexes is crafted to market products at some level?
Fireproof is rated PG, likely for some scenes of peril. I do not recommend the film to children under the age of thirteen due to content alluding to pornography. In my view, the film should have been rated PG-13. Fireproof has some important things to say about marriage, love, fidelity and selfishness. Regardless of whether or not viewers are Christian or open to hearing the gospel, they still will find value in the message this movie delivers pertaining to working hard to save their marriages from selfish behavior.