REVIEW: ‘Overcomer’ is inspiring, convicting and much-needed
The faith-based film ‘Overcomer,’ which opens this weekend, is the first movie from the Kendrick brothers since their No. 1 hit War Room.
John Harrison is a tenacious and determined high school boys’ basketball coach who has one goal in life: winning a state championship.
Fortunately for Coach Harrison, all his best players are returning next season. Even better: the top players for the other team—you know, the one that eliminated his Brookshire Cougars in the postseason this year—are graduating.
“Next season, we take everything,” he tells his team.
Perhaps that elusive state championship trophy will finally be his.
But then the town’s largest employer closes. And then hundreds of employees transfer elsewhere, taking their families—and Harrison’s best players—with him. And then Harrison is forced to coach the cross country team, which has only one runner.
Overnight, Harrison goes from being the coach of one of the state’s best basketball teams to a depressed man struggling for meaning and purpose. He’s searching for his identity in life—and so far, he hasn’t found it.
The faith-based film Overcomer (PG) opens this weekend, starring Alex Kendrick (Courageous, War Room) as Harrison; Shari Rigby (October Baby) as his wife, Amy; Priscilla Shirer (War Room) as principal Olivia Brooks; and newcomer Aryn Wright-Thompson as cross country runner Hannah Scott.
It is the first film for the director-producer tandem of Alex and Stephen Kendrick since their box office hit War Room, which shocked Hollywood by climbing to No. 1 on its second weekend in 2015. Prior to War Room, the Kendricks had a string of other hit films, including Courageous (2011) and Fireproof (2008)—each of which opened at No. 4—and Facing the Giants (2006).
The Overcomer plot takes a turn when Harrison encounters a hospitalized man, Thomas Hill (Cameron Arnett), who is filled with joy, even though he is blind and in poor health.
Hill transforms Harrison’s outlook on life, and Harrison then impacts Hannah, a girl who grew up without a father and who is searching for direction in life, too.
Overcomer, like all Kendrick movies, has a biblical theme. Its promotional materials ask the question: What do you allow to define you? It’s similar to the question Thomas asks Coach Harrison: Who are you? The Kendricks want moviegoers to consider whether their identity is found in the eternal Christ—as Ephesians 1-2 teaches—or in temporal, worldly things.
It’s the Kendricks’ sixth movie, and with each one, they further bury the “Christian films are cheesy” tired mantra.
Overcomer is entertaining. It’s engaging. It’s funny. It’s convicting. It’s inspiring. It has the right pace. It has a solid cast. Most importantly, it has a Gospel-centric message that aims at your heart and soul. Two of my friends cried while screening it—from beginning to end. I shed a few tears, too.
Overcomer has the biggest budget ($5 million) yet of any Kendrick film, and it translates to the big screen from the get-go with an impressive drone shot of a basketball game.
LifeWay is offering Overcomer Bible studies and books for every age that spotlight the identity theme. Unlike most Hollywood movies, this is a film that churches can get behind.
Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!
(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)
Minimal. A primary character dies at the end of the film.
Other Positive Elements
The film includes tight-knit, loving families—both black and white. It shows a husband and wife working through problems and parents loving their children.
Reconciliation is possible: The plot begins with one major character apparently hating another one, but by the film’s end, they come together.
Redemption is beautiful: We learn Thomas made a major mistake in life he regrets. He is given a chance to make things right.
Eternal things matter the most: What’s more important: a basketball title, or one’s relationship with Christ?
Early in the film, Thomas poses a question to Coach Harrison that becomes the crux of the film: “If I asked you who are, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?”
Harrison offers a series of answers that fall short: Basketball coach? History teacher? Husband? Father? Each time, Thomas responds: If all of those were stripped away, what would your identity be then?
It’s a question each one of us should ask.
Of course, we may say we know the answer—our identity is found in Christ—but how many of us are living that truth out each day? Too often, we find our identity in our jobs. Or in our hobbies. Or in our possessions. Or in our family and friends. That, in turn, results in a life void of joy. It also adds stress and confusion when troubles arise.
Hannah hits the bullseye in the middle of the movie when she summarizes the opening verses of Ephesians:
“I am created by God. He designed me, so I’m not a mistake. His Son died for me, just so I could be forgiven. He picked me to be his own, so I’m chosen. He redeemed me, so I am wanted. He showed me grace, just so I could be saved. He has a future for me because He loves me. So I don’t wonder anymore, Coach Harrison. I am a child of God.”
1. How would you identify yourself? What do you find your identity in? How would God identify you?
2. What changes do you need to make in your life to affirm your identity in Christ?
3. Why is our identity in Christ so significant?
Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
Overcomer is rated PG for some thematic elements.