The Case for Christ (PG)
Rating: 3 / 5
Based on journalist and theologian Lee Strobel’s bestselling book of the same name, The Case for Christ is an evocative story about faith, facts and family relationships.
Based on real events in Strobel’s life, we enter 1980s Chicago, where Strobel (Mike Vogel) is a hardline, arrogant and astute journalist with a nose for a good story.
Living by the mantra, “The only way to truth is through facts”, he has it all: a committed wife in Leslie (Erika Christensen), an adorable daughter, another child on the way and a promotion to legal editor at the Chicago Tribune.
However, things begin to unravel for Strobel when, after a seemingly “miraculous” incident, his wife converts to Christianity. For once, the overtly atheist Strobel is left undone. On a mission to “save” his wife and children from what he perceives as “brainwashing”, he launches ahead to try to debunk Christianity once and for all.
After speaking to a devout colleague, he goes right for the jugular: he seeks to disprove the resurrection of Jesus Christ and, in so doing (he reasons), will not only “assassinate Jesus”, but also save his marriage.
Marketed as a film that will introduce people to Christianity, it undersells the intriguing story of Strobel by seeing it merely as an evangelism tool. Rather, Strobel’s story is a complex exposé on the effect new-found religion has on the family unit, and the challenging path that must be trod during the search for the very purpose of life itself.
What grounds this somewhat clichéd story are the performances. Vogel provides an audacious and blunt performance, and Christensen (who’s, ironically, a Scientologist) is suitably committed to her role (Leslie’s conversion and subsequent prayers for her partner are, for the most, unflinchingly raw).
Strobel’s journey in trying to disprove Christ is filled with interesting evidence and facts which can, at two hours long, feel repetitive, and scenes depicting the Christian community also feel a tad forced.
However, Vogel and Christensen’s chemistry propels the plot forward, and while the film may not convert people on the spot, it does provide a doorway for the spiritually curious.
A cameo by the legendary Faye Dunaway as Strobel’s mother is an added bonus.
Highlight: the intelligent storytelling
Red flag: some coarse language
The Case For Christ is showing in selected cinemas. It will available on DVD later in the year.