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Still shot from the movie: Courageous.

Courageous

A group of law enforcement officers (Alex Kendrick, Ken Bevel and Kevin Downes) knows it takes courage to do their job. But what they haven't realized is how courageous one must also be at home. When their lives are touched by tragedy, the men make a pledge to become better fathers.

Overall Grade: A
Violence: C
Sexual Content: A
Language: A
Drugs/Alcohol: B
Release Date: 30 Sep 2011
Run Time: 130
MPAA Rating: PG-13

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In-Depth Review

Female empowerment is a popular theme in film and rightly so. We should acknowledge the abilities and strength of women, even if they are occasionally exaggerated for the sake of entertainment. Unfortunately this celebration often comes at the expense of men, and most notably dads who are frequently portrayed as dumb, distracted or worse.

In their script, Christian filmmakers Stephen and Alex Kendrick reaffirm the important role of men, especially in the lives of children. Too bad some potential audience members will let the descriptor "Christian" keep them from seeing this powerful message. The negative consequences of absentee fathers aren’t just a religious issue, academic evidence agrees.

Courageous focuses on four Albany sheriff’s deputies who put their lives on the line to fight gang and drug crime in the community. Courage is a given on the job. But exercising that same kind of commitment to watch another’s back is sometimes lost when they get home. The realization that needs to change overwhelms Adam (Alex Kendrick) after his nine-year-old daughter Emily (Lauren Etchells) is killed by a drunk driver. Devastated by his daughter’s sudden loss, he is finally reminded by his wife that he still has a son to parent, one who is also grieving.

That reality, combined with the impact of absent or ineffectual dads he sees on the job, leads him to pen a resolution outlining his renewed commitment as a father. To keep him honest, he asks three of his fellow officers, Nathan (Ken Bevel), Shane (Kevin Downes) and David (Ben Davis) as well as his handyman Javier (Robert Amaya) to witness the signing of his contract. But they do one better and resolve to put all their signatures to paper.

Following the signing ceremony attended by the men’s families, the script kickstarts a new storyline (making the film longer than necessary). Yet the purpose is to show that making a resolution is one thing; keeping it in the face of opposition, disappointment and difficult circumstances is another. Among them, one struggles to provide for his family, another to connect with his teen and a third to communicate to his daughter the unease he feels about the boys she hangs out with (she misconstrues her dad’s concern with overprotection).

The film’s quality along with its musical score and technical effects are a vast improvement over many other productions in this genre. And content is limited to an extended exchange of gunfire between police and drug dealers, a car theft, dishonesty, and a Taser incident. Illegal drug trafficking is negatively portrayed.

Not only do these men honor their role as fathers, they do it together. For them, the injunction to “Serve and Protect” becomes more than just words worn on their chests.

Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...

Violence: A man is dragged on the side of a truck while trying to stop a car theft. Officers discuss suicide and prison statistics due to absentee fathers. Some blood is shown on a car’s airbag after an accident. Officers chase criminals on foot and engage in a fistfight with the offenders. A man is shot with a Taser. A character makes a threatening hand gesture. A boy is repeatedly kicked and hit during a gang initiation. Characters discuss an accident involving a drunk driver that results in a child’s death. Police officers exchange numerous gunshots with criminals who later attempt to take a child hostage. Characters are punched, shoved and thrown to the ground.

Sexual Content: None noted

Language: None noted.

Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters discuss drug deals. Teens are involved as sellers. A character steals drugs confiscated as police evidence. Depictions of powdered and rock drugs are seen.

Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...

Given the dangers they are exposed to and the importance of their roles in society, are the salaries of first responders adequate? Do we often under compensate those who serve, protect and save the lives of others? Why is the sense of brotherhood so important among police officers?

After Adam loses his daughter, he is asked if he wants to be angry for the time he missed with her or grateful for the time he had with her. Why is it easy to second-guess decisions or focus on regrets at times like this?

One day Adam announces to his family that he has had a "good day". What happened to make him feel that way? What does that signify in his grief process? How would you define a good day?

Two great websites to check out: The National Fatherhood Initiative and the official website for Courageous in the U.S. and Courageous in Canada. All of these sites offer excellent resources pertaining to fatherhood.

Video alternatives

In The Incredibles, a father experiencing a midlife crisis discovers what his real priorities are when his wife and kids are placed in a dangerous situation. Another dad sacrifices everything in order to provide a better life for his son in The Pursuit of Happyness. And a man and his estranged daughter find a unique way to build a relationship in Fly Away Home.

Home Video Notes

Home Video Notes: Courageous

Release Date: 17 January 2012

Courageous releases to home video with the following bonus extras:

- Commentary with co-writer/director Alex Kendrick and co-writer Stephen Kendrick

- Deleted Scenes

- Outtakes and bloopers

- Featurette: Courageous in 60 Seconds

- Three behind-the-scenes featurettes

Join the Conversation

About the Reviewer: Kerry Bennett

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