Mike Vogel and Erika Christensen both give convincing performances as flip sides of the same religious debate in director Jon Gunn’s satisfying drama The Case For Christ…
Any book that sells fourteen million copies must have something to say. If it attempts to debunk the resurrection, undermine Christianity and by default a vast majority of religious doctrine then you need to tread carefully. With this adaptation writer and director have both taken any emphasis away from subversive opinion, focusing instead on the central relationship.
Journalist Lee Strobel and his wife Leslie are both atheists. After their daughter is saved from choking by a Christian one night, she begins to question her religious stance. Those are the facts efficiently covered through montage which include their early relationship, his journalistic success and birth of a daughter. Director Jon Gunn is concise, leans on purposely placed incidental orchestral music to create mood then cuts to the chase.
Mike Vogel and Erika Christensen both give convincing performances as flip sides of the same debate, while their differing opinions drive a wedge between them. Gunn employs an understated methodical process which is saved from saccharine or melodrama by Vogel’s scepticism. His journalistic background and passion to uncover fraudulent documents, inaccuracies and eye witness contradictions whilst ignoring an imploding marriage make this a compelling watch.
Setting it in a believable newsroom and mixing together investigative elements while deviating into thriller territory, Gunn does well to corral every thread effectively. During the course of The Case For Christ there is no sense of emotional manipulation, no bias and it never veers towards movie of the week melodrama. Robert Forster and Faye Dunaway make less-than cameo appearances but still grab enough screen time to remain essential in the overall narrative. Performances from a string of ensemble players add strength and a sense of grounded reality, which is fundamental considering the topics being examined.
By the end credits so much data points in one direction that other conclusions seem futile, yet Gunn ensures there is never any pressure to decide. If anything this film lives and dies on its ability to entertain whilst asking big questions with difficult answers. Gunn’s biggest trick is not only making The Case For Christ accessible but interesting.
Like any film with a veiled agenda facts are offered up, experiences left open to conjecture, while conclusions await an audience decision free from bias. The Case For Christ will neither convert the atheist nor knock the absolute faith of regular churchgoers. Entertaining but unlikely to provide anyone with a sudden epiphany, this irrefutably questions a belief system without causing offense or troubling the Vatican’s legal department.
Written by Martin Carr
Directed by: Jon Gunn
Written by: Brian Bird
Starring: Mike Vogel, Erika Christensen, Frankie Faison, Faye Dunaway, Robert Forster
Released: 2017 / Genre: Drama
Country: USA / IMDB
The Case For Christ is released in UK cinemas September 15.