A common trend you notice with faith-based movies is that many critics tend to be atheists that don’t like to be portrayed as the bad guys, so they will normally dump on these types of films. Pure Flix Entertainment does have a tendency to be too preachy with titles like God’s Not Dead but here they have a film The Case for Christ which aims to tell a different story. Based on the book by Lee Strobel, an atheist award-winning investigative journalist who goes into an in-depth research trip to attempt to disprove his wife’s newfound Christian faith. Nonbelievers can relax because there is no “us vs them” in this film, but instead, we have a film that focuses more on empirical evidence to support faith rather than rustling your jim jams.
Set in 1980, Lee Strobel (Mike Vogel) is a journalist for the Chicago Tribune, while having dinner out with his family; his daughter chokes on a Gumball and nearly dies. A local nurse is there to save the day to the delight of a grateful family. Lee’s wife, Leslie (Erika Christensen) believes that divine intervention saved their girl’s life and begins to turn to the Church. Lee, a hard-line atheist disapproves of his wife’s new venture and decides to embark on a quest to disprove Christianity by studying the death of Jesus Christ and debunking whether the resurrection actually happened.
The lead actors in the film are outstanding however, they seem to be better in solo scenes than when they are together. Vogel and Christensen display two different roads to the highway of born-again Christianity. In the film, Leslie takes more of a leap of faith stance as she believes that the nurse that saved her daughter’s life was not there by chance but by an act of God. Lee is much more stubborn understandably so, in his mind, there is no way that Christianity can be legit. Lee, later on, becomes troubled by experts that he respects showing that his stance isn’t as bulletproof as he thought and then struggles to accept what’s in front of him.
There is also a subplot of an investigation into a police shooting that plays as a parallel to Lee’s refusal to see the evidence that is in front of him and to change his thought process based on that evidence. The film challenges the validity of historical documents and eyewitness accounts into the rebirth of Christ, using Lee’s journalistic profession to present and defend the evidence. This alone makes it not your advantage Christian movie. We even see a psychological narrative displayed as Lee’s troubled relationship with his father is a plot that introduces Faye Dunaway as an agnostic professor of psychology. She grills him about his “father wound,” a term used to describe abusive or distant relationships with one’s father when it comes to prominent atheists. While one can draw their own conclusions on whether this theory holds any weight, it is used to foreshadow Lee’s turnaround and reflection of his most important relationship, with his family.
The real Lee Strobel shortly quit his job as a reporter and became a pastor with his wife, the story of his life is a fascinating ride from non-believer to believer that not only delivered a bestselling book but a compelling film. The Case For Christ is a story that can be embraced by mainstream audiences along with Christian audiences right in time for Easter.