Film Review: Indivisible

A faith-based film that won’t inspire converts
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Indivisible is a movie by-the-numbers. Roughly 10 minutes in, we’re immersed in the action, watching a brand-new army chaplain, Darren Turner (Justin Bruening), shipping off to the war in Iraq. Half an hour in, Chaplain Turner’s faith is shaking. Halfway in, he’s falling apart. An hour and a half in, he’s pulling himself together once more. Come two hours (at last), his journey is complete, just in time for the life, love, and God-affirming conclusion.

To distill any movie down to its beats is a cynical exercise. It’s like stripping a body to its skeleton: most individuality is eroded. But the effort is justified in this instance, because there is something bloodless and common-issue about Indivisible. Although the film hits all the time-marks of cinematic storytelling, the characters are broad, the music intrusive, and the dialogue made-for-TV-movie-esque. Just because the plot is swift does not mean the story compels. Still, members of the choir being preached to will enjoy the movie’s Christian message.

For a “message”—or, more accurately, homily—is what this movie is. After Chaplain Turner lands in Iraq, he and his loving wife Heather (Sarah Drew) are put through their paces. The chaplain tries to support the men and women on the front lines as Heather and fellow army wife Tonya (Tia Mowry-Hardrict) attempt to comfort the soldiers’ families back home. Husband and wife face separate challenges, but neither understands the other’s hardships. Chaplain Turner won’t discuss what he’s experiencing, and all the talking Heather does irritates him. The chaplain’s marriage and his confidence in God buckle. For this, his movie about a man’s faith being tested, and therefore strengthened, the writer (along with Cheryl McKay and Peter White) and director, David G. Evans, keeps the trials coming like plagues.

All the couple’s mini crises—the chaplain grappling with the loss of innocent civilians and good friends, or Heather panicking through a medical scare involving her asthmatic daughter—propel us along at a nice clip. In fact, so quickly are we shuttled through the plot, no time is spared for surprises. Everything shakes out just as you would expect. Indivisible does not want for drama. It is human unexpectedness the movie lacks. The characters behave just like the story is written: by-the-numbers. They affirm, doubt, cry and reconcile, at all the right moments. Strange that for a movie about a man who doubts, so little effort is made to unsettle its audience. Some might find that comforting. I think it tedious.

The film is inspired by the real-life Darren and Heather Turner. The suffering Chaplain Turner witnessed in Iraq, and the difficulties Heather endured trying to hold her family together through her husband’s absence and then his post-traumatic-stress disorder, must have been anything but broad or trite or tedious. (Although the sense of being trapped inside a bad movie might still have afflicted them.) You can see why someone would want to make a movie about the pair. Which is why it is too bad Indivisible cuts the Turners out in cardboard. I have no problem with a story that carries a religious message. But I take issue with a message whose heavy emphasis undercuts what could have been an affecting story.