A Review, by Patrick B. McGuigan
In a film released last spring and now headed to DVD and other electronic formats, a fine ensemble cast delivers a powerful testimonial about events that took place only five years ago.
“Breakthough” came to the screen through the efforts of a cadre of Christian performers, technicians and others with years of experience making films that can often be pigeon-holed (and usually are).
But the executive producer of this one is Stephen Curry – he of the Golden State Warriors.
So, just like you do every time he takes the court, pay attention.
Joyce Smith (Chrissy Metz) and her husband Brian (Josh Lucas) are the adoptive parents of a surly middle-school lad, John (Marcel Ruiz). He was born in poverty in Central America. They struggle to communicate effectively with him not because he looks differently, but because he carries all the anxieties of boys his age. His source of occasional confidence, however, is remarkable ability on the basketball court.
A shocking incident plunges the family and their surrounding community of faith into crisis. Rescued by firefighter Tommy (Mike Coulter, in a star turn), John is expected to die. In the ER doctor’s account, he did die. But after full-throated screaming out-loud prayers from Joyce, things turn.
Their pastor, Jason (Topher Grace) pours himself into support of the Smiths. Doctor Garrett (Dennis Haysbert, in a pivotal cameo) counsels the parents to prepare for the inevitable.
But the inevitable is not how the story goes. How the story does go drew international attention, and the willingness of a superstar like Haysbert (he of the AllState “Good Hands” advertisements) to be part of the project. It moved the heart of the rescurer Tommy, and others like him.
You know the old line: “If you see one movie this year, this should be it.”
I was astonished at the dismissiveness of some reviewers, who scorned the film even as they complimented one aspect or another of it (great special effects, strong performances).
If you are not a person of faith but are willing to see a good flick about events that cannot be explained under the normal rules of nature, one presented with conviction and sincerity, this is it.
In the end, John’s true story – full of good people who face life crises, doubts and tensions like everyone of us – has inspired people all over the world.
Things happened more or less as recounted in this story.
Briefly, I close with a tip of the hat to rap singer Lecrae, who has a brief cameo early in the film. I’ve never grown accustomed to rap, but it took one interview to get me accustomed to Lecrae.
His singing style is one of the things members of the congregation didn’t like about Pastor Jason when he got to town. Lecrae plays himself, has only a couple of minutes of rapping for a worship service, spearking brief words of thanks on-screen.
In one interview on the film set, Lecrae reflected about the film, and larger issus:
“I think, specifically like in the western world, we’re in a post-Christian era. So I think a lot of times, we forget our faith has survived for thousands of years, is just that here in the West, North America and Europe, it’s post [Christian]. It’s like, ‘oh, we’re over that now. We’re more progressive with science and so on and so forth.’ But take a trip to Africa, you take a trip to China, it’s thriving, it’s on fire right now. That’s the reminder that God is not irrelevant. It’s just we forget, [but] He doesn’t.”
This movie had a decent run in theaters and is coming out in various electronic formats not reviewed here. “Breakthrough” is a good film about a great story. My prayer is that believers and non-believers alike find ways to support it as a fine example of solid story-telling – a stunning tale rendered respectfully and believably.