Every now and then, faith-based movie studio PureFlix gets it right, releasing a film that feels like it might have some crossover appeal. The Iraq War film “Indivisible,” based on the true story of Army Chaplain Darren Turner, is grounded and real, and made with enough finesse and craft to draw audiences outside of the regular purview. Directed by David G. Evans, and co-written by Evans, Cheryl McKay and Peter White, “Indivisible” is the kind of Christian story that hails community connection as salvation, along with its particular spiritual belief system.
Justin Bruening and Sarah Drew star as Darren and Heather Turner, a new family on the Army base, moving in just before the 2007 troop surge of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Their cozy family of five is disrupted just as they plant their roots, as Darren is deployed to Iraq for 15 months to serve as the base chaplain. He heads out with his neighbors, men and women who have already been struggling with the demands of war.
What’s refreshing about “Indivisible” is the way it balances the narrative between both the troops away at war and those family members who stay at home. The wives are given much more to do than just be concerned on the phone (though they are often that). They are pillars of the community, fighting their own battles when the affects of war hit home. Heather is a fully formed character: a mother with a career as a photographer; a Readiness Committee volunteer who cradles the widowed when the notification chaplains come calling, and who goes through her own painful journey with her husband’s absence.
These rich characters make “Indivisible” not your average war movie, though many of the combat elements are standard-issue and somewhat predictable. The Iraq storyline follows Darren during his first tour, as he tries to connect with the troops and offer them guidance and solace through Christian faith. He falters a bit at first, before finding his footing, though his time is marred by the death and injury of close friends, and he becomes overwhelmed with taking on this emotional burden.
Throughout the second half of the film, when the troops return home, “Indivisible” drags quite a bit, relying on melodramatics and stereotypes about combat PTSD while Darren and Heather’s marriage hits the skids. It’s not exactly “The Best Years of Our Lives,” lacking the nuance and sophistication of William Wyler’s masterpiece.
Yet, “Indivisible” is surprisingly engaging. With a host of characters, there’s plenty to hook into, even if the multiple storylines are all a bit shallow, and the actors are appealing, especially Skye P. Marshall, an Air Force vet who plays the hard-charging Sgt. Shonda Peterson. Bruening also effectively sells Darren’s internal anguish.
Evans and team bring an elevated sense of production value, and the pace clips along satisfyingly before stalling out in the last third. While some of the lessons are over-simplified, such as the montage that suggests jogging and playhouses can solve any marital problem, the overarching message of “Indivisible” is the idea that community can lift you up, if you believe in each other above all else.
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