Fireproof is an incredible film. On a dinky-by-Hollywood-standards $500,000 budget, the Kendrick brothers tell a credible story of love-gone-sour restored. They draw your heart into the tale from the first 25 years ago "I want to marry Daddy" moment and keep it involved until the salt-and-pepper-shaker cake topper ending. I was exhausted at the end, emotionally drained from laughing and crying and laughing and crying some more.
Here are a few of my favorite scenes from the movie...
Early on, Caleb Holt (Kirk Cameron) gets angry at his wife, Christine (Erin Bethea), and storms out of the house. He spies his trash can and takes out his frustration on the defenseless container, kicking it mercilessly then grabbing trash bags and throwing them against the house. Suddenly he stops. He looks away from the house and the camera switches to his neighbor who's watching. Embarassed, Caleb greets his neighbor, "Mr. Rudolph." Totally deadpan, Mr. Rudolph nods his head and replies simply, "Caleb."
It's not too long later that Caleb is upset again. He bursts through the back door and once more attacks the dumpster, this time with a baseball bat. He pounds on the can, grunting and growling. He looks across the driveway. Mr. Rudolph is there again. The same verbal exchange takes place. (The audience is roaring with laughter at this point.)
A little while later, the same bat is aimed at Caleb's computer. He sets the monitor down, looks across at Mr. Rudolph who's staring at him, shrugs his shoulders - "Mr. Rudolph" - and smashes the screen. Everyone's laughing through tears this time. The destruction of said machine is the visual cue that Caleb is done with the pornography addiction that was damaging his relationship with Catherine. Awesome!
Mr. Rudolph's final appearance comes near the end of Fireproof. "Hey, Mr. Rudolph!" Caleb shouts and waves as he and his newly-won lover (his wife) get into their car to go to church. Mr. Rudolph turns to his wife as the Holts drive their Honda away. "You stay away from that man," he tells her. "He's strange."
Watching this film as an EMT was interesting. I was surprised at the emotions that flooded my heart as I watched emergency responders and bystanders frantically try to push a wrecked car off railroad tracks as a train rapidly approaches, airhorn blaring. I wanted to jump out of my seat and help. My heart was racing. I was lifting with them. I dove into the backseat of the car to help the injured when the ambulance arrived. It was heart-stopping, heart-rending stuff. Totally unexpected, but very welcome. I love my "second calling" and love the changes emergency response work has brought in my life. These same emotions came back a little while later when Caleb pulled a five-year-old girl from a burning house. Amazing!
There were lots of great conversations throughout the movie. Caleb talking with his oh-so-wise dad about his struggles to hang on, to keep loving through the pain. "You can't give her something you don't have," the elder Holt advises leading Caleb to a crisis of faith. Caleb chooses to follow Jesus in the movie's next moments. Michael, Albany Fire's lieutenant, shares great insights into God's plan for marriage. "Fireproof doesn't mean the fires won't come, but that when they do come, you'll be able to withstand them," is his poinant plea, urging Caleb not to give up. Catherine's over-lunch chat with Anna, an older nurse who probes just enough to get at the heart of Catherine's relationship problem. The woman meddles just a bit when, talking about the younger woman's emotional affair with the new-to-the-hospital Dr. Keller, she asks, "If he's willing to get involved with you knowing you're a married woman, what makes you think he won't do the same thing to you later?" Wow!
My favorite moment of the whole film comes near the conclusion. Catherine revisits the medical equipment supply store where her stroke-affected mother's hospital bed and wheelchair were purchased by an anonymous benefactor. Catherine has to this point assumed it was her secret love who provided the $20,000+ to cover everything. She asks the clerk about the purchase and learns, almost too late, that it was Caleb's save up "boat" money that ended the long wait for enough to cover the expenses. She turns away too stunned for words.
The next time you see Catherine, she's in her bedroom making a frenzied search for her discarded wedding band. She finds it under a mess of clothing and, sobs racking her body, slips it back on. She runs to the bathroom and tries to freshen up. Her dripping eyes keep messing up her blush and mascara, but she presses on.
Moments later the scene shifts to the firehouse. A training session is taking place, Caleb at the head of the table instructing. Michael enters. "Captain, you're needed in the bay."
"Right now?" Caleb asks.
"Yes," Michael replies. "Catherine's out there."
"My Catherine?!" Caleb responds, shocked.
He walks out and Catherine blesses him with the respect and love he's long been missing. The reunion is powerful. Even the strongest tear-stiffler will give up and let them flow.
There is so much more I could say, so much more good stuff in this just-released picture. A truly amazing Christ-honoring theatrical release. Go! That's my recommendation. Take your wife. Take your kids. Take your friends. Go!