The Iraq war film “Indivisible,” based on the true story of Army Chaplain Darren Turner, is grounded and real, made with enough finesse and craft to cross over with audiences beyond faith-based distributor PureFlix’s usual purview. Directed by David G. Evans, “Indivisible” is the kind of Christian story that hails community connection as salvation alongside its spiritual beliefs.
Justin Bruening and Sarah Drew star as Darren and Heather Turner, who move to a new Army base prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom’s 2007 troop surge. Just as their cozy family of five plants its roots, Darren is deployed to Iraq for 15 months to serve as a base chaplain, heading out with his new neighbors, men and women who have already been struggling with the demands of war.
What’s refreshing about “Indivisible,” co-written by Evans, Cheryl McKay and Peter White, is the way it balances the narratives of the troops away at war and the family members who stay at home. The wives are given much more to do than simply act concerned on the phone (though they are often that). They are pillars of the community, fighting their own battles when the effects 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 a wife who goes through her own painful journey with her husband’s absence.
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, offering guidance and solace through Christian faith. He falters before finding his footing, but his time there is marred by the death and injury of close friends and the overwhelming emotional burden he takes on.
Throughout the second half of the film, when the troops return home, “Indivisible” drags, relying on melodrama and stereotypes about combat PTSD while the marriage of Darren and Heather 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 are plenty of hooks 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 elevated production values, and the pace moves satisfyingly before stalling out. While some 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 one another above all else.
Rated: PG-13, for some thematic material and war violence.
Running time: 1 hour, 59 minutes
Playing: Starts Friday in general release