• Thomas Bonifield

Review: "Breakthrough" Should be Big

Updated: Apr 18, 2019

This Christian film has everything it needs to deliver at the box office.

Chrissy Metz, Marcel Ruiz & Josh Lucas in a scene from "Breakthrough."

The mantra in movies is every good one starts with a good screenplay. We won't argue, being in that part of the business ourselves, and Breakthrough certainly has that, so a tip of our cap to screenwriter Grant Nieporte for laying out the storylines and weaving them harmoniously together. Even more fundamental than a good script, however, is the story it's based on, and it is from there that this film blazes forth.


Breakthrough tells of actual events involving a Missouri teen named John Smith, who fell into an icy lake and drowned in 2015. Once his body was recovered, he had no heartbeat for 45 minutes and doctors gave up hope of saving him. At that point, his mother - Joyce Smith - said a loud, desperate prayer, beseeching God to bring him back to life. That is exactly what happened: an obvious miracle wrought by the one true God in all His loving glory.


In addition to being based on a miraculous true story and having a good script, Breakthrough features a strong cast and crew. Produced by DeVon Franklin - a big hitter in the faith-based genre - and directed by Roxann Dawson, with NBA star Stephen Curry on board as executive producer, the movie stars Chrissy Metz as Joyce Smith, Josh Lucas as her husband and Marcel Ruiz as John. Topher Grace plays the family's pastor and Dennis Haysbert and Mike Colter round out the primary players.


The perfomances are good all around - even the child actors in the supporting cast were convincing - and Metz shows impressive range. Early on, she is at odds with Grace's character, the newly arrived pastor at her church. Many who have endured a rough transition in the local Body will recognize the icy glares she shoots during the new worship music he has instituted. Ruiz, too, does a convincing job playing the moody teen that so many parents will instantly identify as authentic.


The accident and subsequent hopitalization of his character heighten the underlying edginess of Metz's, until she finally reaches her breaking point. That scene, played out on the hospital's roof, is touching and calls to mind II Corinthians 12:10, "For when I am weak, then I am strong." It's the place where we as believers recognize we can do no more and must surrender to the will of the Almighty, placing our full trust in Him alone. Metz pulls this off and it changes the trajectory of the story almost as much as her son's healing does.


This picture is a big studio production from 20th Century Fox and it feels like it. In addition to the top-notch filmmaking, they put together a first-class soundtrack, including songs from country music star Carrie Underwood, and Christian singer Phil Wickham and Christian rapper Lecrae, both of whom appear in the aforementioned "new worship music" scene that irks Metz's character.

Aside from the odd Canadian accent (the movie was filmed in Canada), a bit of cursing - including from the pastor?! - a weird underwater dream sequence when Ruiz's character is waking from his coma and some obvious CGI backgrounds, there isn't much to dislike here. While no numbers have been made public on the budget for Breakthrough, we at Christian Film Blog feel certain it will make back many multiples of whatever that is. Our bottom line? We rate this one an 8.5 out of 10 and recommend you go see it this Easter weekend.

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