Darren Turner had barely been commissioned as an Army chaplain when he learned that he was being deployed to Iraq in 2007. And that sudden transition, frankly, left him in a state of shock.
I mean, it’s not that he wasn’t eager to serve the soldiers in that war zone. He was. After all, plenty of soldiers need spiritual and emotional encouragement when the bullets start flying and loved ones are so far away. And it isn’t as if he and his wife, Heather, hadn’t already discussed this possibility. They had. In fact, they both agreed that they felt called to this very mission and ministry.
But leaving your beautiful wife and three beautiful children on the spur of a moment is tough. Really tough. Especially since they had pretty much just arrived at Georgia’s Fort Stewart right after Darren’s commissioning. They weren’t even settled yet.
That, however, is what Darren signed up for. He gave his commitment to the U.S. government. But much more importantly, he gave his commitment to a higher Authority. If that’s where God wanted him, then that’s where he’d go.
War, though, demands a price. It doesn’t matter if you’re a grunt on the dusty streets of an Iraqi village or a chaplain on his dusty knees: Sniper fire, explosive ambushes, mortar attacks and RPG missiles take a terrible toll on everyone involved.
And while Darren does his very best to heal the emotional injuries of the hurting troops around him, he doesn’t realize that he’s incurring some horrible emotional wounds himself. The kind you don’t readily see or recognize. They’re the kind that steal away everything from your self-confidence to your faith.
And even when you head back home into the arms of those you love most, those debilitating-yet-invisible wounds remain. And they’re so very, very hard to heal.
Darren helps the soldiers he works with think about the things of greatest importance to them. They’re all brave individuals, giving of themselves on the battlefield. But some of the hardest among them come to adjust their focus, and even turn their eyes to the grace of God, thanks to their chaplain’s redemptive influence.
Maj. Michael Lewis is a good example. “Leave your heart at home,” the hard-shelled Lewis tells Darren not long after they meet. But later, after the two men become friends, Lewis realizes that his love for his family is not a weakness but an incredible source of strength in his greatest moments of difficulty.
This lesson also comes into play for Darren himself after he suffers a painful loss and struggles to process his grief and trauma, even after returning home. Thankfully, Darren’s loving wife, combined with their mutual faith in God, slowly pull him out of the mental and emotional torments of post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Darren isn’t afraid to pray for the men in his charge and to share his certainty that God is in control of everything. But on the battlefield, that conviction doesn’t always sit well with soldiers who are losing friends and who see death all around them.
One such soldier, Lance, grows angry when he sees a young Iraqi girl killed by enemy insurgents. “You’re peddling a God who’ll take my daughter tomorrow,” he spits in Darren’s direction. “And maybe yours the next day. … You got a Bible verse to explain that?” Darren doesn’t have the perfect response to give. But he does his best to reach out to soldiers with physical help, and with words of comfort and prayer. In time, that creates a bond with a number of them, including Lance, who eventually steps forward to be baptized.
We see that Darren and Heather’s children have been deeply impacted by their parents’ faith, too. In one scene, their eldest daughter, Elie, falls to her knees and gets other family members to pray desperately for Darren’s safety overseas. The movie suggests that was the precise moment when Darren was struggling to survive a surprise mortar attack.
Darren, for his part, regularly hands out large medal coins that talk of the armor of God. He gives one to Elie, and she clutches it in fearful times.
War and the death of men he’s grown to love have a painfully detrimental effect on Darren, to the point of him feeling that God has turned His back. But others have a different perspective. Even Maj. Lewis points out that Darren had only been trusting God to do “what you thought He needed to do.” He states that God is bigger than our expectations. Heather and another base chaplain reiterate similar thoughts. In time, Darren reclaims his faith. “No one is promised tomorrow,” he tells a gathering of people. “So I’m choosing to put my faith in the One who holds all my tomorrows.”
Darren and Heather kiss a few times.
There are several scenes of warring violence on display. Sniper fire riddles a vehicle on the road. Soldiers in three military transports get ambushed by foes with automatic weapons and RPGs. Another vehicle erupts in a massive explosion. The scene becomes a racing shootout as men are gunned down with high-caliber weapons. Weaponless Darren also gets caught in a percussively explosive mortar attack. He freezes up in fear until some of the soldiers pull him to safety.
We hear about two attacks that happen offscreen. In one, a good friend of Darren’s is killed by an IED (improvised explosive device), and another has his leg blown off. We see that injured friend struggle in physical therapy as he bravely battles back from the debilitating limb loss.
In another attack, several soldiers are killed; Darren is given the job of carrying a dead young girl back to camp. Several men are painted with the girl’s blood, and Darren is visibly shaken by her death.
Stateside, several wives grow fearful of their own husbands—soldiers who’ve returned from war so emotionally, and in some cases, so physically injured that they rage at their loved ones.
Darren has a young daughter with a bad case of asthma, and we see her gasp for air after losing her inhaler.
Nothing more than a use or two of “darn” and “shoot.”
Maj. Lewis and his wife argue loudly about his drinking problem.
Indivisible is based on the true story of Army Chaplain Darren Turner. It’s an involving and compelling story. But like the chaplain’s 15-month duty in Iraq, the film has both soaring moments and a few stumbles, too.
The moviemaking at times feels a bit like a project pieced together with by-the-number precision. But thanks to compelling, emotional performances (particularly that of actress Sarah Drew), and a moving behind-the-scenes look at the struggles of soldiers and their families, this film is able to pick itself up out any potentially dusty fox holes and shine.
Better yet, this poignant war story delivers its message of faith in a natural, organic way. It gently shows rather than tells. It helps us care for wounded people and illustrates the ways men and women of God can influence those around them, even in the midst of the warring difficulties of life.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.