The Dove Take:
If you love the military and motocross, you’ll probably forgive this film’s flaws in favor of pulling for the underdog.
After surviving an IED explosion in combat overseas, a young soldier with the Army Motorcycle Unit is medically discharged with a broken back and leg. Against all odds, he trains to make an impossible comeback as a motocross racer in order to support his family.
Give Marshall Bennett credit for this: The most Christian thing you can say about him is that he always seems to be thinking of somebody else first—his country, a fellow soldier, his wife and his father. Although many will see Bennett’s War as nothing more than a blatant advertisement for motocross racing (and indeed many of the film’s sponsors are prominently displayed in it), what really seems to motivate this whole thing is Marshall’s underlying selflessness more than the obvious two-wheel thrills.
It’s not a faith film, though there are nods to Christian ideals sprinkled in—such as overdue prayer at the dinner table or an Iranian guy thought to be Muslim crossing himself. Mild cursing and violence, and some unsavory rival racers also weigh in, but chances are you’ll find yourself pulling for Marshall (Michael Roark) to survive the war at home after having done so much to survive the one overseas.
At the movie’s outset, Marshall suffers a debilitating injury to his left foot while rescuing Riley, a fellow soldier who gets ambushed by the Taliban while serving as biker scouts with the U.S. Rangers in Afghanistan. While trying to ride Riley to safety on a motorbike, Marshall and his piggybacking passenger are blown off their wheels by an improvised explosive device (IED). The ensuing medical discharge ends Marshall’s military service and, so it seems, any dreams of returning to his previous life as a motocross champion in southern California. One wrong twist and Marshall faces being a permanent rider—in a wheelchair—at best.
Playing it safe and losing the ability to race is like dying “a little bit every day,” Marshall says, and when foreclosure looms over the farm owned by his father Cal (played by country music star Trace Adkins), it’s the perfect motivation for him to get back on the bike, severely bending a promise to his frightened wife Sophie (Allison Paige) that he’d never ride again. He had been sacrificing his own ambitions, taking care of their young son at home while fixing motorbikes, so that Sophie could further her medical education. But now he’s got to sacrifice his safety to save the farm, and since racing is what he knows best and how he earns best, he wills himself and wheels himself back onto the dirt tracks to get the $5,000 Cal needs.
Terrified, Sophie is ready to take their young son and leave Marshall, but Cal intercedes with some wise counsel that not only keeps her by Marshall’s side, but motivates her to intensify Marshall’s rehab. So motivated is she that, as pretty much the only female character of note in the movie, Sophie even hints at persuading predominantly male sponsors to support Marshall as only she can. It’s reminiscent of a ploy Julia Roberts used in Erin Brockovich, when she famously told her boss, “They’re called boobs, Ed.”
It’s a feel-good film, predictable in many ways, with a lot of vantage points that people who aren’t racing aficionados never see. That and the overriding selflessness of the main character outweigh the film’s faults and merit it being Dove-Approved for Ages 12+.