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Today’s Prayer Focus

The Best of Enemies

also known as «Лучшие враги»
MPA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPA) for thematic material, racial epithets, some violence and a suggestive reference.

Reviewed by: David Cook—first time reviewer

Average (somwhat offensive)
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Civil-Rights Biography History Drama Adaptation
2 hr. 13 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
April 5, 2019 (wide—1,705 theaters)
Copyright, STX Entertainment click photos to ENLARGE
Relevant Issues

RACISM—What are the consequences of racial prejudice and false beliefs about the origin of races? Answer

Racism, Ethnicity Issues and Christianity
Get biblical answers to racial hot-topics. Where did the races come from? How did skin color come about? Why is it important to have a biblical foundation for such issues?

For a follower of Christ, what is LOVE—a feeling, an emotion, or an action? Answer

Consequence of wrong worldviews

How the Gospel changes hearts

Social activism

Ann Atwater “became a deacon at the Mount Calvary United Church of Christ.”

Featuring Sam RockwellClaiborne Paul Ellis
Taraji P. HensonAnn Atwater
Babou CeesayBill Riddick
Wes BentleyFloyd Kelly
Anne HecheMary Ellis
John Gallagher Jr.Lee Trombley
Alyssa Marie StilwellWaitress
Nick SearcyGarland Keith
Bruce McGillCarvie Oldham
Caitlin Mehner … Maddy Mays
Nicholas Logan … Wiley Yates
Jessica Miesel … Doreen
Ned Vaughn … Wilbur Hobby
See all »
Director Robin Bissell
Producer Astute Films
Material Pictures
See all »
Distributor Distributor: STX Entertainment. Trademark logo.
STX Entertainment

“Change is worth fighting for”

It’s difficult to believe that only a few years before I was born, in my home state of North Carolina, the battle for school integration raged on. Robin Bissell tackles this story in his directorial debut “The Best of Enemies.” The historical drama specifically focuses on a community summit in 1971, debating school segregation in Durham, NC.

In purposeful coordination, the summit is co-chaired by a Civil rights activist Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson) and a KKK leader C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell). Ann, a black woman, is a fiery and compassionate underdog. She refuses to quit, despite the countless obstacles in her way. C.P. is a white man with dogmatic prejudices. He sincerely stands for what he believes, but his own convictions are crumbling from within. As tensions rise during the summit, the two adversaries must cooperate to come to a final resolution.

In a dialog-driven drama such as “The Best of Enemies,” the acting is paramount, but this becomes its weakness through the performance of the lead protagonist. Taraji P. Henson (“Hidden Figures,” “Empire” TV series) needed to command the screen as this feisty Civil rights activist. Unfortunately, rather than becoming Ann Atwater, she comes across like a performer playing a caricature of a real person. Whether it’s her posture or audible grunts, it feels like an impersonation of the woman, rather than a true representation.

Conversely, Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “Moon”—2009) absolutely becomes the cowardly, racist C.P. Ellis. Effortlessly, he allows us to understand the inner workings of this complex character. With a simple glance, we understand his disdain for another character, or his internal struggle with his personal beliefs.

The surprising, standout performance for me is Babou Ceesay (“Free Fire,” “Eye in the Sky”) as the summit chairman Bill Riddick. He manages to balance his character that is full of fear and insecurities behind his facade of a strong exterior. As he leads the contentious, diverse crowd, you can sense that he could self-destruct at any moment. This is a fine line to tread… and he nails it.

Though the film is encouraging the positive message of loving your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31) and loving your enemy (Matthew 5:43-44), it is not for the faint of heart. It has a PG-13 rating for thematic elements, language, and mild violence. The theme of racism is of the utmost importance to reflect upon, but will be difficult for some to stomach, especially the excessive use of the n-word.

For a follower of Christ, what is LOVE—a feeling, an emotion, or an action? Answer

RACISM—What are the consequences of racial prejudice and false beliefs about the origin of races? Answer

Racism, Ethnicity Issues and Christianity
Get biblical answers to racial hot-topics. Where did the races come from? How did skin color come about? Why is it important to have a biblical foundation for such issues?

Along with the racial epithets, there are multiple uses of the Lord’s name in vain. The violence is mild, but there is a single scene where a young woman is threatened with assault. The audience sees nothing, but the peril is tangible and will be very upsetting to many people.

I think a poignant aspect of “The Best of Enemies” is the fact that all the characters in the film consider themselves Christians. They go to church, sing gospel hymns, and read the Bible. Despite those facts, I imagine many of the characters do not have a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ, lacking His example of mercy and grace. Unfortunately, I think this may also be the case with many people that consider themselves Christians today.

Are you good enough to get to Heaven? Answer

Will all mankind eventually be saved? Answer

God’s gift to those who truly believe and repent

“The Best of Enemies” is rather predictable and too saccharin in the end. That being said, it is based on a true story, and, according to some brief research, remains true to the historical event. There are several amazing moments of cowardice, bravery, cruelty, and kindness. It’s not a perfect film, but it is as important today as when it took place in 1971.

  • Profane language: Moderately Heavy— • J*sus • “What in good Chr*st is a…” • G*d-d*mn • God • H*ll (9) • d*mn (4)
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Moderately Heavy— • N*ggers • Crackers • “How small your p*cker is?” • bullsh*t • a** (2)
  • Violence: Moderate
  • Sex/Nudity: Moderate
  • Occult: None
Book: The Best of Enemies
Editor’s Note: This drama was preceded by the documentary film An Unlikely Friendship (2002), in addition to the book The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South by Osha Gray Davidson.

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—The reality of the movie is the great love between Miss Atwater and my father. It lasted the rest of their lives. The other is the work my dad performed the rest of his life to lift people out of poverty by working to improve their jobs with greater pay, benefits and job security. Only wish everyone could have known my father. At 60, I still miss him so much.

Yours in Christ, Tim Ellis
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Tim Ellis, age 60 (USA)
Positive—This movie is about a real event of racial integration—taking place as late as 1971 in America. It’s also informational because it introduces viewers to a practical way (“charrette”) to bring disparate groups “to the table” on issues that are very polarizing in order to organically find the best solution that has the support of more/most, and to have all know that they were finally heard.

For the topic of racial injustice, this movie handled the themes very gently. The reality was (still is) inhumane and unimaginably brutal, but the movie doesn&rsquot;t seek to incite anger I believe because other important themes have been prioritized, such as: community involvement, the art of negotiation, diplomacy, compassion, and redemption.

For that, it is well-worth your watching—and watching and discussing. In the 21st Century, we very much need lessons in how to discuss issues in probing ways without turning away from each other, having resolved nothing. When we stop engaging, we let the most manipulative and underhanded get away with deciding our collective fates. We give away our power.

We do, with the love of the Prince of Peace, when we actually DO with LOVE, for our neighbors and our enemies. Thank you for reading. Peace be upon us all.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Mari, age 43 (USA)

PLEASE share your observations and insights to be posted here.

Secular Movie Critics
…engaging, inspiring and important movie about a little known piece of Civil Rights history… It’s a clarion call to action, to getting involved, to “represent,” to listen and to talk. …
Roger Moore, Movie Nation
…a rock-solid liberal message movie… not nearly as good as “Green Book,” is a rock-solid movie: squarely deliberate, a little long and predictable, but honest and thoughtful enough, precise in its period and locale, with very strong performances. …
Owen Gleiberman, Variety
…As actor pairings go, you couldn’t hope for better than Oscar winner Sam Rockwell and nominee Taraji P. Henson. So why is The Best of Enemies such a slog? …
Sara Stewart, New York Post
…I learned more from reading Ann Atwater’s Wikipedia page than I did from this reprehensible movie. …[½]
Odie Henderson,
…We’re trapped in a slack, simplistic depiction of evil overcome and bigotry neutralised… No doubt the world needs more paeans to tolerance, but movies as ineffectual as The Best Of Enemies feel profoundly inadequate to the task. …
Tim Grierson, Screen Daily
…avoids the pitfalls of moral smugness and stereotyping. It flows along easily, bolstered by Taraji P. Henson’s and Sam Rockwell’s vibrant performances…
Caryn James, The Hollywood Reporter
…Another civil rights story gets superficial treatment… very uneven story… [Director] Bissell has needlessly manipulated the real story, completely missing what makes it significant. Reading the Wikipedia page is far more moving than anything in the disjointed film. …
Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service