Depicting the 1986 Cokeville Elementary School hostage crisis, the film shows the madness that occurred when a man and his wife detonated a bomb inside a room holding every teacher and student in the school, and the miracles that followed. At the heart of the story is Ron Hartley, the local Sheriff who finds his ongoing crisis of faith heightened when his children, who were inside the classroom, begin giving accounts of heavenly intervention.
The fact that all of the teachers and children survived the bombing, which experts said should have leveled the entire school, is just the beginning of the story.
In a world where violence in schools is all too real and miraculous endings to such situations are few and far between, Christensen and his team expertly handle the story with sensitivity and care. The film smartly depicts the miracles related by the children, teachers, and experts after the fact, using the last quarter of the film to replay the hostage situation in small snippets as Hartley gathers accounts of what happened. By doing so, the terror and shock of the original scene is slowly transformed until a powerful and beautiful witness of God’s love rises from the ashes of the burned classroom.
Such is the power of The Cokeville Miracle. It reminds us even our darkest experiences can be exalted by faith and prayer.
This positive message wouldn’t be nearly as powerful if not for the performances of Christensen’s talented cast. Standout performances include Jasen Wade as Ron Hartley and Nathan Stevens as David Young. These two male leads, on opposite ends of the end of the story as the father and the bomber respectively, bring a strange sense of harmony to the film as Stevens chillingly captures the dark descent of true madness while Wade struggles with and ultimately lifts us from the madness of doubt and skepticism.
Also notable is the film’s visual effects by Tanner Christensen. From an exploding school bus to the bomb’s eventual detonation inside the school, the effects are powerful and realistic. The Cokeville Miracle depicts scenes of violence and gun use, and may not be suitable for young audiences.
The Cokeville Miracle is set to be released in limited theaters on June 5, 2015. For more information on a wider release, keep checking the film’s official Facebook page.