Dir. Kevin Reynolds
Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)
Read the newspaper version of this review at: The Hemel Gazette
“What frightens you?”
“Being wrong... Wagering eternity on him.”
Welcome to one of the biggest and most speculated about events in history. It’s 33 A.D. - a key date for the biblical narrative as it was when Jesus / Yeshua (played here with huge amounts of charisma by Cliff ‘Fear The Walking Dead’ Curtis) was crucified and buried. Yes, Risen is the latest bible-em-up reworking of the resurrection, overlapping and following on from the events in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ.
"The 'King of the Jews' dying with thieves"
The difference this time is that Director and co-writer Kevin ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ Reynolds retells the events through the eyes of a non-believing Roman Centurion named Clavius (Joseph ‘Shakespeare In Love’ Fiennes).
As religious fervour threatens to ignite civil unrest across Judea in the wake of the disappearance of Jesus’s body, the Roman Prefect, Pontius Pilate (Peter ‘Spooks’ Firth) orders an inquiry into what exactly happened. The religious leaders and Pharisees claim that the body had been stolen by Christ’s followers, the soldiers tasked with guarding the tomb go into hiding fearing for their lives and the rumours of a resurrection start to spread.
"I never liked you in Harry Potter"
Risen (although possibly the biggest spoiler title for a movie ever) starts off effectively setting the scene with Clavius and his men caught up in a bloody skirmish with Jewish renegades. As the events of the first Easter Weekend unfold, turmoil and uncertainty run rampant through the city and it’s well portrayed – and avoids falling into the ‘Life of Brian’ style farce.
Fiennes is good as the hard bitten Clavius and his journey is compelling as he gets to lead, along with his ambitious aide Lucius (Tom ‘Harry Potter’ Felton), the manhunt for Yeshua’s body.
As a Christian who reviews films, I’m often massively let down by the attempts to bring scripture or overtly ‘pro-faith’ stories to the medium of film. I really don’t want to be ‘preached at’ any more than the next cinema goer. The fact that Risen actually works as a historical thriller for much of its running time before eventually getting a bit carried away with the ‘it must be true’ narrative is to the credit of the filmmakers. It’s kind of like an ancient times alternative to a Dan Brown novel.
"First hand account"
OK so there is very little screen time for women here, Mary Magdalene (María ‘Mad Dogs’ Botto) isn’t given much to do although being one of the core witnesses in the bible account. There is no Pilate's wife either and Mary - Mother of Jesus has a blink and you’ll miss it contribution.
But seeing as the ‘did Jesus rise from the dead?’ question is one that continues to be asked 2,000 years later, Risen is a thought provoking option for cinema audiences to mull over this Easter.
Out of a potential 5 you have to go with a Darkmatters:
(3 - a historically changed, biblical thriller...)
Awesomeness ööö – The opening battle is a highlight
Laughs ö – Limited mirth here
Horror ööö – Stronger violence than expected
Spiritual Enlightenment öööö - will make you think
Risen opens in the UK on 18 March.
Damaris Media are working with Sony Pictures to produce a free in-depth set of resources for churches and their leaders. Find out more at: www.risen.damarismedia.com