Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great acting, compelling story, moving theme
Cons: The ascension scene on many levels; violence near beginning
The Bottom Line:
Search for missing corpse
Roman on life changing quest
Makes for moving film
Investigating the Risen Messiah
I wasn’t going to watch Risen. I have been burned by Christian movies in the past. They are either too preachy or the production values are poor or both. (In fact, often both). Yet when a group from my church went to go see the film, I decided to join them. I’m happy to say it was much better than I expected.
The movie opens on Good Friday as we meet Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), a Roman Tribune who is putting down a zealot insurrection. He’s barely back from that when he is asked to oversee the final moments of the crucifixion of three men, and he’s surprised to find that one of them in already dead.
However, things get more complicated when the body of one of those men goes missing two days later, even with the presence of guards in front of His tomb. Clavius is tasked by Pilot (Peter Firth) to track down this body to squelch any rumors that this supposed Messiah has risen. Aided by his new assistant, Lucius (Tom Felton), he begins to look for the body and track down this man’s disciples to try to get the truth from them. Where will his search lead?
I’ve got to admit I found the premise of this movie very interesting since I’ve never really considered the Roman side of the resurrection story at all. Who knows if anything like this truly happened or even came close to happening (my guess is the Romans didn’t think much of it at the time), but it made for a great story. As a mystery fan, I especially enjoyed the logical way the story unfolded. Plot wise, the movie was great.
And any reservations I had based on a Christian themed movie flew right out the window in the first few minutes, although I’m not surprised given the actors involved. The production quality and acting here are top notch. You will be pulled into this movie for the entire time.
Going into the film, I was fully expecting to see something that added stories to the Biblical account. After all, that’s what historical fiction is, right? And the stuff they added for extra drama didn’t bother me in the least. However, the way and where they chose to have the ascension of Jesus really bothered me since this is not something that could be added like most of the film. The Bible is quite clear on what happened. I get the story reasons for the change in location so I could have forgiven that, but how they portrayed it was actually just ludicrous. In fact, it was by far the weakest point in the entire movie.
The film is rated PG-13, and it is for a very good reason. The first 15 to 20 minutes or so are violent. Realistic and important to the plot of the film, but violent. There are later scenes involving the hunt for corpses that are a bit much for weaker stomachs as well. These scenes aren’t any reason to avoid the movie, but know what you are getting into when you go to see it.
What I appreciated most about the movie was the theme and how it was handled. It is easy to guess where the film will end, but watching the characters get there is moving. It truly was well done.
Risen will probably appeal most to Christians, and they will absolutely enjoy the film. However, anyone who is looking for a good period drama should consider seeing this film.