Sunday, April 1, 2018

Movie Review: Paul, Apostle of Christ

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Relationship between Paul and Luke, made me think about myself
Cons: Too many plots not fully fleshed out
The Bottom Line:
Paul’s life is ending
Shows us Rome of period
Disjointed plotting

A Look at the Final Days of Paul’s Life

I hadn’t heard much about Paul, Apostle of Christ until a couple of weeks ago.  Since I’m always looking for support films good Christian films, I thought I’d go see it.  I’ve heard a lot of people loved it, but it didn’t really work for me.

This movie takes us to 67 AD.  In the aftermath of the burning of Rome, Emperor Nero has ordered the arrest and execution of all Christians.  Paul (James Faulkner) has been arrested, tried, and convicted.  While he awaits his execution, Luke (Jim Caviezel) slips into the city.  Hiding by day with Aquila (John Lynch) and Priscilla (Joanne Whalley) and the Christians they are helping, he spends his nights visiting with Paul and talking about his life.  Will his visits go unnoticed?  Should Christians be fleeing the city?

Part of my problem may have been expectations.  I really did expect this movie would be mostly flashbacks to stories from the book of Acts.  We do have a few flashbacks to Paul before his conversion and on the road to Emmaus, but most of the movie actually takes place in the present.

That’s where the movie falls apart, however.  There are at least four different storylines happening in the present day, and they compete for our attention, especially early in the movie when the transitions between them are rough.  By the time we get to the last to be introduced, it feels forced.  As the movie progresses, things do smooth out, but at least one just gets dropped as we near the end of the movie.

What the movie does well is show us the conditions that the Christians are living under at the time.  They are in fear, and that fear and grief comes through the screen.  This is a gritty historical movie, and not a white washed fantasy historical.

And that’s where the movie gets its PG-13 rating.  While there are only a couple of scenes of Christians being burned as torches in the streets, they definitely make you cringe.  Fortunately, we aren’t treated to anything in the circuses happening at the time.  There are also some images of blood as Paul deal with the Devil reminding him of his past.

While we hear about Pricilla and Aquila in the Bible, we don’t see much of them there.  I really enjoyed seeing them as characters here.  Likewise, I enjoyed the portrayal of Luke.  There are a couple of scenes between Luke and Paul that perfectly captured their friendship and history, and I loved them.

While the cast is mostly made up of unknowns, they are all fantastic.  This is a strong ensemble.

While Paul doesn’t just speak in scripture (and I would have been irritated if he had), some lines from his epistles do slip into his dialogue.  They were always appropriate and always made me smile when I heard them.

And the movie made me think and examine my life.  How would I respond in their situation?  How is my faith?  Deep questions that made watching this movie worth it.

In fact, I wonder if my expectations were part of my problem.  Maybe if I’d known we wouldn’t get much in the way of flashbacks, I would have been better prepared for what we do get in Paul, Apostle of Christ.  As it is, I’m glad I saw the movie, but I won’t be rushing to see it again.

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