3 Stars – Thoughtful
Filming a new and fresh perspective to the greatest story ever told would give most producers, directors, and actors some degree of fear and trembling. After all, you are up against the legions of Hollywood Biblical spectaculars that have come before you. What Risen does gives us is a new perspective, seeing the aftermath of the death and resurrection of Jesus through the eyes of a Roman military officer who has to investigate what happened to the missing body.
Risen begins where Yeshua’s earthly life ends, at the cross. Given the task of maintaining order by Pilate (Peter Firth), the trusted military Roman Tribune Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) agrees to give the body to Joseph of Arimathea who buries him in his own family tomb. Clavius places the Roman seal on the tightly secured and guarded grave site. What happens next is a mystery of Biblical proportions.
While the rest of the story is scripturally based, the telling of it is a fictional representation of what might have happened. Clavius is torn between being the ambitious and exacting soldier that is at the core of his reputation, while at the same time being shaken by the things he observes both in Jesus’s disciples and also in meeting Jesus himself. In one pivotal scene, Clavius is dumbfounded when Jesus appears to him to tell him what he knows is in his heart and mind.
Risen is beautifully filmed mostly in Spain and Malta, but its dialogue fluctuates between high points where words are taken directly from scripture to low points where Pilate talks like a character out of an HBO miniseries. Additionally, Jesus’s disciples come across more like giddy school kids rather than frightened men who have lost their best friend. A final example is Yeshua himself, who history tells us was crucified at age 33, yet in Risen he is played by the 47-year-old actor Cliff Curtis. If you can suspend disbelief for all of this, then the film gives you an interesting look at what happens to those who struggled with the mystery of the Risen One.
There is no debate about the importance of this story in all of our lives. Whether you are a follower of Christ or not, this is the one person about whom more has been written than any other in human history. In the three years of his public ministry, something happened that changed the course of the world and changed the course of millions of lives in a deeply personal and life-giving way in the years that followed. Whether the religious leaders of his day – or the leaders of religious movements today – believe what he said, the fact remains that billions of people have had their lives transformed by what he gave them, and there are more Christians on the earth today than the entire population of the world at the time of the death and resurrection of Jesus 2,000 years ago.
- Have you explored the person of Jesus from the question of his resurrection? What evidence would convince you that he is Risen?
- The evidence of the resurrection of Jesus is compelling as we read the eye-witness accounts of those who were present. Films like Risen that begin with this evidence and then create a fictional exploration of what it must have been like for those who experienced it can be helpful. Do you find this film helpful in your faith journey?