This weekend I went to see the movie Risen, the epic Biblical story of the Resurrection, as told through the eyes of a non-believer. Clavius, a powerful Roman Military Tribune, and his aide Lucius, are tasked with solving the mystery of what happened to Jesus in the weeks following the crucifixion, in order to disprove the rumors of a risen Messiah and prevent an uprising in Jerusalem.
For more than 80 years, stories of Jesus have been the topic of movies. Many featured not only Jesus, but Moses, Sampson, David, etc, but this film is quite different in that it has a more historical feel to it. Sticking to the basics of what is known from the Bible and other Jewish and Roman historical accounts of the event, Risen lacks computer graphics, as well as the pious and pretentious nature of the recent films Noah and Exodus. Although the message of the Gospel is clearly stated, it doesn’t come off as proselytizing. In many ways, the central character is an everyman because it is fairly easy to place yourself in his sandals and imagine what it must have been like to have been in charge of guarding Christ’s tomb and then having to answer for the disappearance.
Unlike other films where the focus is either directly on Jesus, the focus of this film is primarily on the delicate political landscape between the Jews and Romans and the protagonist Clavius, portrayed by Joseph Fiennes. Risen uses the indirect approach to discover why Jesus’ was so special to his followers (and it still to this day). Although this film is about the mystery surrounding the resurrection of Jesus in the background, the foreground is a personal journey thus making it more of a historic film than a “preachy Christian” one. Therefore, most anyone who enjoys Roman or Jewish history will find something of interest in this film. The relationship between the Romans and Jewish leadership is handled very well. It shows the game the Romans had to play with the Jews in order to keep peace in Jerusalem, especially because Caesar is arriving soon and Pilate needs to show him that he has the Jews under control.
The person of Jesus is also handled better than any other film I have seen. I’ve always found it weird that in most historic/Biblical films most of the characters speak with a British or European accent, not so in Risen. Cliff Curtis connects with the audience as down to earth in his appearance and mannerisms. He embodies unconditional love.
Risen is a little slow, and handles character development very well. I really appreciate the development of Clavius, but also Pilate and Lucius as well. To an extent, we also see some development in some of Jesus’ disciples as well. At the end of the movie, the characters in the story felt like real people, and that is a remarkable achievement in this movie.
The problem with most Biblical history-based movies is they fall short in at least one of the major category: writing, acting, directing or production. Remember “The Bible” mini-series? Whew! I promise Risen is very different, hitting on all cylinders.
I greatly enjoyed this film and hope you do too. It’s rated “PG-13” for some disturbing images and has a running time of 1 hour & 47 minutes. http://www.risen-movie.com/