Directed by Kevin Reynolds
February 15, 2016 (Dallas) / February 19, 2016 (United States)
A Roman soldier searches for Jesus’s body.
This is a faith-based film that manages to not be boring or heavily preachy. Risen is not based on any particular passage from the Bible but manages to still be harmonious with the Gospel. Too often these days films with a message or a point tend to rub your face in it as if you are not smart enough to get it. Here they do not. The creative minds do not talk down to their target audience nor do they keep things G rated. At one point you see a bunch of rotting corpses. Not something found in most Christian films.
Clavius Aquila Valerius Niger (Joseph Fiennes) is the film’s central character though calling him a hero might be a bit of a stretch. He is a brutal soldier and ambitious Roman Tribune sent by Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) to debunk the growing story of Jesus (Cliff Cutis), called Yeshua here, but whose experiences cause him to believe in the Messiah. We are shown the aftermath of the Crucifixion through the eyes of Clavius who is initially disinterested in the message of Christ and seeks to quell this problem for the Romans before the Roman Emperor Tiberius arrives.
Clavius is aided in his search for the followers of Jesus by Lucius Tyco Ennius (Tom Felton) who is a dutiful and perhaps ambitious young soldier. I would call him a perfect Roman soldier as he seems to see nothing beyond what he does. He is all about the job.
This is a very Christ centered film even though Christ is not in very much of the movie. Kind of a waste of the great Cliff Curtis though. And that is fine. The moments containing Jesus are just great and convey him in a way I am familiar with from Sunday school. The theme of the film is the transformative spiritual power of Christ and they do a good job of keeping with that.
Clavius is changed by what he sees. In part because he sees the faith of those who have listened and also because he witnesses attempts to cover up what happened. Why cover something up if it is a lie? He is a logical man and can only come to one conclusion. And this compels him to pursue not to end this perceived threat but to follow the message even if he himself does not understand that at first.
This movie is not preachy, and it does not try to force-feed you its message. Like any good narrative it wraps it up in an easy to swallow package that leaves you thinking. It does not hurt the acting all around is quite good. There are no slouches among the cast, and they treat it as they would any other part. And they perform in a lived-in looking looking world.
I am generally not a fan of the current crop of faith-based films. Not that I am against faith-based films. These days too many are simply trying to put content out into the market rather than creating good films. David A.R. White is a good example of an individual churning out films that are essentially empty calories rather than making something that is good. This is a well-crafted dramatic work.
Risen does not try to make things too complicated, and they do not go heavy on the special effects. This is a story about the power of faith and not about God doing cool things. You could liken this film a bit to a procedural as Clavius investigates lead after lead and even at one point examines decomposing bodies to know to understand what kind of a clock he is up against.
Risen is a well-acted and well directed story. During this Easter season I say give it a watch it!