Clavius, a seasoned and jaded Roman soldier and military leader, returns from yet another successful battle and is given the task of following through on the crucifixion of a potential Messiah from Nazareth. Once the Messiah takes his last breath Clavius is obviously affected at the death of this stranger which is a first for him as he notices the audiences the followers’ reactions to his death. Jesus is entombed as requested by one Jewish follower and the Roman Leader seals the tomb as a precaution from any follower’s stealing the body to create a religious uprising. When the body goes missing the following day Clavius and his new aide Lucius must find the body before the news reaches the Roman Empire and the Messiah’s followers. After days of searching and questioning followers and potential believers he receives a lead that changes his life forever.
Although most, if not all, viewers have some understanding of Christianity and are familiar with the death or resurrection of Jesus, this story is a fresher take on an ancient tale. Instead of following Jesus like most films, the point of view comes from Clavius’s as we follow him from being a strong non-believer to someone who wants to believe. He is forced to question everything he has ever known because of what he sees before him. The story is nothing new, so the audience is well aware of what is coming but seeing how a man goes from his belief in many Gods to meeting the Messiah is fairly intriguing. The directors – Pete Shilaimon, Paul Aiello, Mickey Liddle and Patrick Aiello, take liberty on how The Bible lays out the events and instead mixes up the sequence a bit to fit their storyline but it still seems to work.
One somewhat questionable part of the film was towards the end of the first act when Clavius and Lucius put on this Good Cop/Bad Cop performance. They begin questioning believers and followers that claim to have seen Jesus since he rose from the dead. Clavius brings them to his “office” and then interrogates them and threatens them while Lucius stands towards the back of the room watching. For a moment is felt like I was watching an episode of Law and Order and they were trying to find a missing person. It seemed completely out of place and awkward. With each believer proclaiming their faith and loyalty to Jesus you can see Clavius yearn to understand their passion.
The acting was decent from some like Clavius, played by Joseph Fiennes, where his portrayal of an inquisitive non-believer came of as just plain confused more than a few times. Tom Felton who played Lucius, which was comical just for the fact that his fictitious father in Harry Potter was named Lucius, seemed to be in the role of his signature character – Draco Malfoy. The film was riddled with all kind of British and other accents which was confusing for them to be in a Roman village. With all the talk of inequality in Hollywood it was yet again apparent at the lack of ethnicities in the cast. The only really ethnic looking cast member was Jesus played by New Zealander born actor – Cliff Curtis, which was refreshing to see an ethnic Jesus.
Overall the story is not new by any means but the point of view was interested to watch unfold. This version of the resurrection of Jesus was not as heavy or serious as many films before it. Instead it was sprinkled with much needed and well taken moments of comic relief and the tone was much less intense. You will witness the lack of originality when it comes to the costuming, music, set dressing as this is yet another period piece. I wish there was more variation with diversity when it came to the cast particularly because it is so blatantly obvious. Although this move did not astound the audience it did not fall completely flat.
Risen has a 107 minute runtime and is rated PG-13 for Biblical violence including some disturbing images.
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