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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Mar 7, 2016

Risen Movie Review: A Retelling Of Jesus' Crucifixion And Resurrection Thru The Eyes Of A Non-Believer

‘RISEN’ will be perfect as a Lenten presentation this coming Holy Week. It reminds us of the Biblical epics of the 50s, like “The Robe” (1952, starring Richard Burton as a Roman tribune, Marcellus, who carries out the crucifixion of Jesus Christ) and “Quo Vadis” (a Latin phrase which asks “Where are you going”, it was shown in 1951 and is about the persecution of the early Christians by the Roman Emperor, Nero).

This time, the fictitious Roman Tribune, who’s tasked to investigate if Jesus Christ (called here by His Hebrew name Yeshua) really died and rose again, is named Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), a tough warrior who kills his foes in battle quite fiercely. He works for Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) who commissions him to find the body of Jesus after it disappeared from the empty tomb when He gets resurrected.

Little did Clavius know that his search for the body of Jesus will lead to his life-changing spiritual journey of conversion. He even gets to be part of the disciples when they see Jesus appear to the doubting Thomas and when He finally bids them to go and spread the good news during the Ascension.

The film is just too long at almost two hours so there are several “laylay” parts that bog down the flow of the narrative. We’re wondering what are the motives of those who made this for today’s generation of viewers. Like other faith-based films (“God is Not Dead”, “Left Behind”, “Heaven is for Real”) do they hope to convert many godless people today who have become so materialistic and for whom success is measured only in terms of material wealth like having a big house, an expensive car, the latest gadgets?

But it seems there’s really a market for these religious movies as more of them are coming, like “The Young Messiah, The Lost Years” (about Jesus as a child), “Miracles from Heaven” starring Jennifer Garner in a true story about a sick child who got healed, and the sequel to “God is Not Dead” starring Jesse Metcalfe.

Actually, the core of “Risen” that retells the story of the Crucifixion and Resurrection through the eyes of a non-believer uses the same artistic license as that of “The Robe”. Written and directed by Kevin Reynolds (“Waterworld”), it’s somehow refreshing to see the Easter story retold, but with a twist and without being overly preachy. The impact that Jesus has on Clavius is so powerful and made him follow the footsteps of the Messiah.

The portrayal of Joseph Fiennes as Clavius is solid and engaging, but the supporting players like Tom Felton (Harry Potter’s Draco) as his assistant and Firth as an agitated Pilate are a disappointment. In fairness to actor Cliff Curtis as Yeshua, he makes the Messiah seem very genial and accessible for today’s audiences.
But still, this is pure fiction as there’s no mention at all in any of the four Gospels about a Roman tribune named Clavius. If the filmmakers wanted something that will really be more compelling and really orient viewers about one’s journey of faith and redemption because it’s true, then they should have filmed instead the story of Saul who became Paul on the road to Damascus.