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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 26, 2018

Paul, Apostle Of Christ Movie Review: A Faith-Based Movie On How The Acts Of The Apostles In The New Testament Was Written Down

ST. PAUL, THE APOSTLE (whose parish is found along Timog Avenue), is best known for the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament. He was born as Saul in Tarsus, Turkey and was converted when Christ called on him on the road to Damascus. Now, comes the movie, “Paul, Apostle of Christ”, from Sony Pictures’s Affirm Label that previously made similarly faith-based films as “Heaven Is for Real” and “Risen”.

The story of Saul/Paul is not told in the usual linear manner. When the film starts, he’s already old and languishing in an underground cell in Mamertine Prison in Rome. A friend of his, Paul (Jim Caviezel, “The Passion of the Christ”), a Greek physician, visits him in jail and asks him to record his life to help guide their younger brothers and sisters who are now being tortured by the crazed emperor, Nero, after the burning of Rome.

Luke is also put in jail after being suspected of planning a possible escape for Paul, but is eventually
released. He writes down what Paul dictates to him in what will eventually be the Acts of the Apostles. In flashbacks, we then see the story of Saul as a younger man when he tortured and killed the new Christians, including St. Stephen, and how he was eventually converted.

In telling Paul’s story for the big screen, we meet his captor in jail, Prefect Mauritius (Olivier Martinez, whose accented English since “Unfaithful” seems to have become even more unintelligible), who has a seriously ill daughter. When told that Luke is a very good doctor, he initially refuses any help, saying he would never allow a Christian into his own home so as not to offend their own Roman gods. How this subplot eventually plays out conveys the film’s significant message about the potency of having faith in Jesus and His love for us.

There’s also the subplot concerning an early Christian community in Rome, headed by Aquila and Priscilla (John Lynch and Joanne Whalley), whose members are early converts who have never personally seen or heard Jesus preach. This happens at a time when suspected Christians are openly persecuted, burned alive at the stake, crucified or thrown to be eaten by lions.

They are now debating whether they should fight the oppressors
and escape, or just stay in Rome and rebuild their frayed community. This is reminiscent of the 1951 movie we saw starring Deborah Kerr, “Quo Vadis”, which is also about the early Christians persecuted in the first century.

The film is perfectly timed with the current season of Lent where we pause and reflect on living lives dedicated to making sacrifices and serving others. It also offers us a reflection on living a life of principle and integrity, especially when you are faced with a tyrannical leader like Nero.

The prefect also refers to Paul as some sort of a wizard who wields special powers. Today, people idolize Marvel and DC superheroes like that, but Paul’s power actually comes from his deep faith in our Creator.

Written and directed by Andrew Hyatt (who also helmed “Full of Grace”, a film about the Virgin Mary), is a fairly engrossing drama about a Biblical character and the early Christian church. We know most viewers today prefer sex and violence in what they watch, but this one is certainly worth a look as it benefits from good production vaues and good performances from a cast of reliable actors.

James Faulkner (“Downton Abbey”, “Game of Thrones”) brings sensitivity and credibility to his finely nuanced interpretation of the apostle who bravely fosters Christ’s basic commands: to love God, love your neighbor and learn how to forgive. As Paul puts it: “Love is the only way. They will know us by our love.”

This is a message that remains so valid and meaningful even today when kids in America are being shot like flies due to their society’s inordinate obsession with guns. Jim Caviezel invests his role as Luke with courageous conviction as a man of reason as well as faith. John Lynch and Joanne Whalley both inhabit their respective roles with persuasion and zeal.

History shows that it will take several more centuries before Christianity wins over the Roman Empire. And this is after Constantine the Great converted to Christianity in the early 4th century. Then the persecuted Christians became very powerful, leading to the Crusades, the abuses of the Papacy and the Spanish Inquisition that executed people who they perceive as heretics.