Biblical moviemaking has seen (no pun intended) a resurrection at the local multiplex. Ever since the release of the extremely successful “Passion of the Christ”, movie studios have tried to replicate its success. Bible stories especially the story of Christ resonates with all Christians of all cultures. Director Kevin Reynolds has taken up the task of telling the story of Christ from a perspective not normally given enough attention. Reynolds tells the story of Christ after His resurrection and the sightings of Jesus three days after his death. What even makes the story more compelling is Reynolds tells the story from the non-believer’s point of view. Can Kevin Reynolds tackle this beloved story without blaspheming the good name of Christ?

“Risen”, just as the name implies is the story of Christ’s resurrection after his crucifixion, the sightings of Christ shortly thereafter and his eventual ascension into heaven . Our story begins with Clavius (played by Joseph Fiennes) a Roman soldier whose job is bloodshed and to keep order within the Roman Empire. He’s called upon by Pontius Pilate (played by Peter Firth) to oversee the death of Jesus and to make sure Jesus’s body is disposed of properly. A day after Clavius has completed his task he’s called upon again by Pilate to appease the Jewish high priests to properly seal the tomb that Jesus has been laid to rest in as to avoid any of Jesus’s followers from stealing his body and proclaiming that He’s been resurrected. Clavius does as ordered, but the day after he’s called upon by Pilate yet again because Jesus is no longer in the tomb.

“Risen” is a film akin to “Ben Hur.” Not necessarily in quality, but in story type. This is historical biblical fiction and a rousing mystery seen through the eyes of the Roman, Clavius who is a non-believer. “Risen” can be considered an unofficial sequel to the “Passion of the Christ.” because “Risen” begins where “Passion” ends. The film itself is very respectful of its source material and also weaves a compelling yarn to unravel the mystery of Christ and his resurrection. Joseph Fiennes, as Clavius, gives a wonderful performance that captures the emotion of what it would’ve been like for someone to see life resurrected from death. Peter Firth as Pilate is fantastic. His performance is not that of an evil man, but of a man more annoyed by what troubles followed him after Christ’s death. Jesus or known in this film as Yeshua was played by Cliff Curtis. Curtis isn’t a revelation as Christ, but is certainly serviceable in the role. The actors who played Christ’s disciples on the other hand captured the absolute joy of what is was like to walk in the steps of the their Savior. They really carried the second half of the film and peeled at another layer of Joseph Fiennes’s Clavius’ heart. The only disappointing performance in the film was Tom Felton. He plays Lucius, a new recruit under the tutelage of Clavius who doesn’t add much to the film and unfortunately once Clavius’ faith is tested Lucius can’t hold up his end of the film as Clavius’ substitute. The best part of this film is how it ends. When Clavius’ faith is tested, traditional storytelling goes out the window and goes in a direction that’s a bit unexpected, refreshing, but quite human.

“Risen” doesn’t preach to its followers. It’s bold enough to ask questions of both Christian and non-believers alike. It doesn’t provide you any answers, they leave that for you to decide. The mystery at the heart of “Risen” is not what happened to Christ after His death, but how your heart responds when that truth is revealed. This alone makes “Risen” a film that’s entertaining and leaves an impression long after you leave the theatre.

Three and a Half Stars Out of Five

The mystery at the heart of “Risen” is not what happened to Christ after His death, but how your heart responds when that truth is revealed.

originally published in MAUIWatch