Though I don’t expect the Golden Globes or the Academy Awards to recognize RISEN, it’s still a film of considerable quality, a triumph in all aspects. Whether a believer, skeptic or just a movie-goer looking for something to watch, I absolutely recommend RISEN.
The film follows Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), a Roman Tribune whom Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) charges with carrying out tasks pertaining to the crucifixion of Jesus Of Nazareth (or Yeshua, as they refer to him), and subsequently ensuring that his followers don’t have the opportunity to help him fulfill the prophecy that he will rise again after three days as Jesus had foretold. When the guarded tomb is found empty, Clavius is then responsible for investigating the incident, quieting the message that a supernatural event may have occurred, and to track down the body believed to be stolen from the tomb.
Obviously Christians will see this as an intriguing perspective on a story they have undoubtedly heard (and potentially recounted) countless times. Convincing believers that this is a worthy film to see is hardly a tough task. Reaching out to those who aren’t already followers or quite simply believe The Resurrection is fictional, that’s the tougher task, but I’ll attempt it.
I’m not asking anyone to believe this film to be based on factual events. I’m simply stating that, fact or fiction, the quality of this film and the interesting story it tells deserves a viewing. At that point, believe what you will about whether this event is historical, but I’d find it hard to believe anyone who says this movie isn’t good.
At the heart of the story, a man who sheds blood on the battlefield and has pledged his life to the army of the Roman Empire seeks to stop a religious-based movement from gaining traction, potentially weakening a culture for which he fights as a vocation. His detective work seeks to gain information from followers in hopes of leading him to the individuals responsible for the disappearance of Jesus from the tomb.
The resultant journey is navigated at a pleasant pace, and the nuanced performance given by Joseph Fiennes is quite believable as he slowly begins to struggle with determining what’s right. His appointed assistant, Lucius (Tom Felton), serves as a good character for juxtaposition. Through the interactions of Clavius and Lucius, we see the difference in maturity, proficiency and the changing outlook of the protagonist.
Production values, whether it was in the costumes or sets, were top notch. Even as I reached the final third of the film and I had seen that significant funding had gone into production values and filming on location, I still found myself surprised as they switched to a Roman-themed location and the quality was still at a high level.
The script was also surprisingly good. Nothing felt forced or unnatural about the investigation, nor the reactions to anything involved. The characters felt approachable, yet seemed appropriate for the era. No complaints from this part of the project at all, which I can’t say for some other films whose aim is spreading the message of Christianity. In fact, I’m not sure that the film actually takes that sort of direction until almost the very end of the film.
For those who struggled with the violent and graphic nature with which PASSION OF THE CHRIST was presented, RISEN is perhaps the perfect substitute. Though there was some violence early on in the film, the graphic nature of the blood was decently minimized, but the power of the message was still strong.
It’s hard to tell if I’m biased in favor of RISEN, but I do have to say that I don’t usually see religiously-focused movies like this. I didn’t see PASSION OF THE CHRIST yet (though I’m interested in it). I didn’t rate Noah exceptionally high (68 out of 100), and I don’t particularly like it when Christians get especially preachy outside of a church (or church group). I didn’t have especially high expectations for this film and almost went to see something else instead. Maybe I’m way off when I say that non-Christians will be able to enjoy what the film accomplishes, though I’m certainly willing to admit that they might sigh or roll their eyes towards the end of the film, and one way or another, this film might not change whether they believe the resurrection is fact or fiction. The bottom line is that this is a good film, regardless of the amount of fact you believe it portrays.
My rating for RISEN: 87 out of 100