This is not really a movie review. It’s also not a post on the biblical accuracy of the film. Its genre is historical fiction, which gives “Risen” permission to utilize artistic license. Examples of this includes the opening battle scene with Barabbas and his rebels, the tomb raiding after the crucifixion, the traditional idea that Mary Magdalene was a former prostitute, and obviously the main character himself, Clavius. Yet none of these liberties undermine the gospel message or any biblical doctrine for that matter. Let me move on though, as this is now sounding like a review!
Here’s why I enjoyed it.
Good acting and humour
I’m no qualified critic, but often faith films need an extra sprinkling of grace to get through the acting. I thought there were some brilliant performances in this movie. And then there were some funny parts as well – a touch of dry wit here and there, probably because so many actors were British :)
It affirms the resurrection
Spoiler alert. Jesus is alive! This movie leaves no room for doubt on this matter – the resurrection is front and centre. Obviously Clavius had his doubts, which is the basis for the plot of the film.
Jesus acts like an extra on set
Don’t get me wrong, Jesus is in the picture. But He is sort of in the distance and out of focus – much like a photograph with a shallow depth of field. In fact, I nearly missed the resurrected Jesus the first time he featured among his disciples because he looked so normal! (but maybe that’s because I’m a standard guy who struggles to find pretty much anything that’s right in front of me)
Jesus looks like a first century Jew
New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis, who is actually of Maori descent, definitely does not look as European as some of the Jesus’ who have graced our big screens and canvasses of the past. Ironically, Cliff also played the leading male role in TV series Fear The Walking Dead.. go figure.
It introduces basic apologetic arguments for the resurrection
Rich Peluso, VP of Affirm Films said that because this story is told from the perspective of a nonbeliever “it feels very comfortable for nonbelievers to try this story on like a jacket”. Viewers are presented with some basic apologetic arguments for the truth of the resurrection, such as the changed lives of the disciples for example. Skeptics should not assume that a complete defence of the resurrection is provided in this film. Much more could be said, but this certainly will get the ball rolling for genuine seekers.
A glimpse into life as a Roman
The movie does a great job at showing the life and customs of influential Romans, particularly that of a Roman soldier.
The motley crew of disciples
Think about it, these followers of Jesus were not quite at their church-planting epistle-writing more-mature stages of faith. Pentecost was still a couple of weeks away. The rollercoaster of emotions surrounding Jesus’ recent death and then news of resurrection must have made for an interesting team dynamic. They probably had had a stack load of unanswered questions. Peter’s feistiness, Bartholomew’s joy, Mary’s faith, Thomas’ wonder, etc. are all portrayed in a very believable and authentic way. I could certainly relate and found it most refreshing.
So why not go and watch it yourself? And while you’re at it, book a ticket or two for your non-believing friends who are willing to explore the claims and teachings of Christianity.