Released to take advantage of the upcoming Easter season, Risen is the latest film from director, Kevin Reynolds (The Count of Monte Cristo). Based on the biblical passages of the Gospels, Risen is a new twist on an old tale that sees Joseph Fiennes (American Horror Story) suit up in his best Roman attire to track down the truth behind the claimed Messiah.
Chronicling the first forty days after Christ’s resurrection, a Roman Centurion, Clavius (Fiennes), is tasked by Pontius Pilot (Peter Firth) to investigate the rumoured rising of the deceased Jewish Messiah (Cliff Curtis) before an uprising in Jerusalem. While skeptical at first, the Centurion’s belief in the supernatural is put to the test when he encounters followers of Yesuah, and other biblical figures, and finds more than expected. Taking the form of detective narrative, Clavius’ quest is a detailed look into the mysteries of the crucifixion from the perspective of a skeptic.
First and foremost, the film is motivated by Christian intentions, and while appearing to be more a Hollywood blockbuster, there’s a clear message that some viewers might find unappealing. Produced by Sony’s specifically Christian film label, Affirm Films (War Room, Soul Surfer), the film never steps towards compromising on its religious message, with clear intent to deliver it instead in a nicely constructed Hollywood box. Admittedly though, unlike its predecessors, Risen is much less assertive for the most past in preaching the Gospel and instead spreads its message through a more restrained manner, mainly through the Centurion’s investigation and interaction with important biblical characters.
The films real draw is the innovative way it deals with the biblical tale. Framing the resurrection with a mystery spin in the form of a detective tale livens what many already recognise as a well-known story. Fiennes’ strong performance is another plus, as well as Tom Felton (Harry Potter) as Lucius, his friend and fellow soldier. Pair this with the films overall high-quality cinematics, and its penchant to attempt (though never quite reaching) the epic heights of films like Lawrence of Arabia (1962) or Gladiator (2000), there’s enough on offer to make the film an enjoyable watch.
While perhaps not a film for everyone, there should be a section of both the Christian community and the non-religious that will find Risen to be an entertaining ride.