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About the Movie
Risen is the epic Biblical story of the Resurrection, as told through the eyes of a non-believer. Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), a powerful Roman military tribune, and his aide, Lucius (Tom Felton), are tasked with solving the mystery of what happened to Jesus (Cliff Curtis) in the weeks following the crucifixion, in order to disprove the rumors of a risen Messiah and prevent an uprising in Jerusalem.
Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews
- Reviews Counted: 124
- Fresh: 65
- Rotten: 59
- Average Rating: 5.6/10
Top Critics' Reviews
Rotten: "Risen" is a fascinating cultural artifact, but as a film, it's destined for no glory greater than as an appropriate cable rerun on Easter.
Rotten: Despite not doing much more than preach to the choir, Risen is still more nuanced than the lion's share of recent faith-based dramas.
Fresh: Whatever your religious affiliation, you will come away thinking that if all this did actually happen, it probably happened something like this.
Fresh: While it descends too often into the melodramatic, it's a solid, smart picture and a welcome addition to the genre.
'Risen' is about Transformed Lives, not just Christ's Resurrection...
… and it is in portraying the transformed apostles, Mary Magdalene, and the transformation of Roman tribune Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) that the film excels. *** SPOILER ALERT *** Don't read further unless you're okay with some reveals...
'Risen' itself is not preachy, though near the end, there is a scene where the apostles are engaged with small groups of people near the Sea of Galilee, and we hear one of them preaching that the Resurrection is not merely about eternal life, but about living the Resurrected life in Christ in the here and now (forgive my poor paraphrasing). As the apostles prepare to leave, the one who was preaching says something like, "I didn't plan to say that, but it sounded really good… I'll have to remember to use that again."
Little modernisms like that aren't so intrusive as to spoil the film's effect, but they are noticeable. For me, the apostles (and even Yeshua, portrayed with a natural simplicity and warm sincerity by Cliff Curtis) smile too much. There's a happy giddiness which seems to lose the wonder, mystery and awe so clearly conveyed in the Gospel accounts. But again, these are minor quibbles. And, it must be remembered that by the time Clavius (and we) finally encounter the apostles gathered together in the upper room, they have already relaxed into joyously embracing the fact of the Resurrection of the Lord.
In brooding contrast, Clavius — like a Roman everyman stand-in for all of us — does not smile. He is the one struck with awe at what he is encountering. He is the one struggling with what it means… And when he finally does smile, it is coming from a deep conversion inside, which Joseph Fiennes conveys in such a believable manner as to raise the film to the height it seeks to attain.
There are moments reminiscent of the understated directness of Dreyer's masterpiece, 'Ordet', like when Yeshua tenderly and affectionately heals a leper, and the reaction of the apostles and its impact on Clavius. Conversely, the shattered psyche of one of the Roman soldiers assigned to guard Yeshua's tomb conveys a completely opposite reaction to the gradual conversion of Clavius.
Clavius himself, even before he is completely converted, but while he is helping shepherd the apostles through a slot canyon in an effort to escape the pursuing Romans, shows powerful signs of the new life welling up within him. Ambushed by his former aide Lucius, Clavius swiftly disarms him, but then refuses to harm him, telling him there shall be no killing on this day. He then returns Lucius' sword and sends him on his way, surprised himself at this new inner strength he has found.
We get inside Clavius' head and heart early on, in a critical scene with Pontius Pilate. We know he longs for an end to killing, and wants to move to Rome, marry and live in peace. Juxtaposed to this is a dramatic later scene, Clavius alone with the risen Yeshua. Clavius struggles to know what to ask, so Yeshua asks it for him… This tender moment, the pinnacle of Clavius journey to Galilee with the apostles, and, appropriately, taking place high up a mountain, is richly symbolic of Clavius' ascent to the divine vision.
The very next scene is of the Ascension (a powerful moment which I won't dishonor by trying to describe in mere words), and it is after this that we begin to realize just how deeply Clavius has been transformed by his encounter with the Risen Yeshua. He declines to travel with the apostles, and instead sets out across the desert, which is where we first see him in the film's opening scene. Now this framing technique makes sense to us. Now we understand he has told his story to his host, he has made his good confession, he has born witness to the Resurrection. And when his host asks him, "But do you really believe all this you have told me?" Clavius' awed answer crushingly makes the point: "Yes… And my life can never be the same again…"
And with that, he leaves, setting back out across the trackless wilderness, Solitary Apostle, Pilgrim and Everyman, content to wander across the deserted regions, directed by the Spirit. We know he will bear witness again to the Resurrection. He is changed, forever, and the point is that we should be changed also. We are all pilgrims, and once we have encountered the Resurrected Yeshua, we must live the Risen Life too.
Director and co-screenwriter Kevin Reynolds has created a very worthy film, which I believe requires repeated viewings to absorb its subtleties. My quibbles are few. As I mentioned above, the apostles smile too much. I also question whether the latent bruises and trauma around Yeshua's crucifixion wounds and where his side was pierced with the lance isn't a bit too "this-worldly." Mel Gibson, in the very brief glimpse he gives us of the risen Jesus in The Passion of The Christ, shows one nail wound in one hand, and it is clean, as if with a divine cauterization…
Of course, again, this is a quibble. Mr. Reynolds knows this, and has the Apostle Peter remind us in one of the few scenes where the characters try to analyze what has happened. Peter "does not know" how to explain it. "This is how God has chosen to reveal Himself to us," is basically his position, and this is how the Christian faith stands, on the Incarnation, Cross and Resurrection. Regardless of how this or that filmmaker chooses to depict the wounds of Jesus on his Resurrected body, they are for us "life-giving wounds." Amen.
One nice touch is the reverent attention given to the Holy Mandylion, the Image Not Made By Hands, the burial cloth showing Yeshua's face, i.e., the Shroud of Turin. This surprising inclusion of what is primarily a Roman Catholic relic (though there is strong support for it also in Orthodox Christian tradition) may serve to set thousands of Christians off on a quest to learn more about the Shroud. I would recommend Ian Wilson's book The Shroud, available in Kindle edition, btw.
Everything you need to know is in the title !
***SPOILERS*** This is the first time, I believe, that the depiction of the risen Christ has been depicted in such a manner in a theatrically released film. This is a very "human", not ethereal ( as depicted in so many films), Devine Saviour , shown talking, laughing, eating and just generally enjoying the company of his remaining 11 Apostles, and, of course, the new addition, Clavius the Roman Tribune .
Kevin Reynolds directs a historical "police procedural", if you will, about a Roman officer, ordered by Pontious Pilate to investigate the disappearance of the risen Christ, who ends up becoming a believer himself, with radical results. This is a superb production with a compelling, suspenseful script and top-notch performances by all involved. I can't recommend it highly enough!
Just saw this movie last night. Gives one such a good feeling regarding ones faith. More movies like this are needed. Highly recommend this for any individual who doubts GOD's LOVE..