Just in time for Easter, Sony Pictures sends us "Risen" a faith-based movie that pretty much sticks to the scriptures. And you know what that means. The religious community is going to love it and the haters are going to hate. However it should make a decent amount of money at the box office just relying on the Christian community. The fact it is an entertaining movie should add even more shekels.
The film tells the story of the crucifixion of Yeshua/Jesus and the eventual disappearance of his corpse. Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) is a soldier serving under Pilate (Peter Firth) while Pilate is trying to keep the peace in his country. To do this he must pacify the Jewish Sanhedrin and that means ordering Jesus (Cliff Curtis) to be crucified.
After Christ is crucified the Sanhedrin anticipates the body is going to be stolen from the cave where it has been placed. They get Pilate to order Clavius to seal the tomb. But then the body disappears which gets everyone upset. Pilate orders Clavius to find the body, and his search makes up the body of the film.
The heart of the film is the performance of Fiennes. He gives the film its clarity and sincerity. In many ways it is reminiscent of Richard Burton's performance in "The Robe". There is the same intense stare in the eyes and the brooding quality of the character. Fiennes is the focal point of the film and he manages to have the charisma to keep the spotlight where it should be.
Also surprisingly good is Curtis. He is a larger Christ than is usually portrayed on film and he adds a spark of good natured humor into this role. His eyes radiate warmth and his entire demeanor is one of invitation and power. Also good is Stewart Scudamore who portrays a dedicated but mystified Simon Peter. Tom Felton plays Clavius' aide de camp and his performance adds nothing to the movie.
The movie is rated PG-13 for violence. The crucifixion scene is not overly graphic but is difficult to watch.
Faith-based movies have to walk a cinematic tightrope. They can not be too preachy. They can not be amateurish in the acting. They can not stray from their basic message. They must be just as entertaining as the non-faith-based movies with which they compete. If they can serve their core audience and also draw in non-religious filmgoers then they can explode.
"Risen" is mostly successful. It gets the core story right but loses the audience's attention somewhat with the pacing of the movie. There are some slow moments at the start of the film. There is also a lack of depth to the characters. You need some explanatory backstory to pull the audience into the film and for the most part it is not there.
Fiennes, Curtis and Firth make the movie worth watching. Whether or not it can make a big bang at the box office is a toss up.
I scored "Risen" a glorious 7 out of 10.
Jackie K. Cooper