Risen Movie Review
The Risen movie is a unique blend of historical drama, mystery thriller, and Christian exposition. It follows the story of the roman tribune Clavius as he hunts for the body of Jesus Christ, following the events surrounding his death and resurrection. As a historical drama, it evokes the mood and feel of ancient Rome in convincing fashion. As a first century “who-done-it”, if you will, the movie is equally compelling. Finally, though the story is faithful for the most part to the biblical events, the Christian elements are perhaps a bit understated. Still, they are certainly there and make for the most moving moments of the film.
A one man army
Make no mistake, though this is a film about the story of Jesus, the real driving force of the film is Clavius himself, played brilliantly by the gifted Joseph Fiennes in a thoughtful, and yet intense performance. Though Clavius is a fictional character, his actions and motivations feel extremely real. His devotion to his position and, more importantly as the film goes on, to finding out the truth about this purported messiah, make him an excellent protagonist to draw in the audience to the unfolding drama. Fiennes is literally in every scene, carrying this movie on his very capable shoulders and the film works in large part because of his powerful performance.
Other central characters include Pontius Pilate and Lucius, another Roman soldier who assists Clavius in the search for Jesus’ body. Though Jesus’ crucifixion is shown and he appears in several other scenes, he actually has few lines in this film. That might seem odd, given the film’s subject matter, but it actually serves to add mystery and tension to the plot.
There were a couple of scenes, chief among them Christ’s ascension into heaven, where the restraint was too much and the director failed to do the biblical accounts justice, however. If there was a time to “take the gloves off” and allow Christ’s divine nature to shine forth that would have been it, but instead, it was down-played. It still comes off as miraculous, but it was certainly one of the more disappointing scenes of the movie.
The empty tomb
I’ll not spoil the plot, but it should be obvious from the title and from what I’ve already written that the investigation eventually leads Clavius to the truth. Christ has indeed risen from the dead. The scene where he discovers this is one of the most riveting of the film and highlights one of the most important aspects of this story and that is the reality of the resurrection. This is something that is not simply an abstract piece of information, but, miraculously, it really happened. This film hammers that home more than any other I have seen.
By walking in the footsteps of this pragmatic Roman soldier, we are forced to ponder just what happened in the Judean desert two thousand years ago. In a world of instant communication and 24 hour news it is easy to gloss over that the man by whose birth we mark our calendars actually lived and died and rose again. This film may not be a strong inspirational and emotional presentation of the gospel, but it is a gritty, hard-nosed look at the greatest event of history. Watching Risen, this fact is front and center and hopefully the words of Clavius will echo in the minds and hearts of viewers long after the film is over:
I have seen two things which cannot reconcile: A man dead without question, and that same man alive again.