It wasn’t opening night so I did not expect to see huge numbers roll up to see Joseph Fiennes in Risen. But it was disappointing to find myself as one of 4 in the cinemas. Christian groups complain that there is never enough good quality christian movies out there. And they have a point. If you are a Christian looking for christian morals and values the pickings are slim. Still when someone makes a good christian film nobody turns up. That really sums it up.
That aside the movie itself was actually good. I know my tone comes across as surprised but after the recent drivel that was “Noah” or “Exodus: Gods and Kings” my expectations were low. There were a couple of things that I found difficult to swallow and for the same reason that both Noah and Exodus failed, which I will discuss later. But on the whole it was an enjoyable movie.
The film was shot in Andalucia Spain and looks exactly as I imagine Israel looks or would look back then. I travel to Israel soon and I will let you know if that is the case. In any event it set the tone early and well. The movie starts with the main character, played by Joseph Fiennes fighting and killing Barabbas. From there we follow the main character through the death resurrection and reappearance of Jesus. In terms of plot and story line the movie wound through some rather interesting scenes. Scenes that I certainly did not anticipate. Biblical stories that I know were related in different ways and with characters that I did not expect to see. On the whole however the story was interesting and it held me as I tried to put myself into the shoes of a soldier going about his business until he meets an very complicated situation. This for me was what made a lot of the movie work and some of it fall down. I keep going back to the ending. Would I have left it there. Perhaps but I might have thrown in a line or two hinting that main character may see Peter again.
For story, pacing and scenery – 3.5 stars
When I start to think about the acting in this movie. I can’t go past Joseph Fiennes performance. I find him completely believable in his portrayal of a roman tribune. My sister teaches ancient history and made consistent comments the relevance of tribunes and their place in the Roman empire of the day. Tribunes are very significant as they carry military power but need to have been both sponsored by powerful people and been voted into office. It explains why his number two cannot just succeed to his role. Fiennes manages to both come across as someone with unquestioned authority and also as someone who is a man of the people. In all this the personal quest of his though not ever present in the story plays out in his actions.
For his part Felton has come a long way from playing Malfoy in Harry Potter. In the begging there is the youth unsure of himself. Though there is an eagerness there pointing to a desire to go further. Though some of this is undoubtedly the writing Felton’s performance was much better that I anticipated and I found myself enjoying his scenes. Peter is also another surprise packet played by Stewart Scudamore. Though hardly alone in the good supporting actor or actress. As an actor I really enjoy the performances of Peter Firth and he did not let me down with this performance. His constant tension with the imminent visit of Caesar and the “troublesome” Jews is well portrayed. Certainly contributing to this being my favorite aspect of the movie.
For acting, casting and portrayal – 4.5 stars
The trouble form me however in this movie is essentially the same problem as with both Noah and Exodus. Though, thankfully, in this case to a much lesser degree. Let me put this as a paragraph all by itself so it stands out.
When you make a movie about biblical things. Don’t contradict the bible.
To be fair they haven’t exactly, which is why they are not in Exodus territory much less Noah. I can get past some of the extra biblical stuff such as the death of Barabbas or the arrest and questioning of disciples and Mary. I can even be persuaded that the Roman might have seen Jesus after his death. But there is no record of Jesus performing any miracles after his death. I think that things like that are going to make this movie harder for strong Christians to support. They are very protective of the bible and it’s veracity as historical fact.
When it comes to watch-ability for young viewers. There are a number of things to watch out for. There is violence in this and crucifixion and realistic blood but it is not as bad as Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ”. On the plus side there is none of the myriad of other things that are morally problematic.
For biblical relevance, ethics and suitability for children – 3.5 starts
Consequently this move comes in with the above mentioned good rating. I have to confess that i was surprised it did so well but at the end of each review I reserve my self a few points for a general feeling and weighting. For me the best thing about this movie is that it questioned my beliefs and challenged me to look again at Jesus. Surely that is what makes a movie worth watching. It makes you feel and look at yourself.
Movie score: 4 stars.